For the past few years, German automaker Mercedes-Benz has been quietly planning its own range of plug-in cars designed to give it a fighting chance against more established plug-in brands like Tesla Motors and BMW in the luxury car segment.
Not counting the Smart ForTwo electric drive — a car produced by Mercedes-Benz’ sister brand Smart — we’ve seen the B-Class Electric Drive — a car with a Tesla-engineered battery pack and drivetrain — as well as the full-size S-Class plug-in.
Later this year, Mercedes-Benz will add a third car to the list: the C350 plug-in hybrid.
Announced today at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mercedes-Benz’s new plug-in hybrid is one of ten new plug-in hybrids the automaker will be launching between now and 2017, and like the S-Class plug-in hybrid will marry a gasoline engine with an electric motor and battery pack for better fuel economy on the motorway and all-electric operation around town.
“The plug-in hybrid is an investment in the future of Mercedes-Benz, and we believe it will be come established as the successful technology for maximum efficiency coupled with dynamic performance,” said Thomas Weber, Daimler AG board member for group research and Mercedes-Benz car development.
Under the hood, there’s a four-cylinder, 1.9-litre turbocharged gasoline engine which is married to an 60 kilowatt electric motor and seven-speed automatic transmission to give a combined total output of 275 horsepower. While the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack isn’t exactly large — just 6.2 kilowatt-hours in capacity — Mercedes-Benz is predicting an all-electric range of 20 miles in urban conditions, although we should note that’s not an official EPA or NEDC figure.
To save on interior space, the battery pack itself is mounted behind the rear axle underneath the main body of the car. Mercedes-Benz says this helps keep a low centre of gravity as well as ensure no interior space is lost to the battery pack.
Like its bigger brother, the S-Class plug-in hybrid, the C-Class Plug-in hybrid — available in sedan and station wagon format — will recharge from any compatible level 2 (type 2) charging station in a few hours. Although not confirmed, we’d expect similar charge hold and charge sustain functionality in the C-Class Plug-in hybrid as other similar vehicles like the Volvo V60 PHEV and Audi A3 e-tron.
In terms of performance, Mercedes-Benz is going an electronically-limited top speed in hybrid mode of 130 mph, with a 0-60 mph dash taking place in 5.9 seconds. For electric-only operation, we’d be surprised to see a top speed above 80 mph, but since the electric-only operation isn’t intended for freeway operation it’s something of a moot point anyway.
While Mercedes-Benz is not ready to set a price for the new plug-in hybrid, it does promise sales will begin in both the U.S. and Europe this fall as a 2016 model-year car. Given the already tough marketplace for compact luxury plug-in hybrids — more so in Europe than the U.S. — Mercedes-Benz will need to set a fairly aggressive price point in order to ensure that this plug-in doesn’t become another double-digit compliance car.
Do you like the idea of a C-Class Plug-in Hybrid? Would you buy one? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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