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The PKG Drives: Mercedes-Benz C 350e 2018 – Hybrid on Steroids

The PKG Drives: Mercedes-Benz C 350e 2018 - Hybrid on Steroids

The Mercedes-Benz name might strike you as a name that is associated with expensive grandpas. When we say that, more like rich obnoxious uncles. There is a reason to that you know.

The impression is an absolute testament to Mercedes-Benz name too. It is the ultimate definition of luxury and success. It is a statement of “I have made it”.

Before we go on, I have to personally mention that I am a very big Mercedes-Benz fan. This is when all the rest of my friends prefer the other German marques like BMW or Audi. No, I am a Mercedes-Benz man.

The Mercedes-Benz C 350e

It is the top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz C-class of its time. When we say that, we have not considered the over-the-top AMG C 63S model with a stonking Mercedes-Benz built 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in the front of the car. If you do not consider the AMG models, the C 350e is the top-of-the-line small sedan that money can buy from Mercedes-Benz.

It will set you back MYR 299,888 in the top AMG-line model, and that is what we tested. Difference between the AMG model and the rest? Some carbon fibre trims in the interior, and a slightly different looking body kit. Worth it? In my very humble, and unpopular opinion? Not really.

A car though is so much more than the trim and the money. Well, you still have to be able to afford it. So is this sub MYR 300,000 car worth the money? We find out.

Exterior Design

A Mercedes-Benz is always a sight to behold. The C-class Merc has always been something quite pretty to look at. That is, compared to its bigger siblings, the Mercedes-Benz E-class and S-class. The C-class usually looks quite meager, and slightly softer.

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The design language of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 350e is visibly softer than the C-class before. The AMG-Line body kit does help with its stance in general, and give it a slightly more imposing look compared to a normal C-class. In general though, the C-class that is a C 350e looks pretty. It looks softer than before and more handsome. That AMG-Line body kit gives it some extra muscular haunches that it should show with 300-hp under the bonnet.

It looks deceptively long too for a small sedan. But start driving it and you realise it is not that big or long. It feels compact and nicely trimmed.

It is not the best looking car in the world, no. It is not even the best looking small sedan you can find on the road, not at all. But it is still pretty and easy to look at. It has that presence too, that is a big bonus. Well, our car is a little more flashy that it needs to be thanks to some Mercedes-Benz marketing decals.

In the midnight blue colour that we have though, this is a proper C-class to look at. You may not like it at first, but it grows on you. Its finely sculpted lines with extra bulges on the sides riding on 19-inch wheels. Yes, pretty.

Although, the bumper line is disturbed a little bit with an extra flap. The rear bumpers to be specific. Instead of front fender placement like its BMW 330e rival, the Mercedes-Benz C 350e puts their charging port at the back of the car, where the battery is obviously. That is done, we presume, to minimise the amount of cabling needed for the battery and therefore, saves some space and simplifies maintenance efforts, clever.

Features

Living with a car is more than just about driving it from point A to point B. If that is the whole point of you owning a car, getting any basic car would do it. There is no need to spend MYR 300,000 on a car like this.

If you are only interested in a car that will get you to point B, I have a question for you. Why are you here?

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Anyway, the car is more than just a transportation mode. Sure it has to do it; get you from A to B. But when you spend MYR 300,000 on one, it better feel like one, or at least packaged like one.

The Dash

If you have not been in a Mercedes-Benz before, you need to get on a test drive, or go to their showroom and sit in one. The inside of a Mercedes-Benz is one of the best in the industry. It is comfortable, luxurious, scrumptious, pretty, and a very cosy place to be in.

The C 350e has nearly the same interior design like almost any Mercedes-Benz of its generation. You get plenty of leather on the seats, plenty of leather on the top of the dash, plenty of leather on the steering wheel, and plenty of leather on your door panel. They all feel great and top-notch. No, they are not made with selected bulls like a Rolls-Royce, but a Rolls is in a different class and price point.

Where the leather ends, aluminium and wood takes over; even the foot pedals are mostly aluminium. In the case of this C 350e AMG-Line, There are some carbon fibre trims in the interior as well. The center console’s storage compartment is covered with the material. The material runs all the way to the arm rest too. Frankly, I would rather go for a wood trim.

The carbon fibre trim that covers the center dash compartment can be quite sharp at the edges too. It will not cut you, but it does feel a little uncomfortable to the touch, not so good then. We do not know how the wooden trim would be like, there is no other option for the C 350e, you only get the AMG-line.

There are also some LED strips and lights that makes up the ambient lighting in the car though. We can change to other colours but we kept it to blue, we like blue-lighted interiors; very nice and elegant.

COMMAND

You can control that and plenty more in the Mercedes-Benz COMMAND center on the center panel. It is not a touch sensitive display, which is good because it is less distracting. You control it like you control a BMW’s iDrive system, through a trackpad and a knob on the center console. Nothing wrong with that, except that COMMAND is quite dimwitted in this generation. We are told that the system has improved in the new one, I have yet to try them.

You cannot connect your phone via a cable to activate Android Auto because this does not have one. We do not have an Apple iPhone to test it with so we cannot confirm the use of Apple CarPlay on the car as well. Connecting our smartphone to the system via Bluetooth works though. You have to dig into the system a little bit to get Bluetooth connectivity going. Once you set it though, you do not need to do it a second time to get your smartphone connected, simply turn on the car, turn on the COMMAND from the center console, and you can play your favourite tracks and make phone calls from the car’s command.

You do not even have to do that with the touch pad and knobs to when you start driving. Everything is controllable through the steering wheel’s buttons. The buttons on the steering wheel feels premium, tactile, well-made, and so easy to work with that it is only natural that you get used to using the wheels to control your music or place phone calls. Or, you can get Google Assistant on your smartphone to do it. Oh, there are shift paddles on the steering wheel too. Those are aluminium, which is nice too. But pressing them feels like pressing a normal button though, no drama. Still, the tactile feeling is nice.

Sitting In

The seats? Oh my goodness, the seats. The leather on the seats we got was white, which I would change to a different colour for durability reasons. But the seats are plush, and nice, and comfortable. The leather is warm to you. It is also warm in the hot sun, but then again that is quite characteristic of a leather seat, especially if you leave the sunroof open the whole time.

You get seat heaters too, which is quite useless in Malaysia with the hot weather; but there you go. The seat is endlessly adjustable too for you to find your perfect seating position. You can control its height, the headrest’s height, the lumbar support’s height, the length of your seat, the angle of your back support, and whatever movable part you can think of. It is makes the cockpit a very comfortable and luxurious place to be in.

In the back, you can seat three adults in complete comfort. Leg space is quite narrow, but an average adult would still be comfortable in the rear. Of course, different experience entirely in the front row. Boot is quite decent too at 335-Litres, considering they have to give up some space for the batteries. Sound-proofing is great too, it is not completely isolated in the car, but it is good enough that road noise is at a minimal. Talking in the car needs no raising of voice too, though engine can be a little rough (very un-Mercedes like).

Plug-in Hybrid

Before we completely blow past this, yes the C 350e is a plug-in hybrid vehicle. It has a petrol engine and an electric motor to help it trundle along. No turbochargers, just a plain ol’ petrol engine and electric motor. More about the drive later.

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The water-cooled batteries in the back takes about two hours for a full charge from a regular home socket. That charger adapter is provided. If you opt to get the public charger cable, you can charge the car within 1 hour and a half, provided you find one and have the New Motion cards that you need to apply to for the public chargers in Malaysia.

On full electric, they say that the motors can go up to 31km on a single charge. In our test, we got about 27km maximum before the petrol engine has to kick in to rescue the battery. That is good for one trip to the office from home and half a trip back from office. When it is in full electric mode you can only get your car up to 80km/h and it is super quiet, until the petrol engine kicks in.

The Drive

The Mercedes-Benz C 350e is made to be driven with almost 300-hp on the wheels of the car. The 300-hp is thanks in part to the electric motors helping the 2.0-litre engine fill the torque gaps in technical terms. In practical words, all these things are making the car go faster.

It hits 100km/h slightly faster than a BMW 330e does thanks to the 300-hp. But it is a heavier car so it does not actually feel all that fast. It takes you to that speed in that time in a very civilised way instead of some crazy visceral experience. It is relaxed and easy. Then again, most expressways in Malaysia limits you to 80km/h so if you do stick to that; it does not really matter anyway. The acceleration is good when you exit a corner though, very seamless and very quick; very nice.

Where the BMW competitor feels like an edgy knife that is ready to attack every single time you show it an open road, the Mercedes-Benz feels relaxed and composed. The car is not slow, mind you. It is a very fast car with a top speed of 250km/h. So if you do poke it a little bit, it will go very fast, especially in Sports+ mode.

Choose Your Dynamics

Oh yes, there are three driving modes (dynamic options) available in the car – Comfort, Sports, Sports+. There is an individual setting there too, but you do not really need it most of the time – unless you are me of course, I set the suspensions to comfort while steering goes sports mode. In Comfort mode the car settles down to be a comfortable cruiser with no urgency. You can choose to go full electric or go on ECO mode with a mix of both or just electricity at times, as long as the battery allows anyway.

The pedals has some haptic feedback to let you know things like engine mode switches or warning you that you are at the limit of electric mode, and all that kind of stuff that we did not pay much attention to. The pulses feels quite substantial and a little weird mostly.

In Comfort mode too the steering is a lot more relaxed with a lot more give, not so direct. It is lighter too thanks to the hydraulics and electronic assistance. In both Sports and Sports mode, the steering is much tighter, and a little heavier just to let you know that you are going into Sports mode. Compared to its rival though, the steering feels a little more dead and slightly less communicative. You still can tell what is going on, but less juddering, and less direct. Thanks to that, it is still a much more relaxed car to drive fast, not so hairy even in fast situations. It is like the car is telling you; “everything will be okay”.

Engine respond is faster too in Sports and Sports mode, they react faster to your feet and are more sensitive. Of course, your gearbox holds your revs longer before it goes on the next gear in the selection of 7 the transmission has. In different modes the transmission reacts differently too. Supposedly in the Sports and Sports+ mode, they are busier and a little more violent. In our opinion, not really they feel fine. You can drive them in manual mode if you want to using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Shifting up is fast and smooth, but shifting down takes some getting used to thanks to a slight delay.

The Mercedes-Benz Way

We leave the car in Comfort mode most of the time though in town. The steering feels to lazy in comfort mode though so we changed it up to sports mode for a slightly more direct feel. We left the engine mode on ECO most of the time too. In that mode, everything feels nice and smooth, very relaxed; just as a Mercedes-Benz should be. That Mercedes-Benz refinement is most noticeable in Comfort mode so we left it there. When the mood takes you, you go on Sports mode, engaging Sports+ holds the engine to the red line; too busy for the road.

Speaking of the engine experience though, we have to say that the 2.0-litre petrol engine is quite rough to the ears. As we put it, it is very uncharacteristic of a Mercedes-Benz. It is not too audible in the cabin, but outside the car you can hear it. While it feels smooth most of the time, it does not sound like it even in the cabin. We suspect that it is by design, but still we want our Mercedes-Benz to be smooth and refined with minimal noise.

That said, transitioning from the electric motor to the petrol and vice versa feels smooth and seamless. Save for the noise, you might not even know that you have switched mode unless you look at your dashboard dials. That is the Mercedes-Benz way.

Verdict

The Mercedes-Benz C-class of 2018 should be replaced soon with a new facelift and new interior for 2019. The C 350e will not be offered in the new offerings of the C-class as of yet. Of course, we are expecting to see something like the C 350e to make a comeback with the popularity of plug-in hybrid cars.

We think that the next C 350 will come with a 2.0-litre turbo engine like its rival, the BMW 330i. But that is a question that can only be answered later. As of now, here it is, the C 350e in all its glory.

We can say that it is a good looking car, not too showy, or glintzy. It properly looks good without too much bling on it like the old one. The AMG-Line body kit gives it some extra muscular haunches too that makes it look like it means some business.

It is comfortable, certainly one of the most comfortable small sized sedan I have ever been in so far. The combination of the plush leather seats and the forgiving suspensions are great. It does not feel like you are riding on air, but it is still good considering the size and weight of the car.

it is not too busy, easy to drive and relaxed in town. When the mood takes you, or when you need the speed it is easy to take it up to speed. It may not beat its closest rival on a track, but on daily drives, it would most certainly match the speed if not get you to your destination faster. It gets you there a lot more comfortably and relaxed too, not in a pool of your own blood mixed with some excrement.

The final question is whether or not this is worth MYR 299,888. Should you buy this and splurge the extra MYR 70 or so K compared to its closest rival? My absolute answer to that is a big resounding yes. Not just because I love the badge, because of that Mercedes-Benz experience. The engine thing? That is minor.

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