It may not look much different, but BMW’s slick 5 Series has been upgraded for 2013
Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid Estate review (2013 onwards)
The E-Class is a fine car and the Hybrid works extremely well. Its toughest rival is the regular E 250 CDI diesel.
What – Mercedes E300 Bluetec Hybrid Estate
Date – January 2013
Where – Weybridge, UK
Price – £41,435
Available – Now
Key rivals – BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid, Lexus GS 450h, Lexus RX 450h, Porsche Cayenne Hybrid, Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid
We like – High quality interior, comfort, performance, economy
We don’t like – We doubt it makes financial sense over a regular E-Class diesel
It’s a car that we have respect for. This Mercedes fulfils our expectations of how a vehicle from the German manufacturer should come across, all desirable high quality and good engineering.
The E300 Hybrid aims to up the game further in the economy and environmental area. Build around the E250 CDI, with its 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, the Hybrid comes in a specification roughly comparable to the Avantgarde level.
Available in both saloon and estate form at around £40,000, it’s approximately £4k more than the regular diesel.
Hybrid cars with diesel engines are a much newer development than those with petrol power. The technology is, apparently, more complicated to get right.
Yet there is never any sense that this E300 Hybrid is lacking in performance or sophistication. Just the reverse. Its smooth, punchy performance is likely to impress the majority of drivers, even those previously reluctant to move away from a powerful petrol model.
The secret, of course, is that the electric motor joins forces with the diesel engine to give extra thrust when you ask for it. At certain times, this Mercedes will even run on electric power alone.
At city speeds this may be for up to a kilometre, which isn’t far but it means that for low speed manoeuvres and parking, electrical power might be all you need. There is also a ‘sailing’ mode which switches off the diesel engine at speeds of up to 100mph and uses just the battery to waft you along.
All this assumes that there is sufficient power left in the battery. This isn’t a plug-in hybrid like the Volvo V60 where you can recharge at home. Instead it’s like the original Prius or Lexus GS 450h, recharging as you decelerate or brake. The reality is that the electric power assistance is sporadic, as it is in every hybrid.
Ride and handling
The E300 Hybrid may weigh 100kg more than the regular diesel, but there’s no sign of less space or any discernable change in ride comfort or handling.
The transmission is a seven-speed automatic and there’s air suspension as standard. This Mercedes is as comforting and pleasant to drive as any of its rivals.
This Mercedes was loaded to the hilt with optional extras - £17,000 worth. Yet the underlying sense of quality is there even without these additions.
The seats are very well shaped and comfortable, there’s plenty of front seat adjustment and the dashboard is beautifully sculptured. Rear seat space is good and the luggage area on the estate is simply cavernous. See Richard Aucock’s report on the E220 CDI Estate for an in-depth analysis.
Economy and safety
This is the bottom line. You’ll pick the E300 Hybrid for one of three reasons. It’s greener. You’ll pay less company car tax. The economy is the best of any E-Class. Or you may want it for all three.
Certainly it is very green. The CO2 figure of 116g/km is astonishingly low for a car of this size. So you can feel good about that and the fact that the company car tax will be at just the 17% level.
Economy is claimed to average 67.2mpg, equally impressive. In comparison the E 250 CDI has a CO2 some 20g/km and 10mpg worse.
The E-Class merits the maximum score in the EuroNCAP safety tests. In addition there is a bonnet deployment system that lifts the rear edge of the bonnet in a pedestrian accident to provide additional cushioning to the impact.
The MSN Cars verdict
The efficiency is impressive, the numbers all look good and the Mercedes E-Class is already a very desirable car – and that’s before the facelifted model appears later in 2013. It also looks cheaper than rivals from BMW and Lexus, although equipment variations play havoc with comparisons here.
The Hybrid’s key problem is the incumbent E-Class diesels. The E 250 CDI is equally good to drive and still hugely economical. We’d doubt that the Hybrid will, in reality, show anything like the 10mpg advantage claimed. As is often the case with advanced technology, you really need to buy into it emotionally to justify the extra outlay.
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