Mercedes-Benz’s latest hybrid executive saloon is so smooth it is more magic carpet than automobile
Traditionally, delivering high fuel economy hasn’t been a primary focus for large executive cars. But the times they are a-changin’. Car manufacturers know they need to provide cleaner and more efficient vehicles to appease European regulators and discourage buyers from trading down to smaller motors.
The latest Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC Hybrid is an executive car for a more thoughtful, caring chief executive. It is clean and green. In fact, Mercedes says it’s the world’s cleanest and greenest executive car, full stop, although you’d be hard pushed to notice from the exterior – it looks exactly like any other E-Class saloon. Mercedes has decided not to cover it in eco badges. There are no green or blue logos emblazoned on the bonnet, flanks or tail and barely any badging to indicate it is a hybrid car at all, apart from the word “hybrid” on its rump. Design-wise it’s a little dull – it says “reliability” rather than “cool”.
Yet this E300 is really quite clever. It has a 20kW electric motor working alongside its 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin turbo diesel engine. By using a wet clutch, instead of a torque converter, the engine can be disengaged entirely to use electric power only. This means it’s possible to pull away from the kerb in almost eerie silence like some kind of stealthy Batmobile, albeit only for a kilometre or so. Funeral directors all over the UK should go out and purchase one immediately. It also means that at motorway speeds the engine turns itself off and instead switches into a coasting mode, in which the car sails along using the battery alone. All of this saved fuel adds up – Mercedes-Benz claim 67.3mpg is possible (combined) – and you barely notice it when you’re driving.
The electric motor – which is mounted within a seven-speed automatic gearbox – joins forces with the engine to add more oomph when you require it, like when overtaking on the motorway. The battery and motor do add additional weight but I didn’t notice it (the E-Class isn’t known for its exceptional handling, anyway). The result is a powerful, comfortable and spacious executive saloon that’s also economical and clean.
As you would expect in a Merc of this size, the interior is high quality, well put together and built to last. It’s comfortable and classy. The mood lighting that illuminates the dash and doors is a nice touch and the two glass sunroofs create a panoramic distraction for rear seat passengers.
The 0-62mph figure of 7.5 seconds shows how fast this car can be when driven quickly, but I found myself shirking all that noise and haste, instead tending to waft along on its air suspension, driving in the slow, relaxed manner that befits this graceful giant. It’s not a car that seats you in superiority above other drivers like a fancy 4x4 – it’s more one that enables you to levitate over the traffic in Zen-like contemplation.
At over £40,000 it’s expensive – you’ll need to clock up some serious mileage to realise the financial benefit of that hybrid engine. But if long-distance driving is a part of your life, it could be transformational. It won’t feel like part of your nine-to-five grind. Stress is inappropriate here: leave it at the door. The hybrid E-Class is not an automobile. It’s a magic carpet.
THE FACTS: MERCEDES-BENZ E300 BLUETEC HYBRID
0-62MPH: 7.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 150mph
CO2 G/KM: 109g/km
MPG COMBINED: 67.3mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ***