The future has slipped quietly into Australia with Mercedes-Benz announcing the arrival and pricing of the first of its plug-in hybrid models.
Two months after BMW launched its X5 xDrive40e and 330e petrol electric plug-in hybrids, Mercedes has matched its German rivals with the GLE500 SUV and C350e sedan, and gone one further by adding the S500e with an E350e to follow later.
The four-door C-Class is Benz's bestselling car and the king of the mid-size over $70K segment. The C 350 e looks identical to its C-Class-mates, the only giveaway that it might be a bit different is the discrete badging on the boot and the charging port in the back bumper.
The C350e costs $75,300, that's $4600 more than the BMW 330e. The Estate wagon version of the 350e will also be offered for $77,800.
We think it is the future. Performance, low emissions and good economy don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy said he's not expecting the C350 to be a big seller, but it will find a home in some Australian garages.
"It's not going to enter the top 10, but I think a coupe a hundred a year is quite achievable," he said.
"We think there's a market for it. We think it is the future. Performance, low emissions and good economy don't have to be mutually exclusive."
Lifting the Benz's aluminium bonnet reveals a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and integrated into the seven-speed automatic transmission is a 60kW/340Nm electric motor. Together the motor and engine have a combined output of 205kW/600Nm.
That type of petrol-electric grunt gives the C350e sedan considerable shove with 0-100km/h rushing past in 5.9s – quicker than any other C-Class, apart from the hardcore C63 S.
Fuel economy is a motorcycle-like 2.4L/100km in the sedan and 2.6L/100km in the Estate.
The C350e can operate in four different modes: Hybrid, which automatically switches from petrol to electric for the best efficiency; E-Mode which will power the car just on electricity; E-Save maintains the current charge level and preserves the battery; while Charge mode uses just the petrol engine and tops up the batteries during regenerative braking.
Running on electricity alone the C350e has a range of 31km on a full charge. Charging the battery can be done through a regular home power point using the cable provided with the car and takes just over three hours. A wall unit can be purchased for $2000 and will cut the charging time in half.
Full details and specifications for the C350e will be revealed when the car officially launches later in July.
Do you think adding great performance, as in the C350e, will make hybrids even more attractive to buyers? Tell us what you think in the comments below.