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Detroit show: Mercedes plugs in C-Class

Silent C: With plug-in recharging, Mercedes' C350 Plug-In Hybrid has up to 31km range on electric power alone.

Ultra frugal C350 Plug-In Hybrid under consideration for Australia


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12 Jan 2015

MERCEDES-BENZ has rolled out a version of its C-Class sedan and Estate which uses just 2.1 litres of fuel per 100km at the North American Auto Show, and the ultra frugal C350 Plug-In Hybrid could be coming to Australia.

The almost teetotal C-Class is the second hybrid model from the German car-maker that can be charged at home – following the S500 that made its debut last year – allowing up to 31km on pure emissions-free electric power and the performance of a petrol/electric powertrain.

With a combination of 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and 60kW electric motor powered by a 6.2 kWh battery, the C350 Plug-In Hybrid produces a peak output of 205kW and 600Nm allowing acceleration from zero to 100km/h in under six seconds.

Estate versions take a little longer making the grade in 6.2 seconds versus the 5.9 seconds of the sedan but both variants manage the same low emissions figure of just 49g per kilometre.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific has not given the final word on whether the new variant will be coming Down Under, but the most frugal C-Class is under “serious consideration” in sedan form, while the Estate variant has not been ruled out either.

Under low throttle loads, only the electric motor drives the C350 for zero-emission and silent motoring, but if the “haptic” accelerator is pressed further the petrol engine starts up and works with the motor to boost power.

As well as powering the car the engine can also recharge the battery but regenerative braking uses the kinetic energy of the car's movement to top up the battery when the brake pedal is pushed.

Critically though, the newest addition to the C-Class range can be charged from mains power negating the need for the petrol engine for journeys shorter than 31km.

Mercedes says the C350 Plug-In Hybrid can be driven in the same way as any combustion engine or hybrid vehicle but does have four different operation modes for those wanting to get the most out of the dual-power system.

Hybrid mode allows operation most similar to a normal vehicle, with the various systems looking after themselves to provide the most car-like experience with good fuel economy.

When the battery charge status allows, E-mode provides pure electric driving without the intervention of petrol power for zero-emissions driving when in busy city centres for example.

The E-save mode prevents energy being taken from the battery to preserve charge if it is needed later where pure electric drive is more important, while the Charge mode allows the engine to run continuously to charge the battery for later use.

With the correct navigation system information, the C350 Plug-In Hybrid can even decide which type of power source to use in relation to the planned journey, effectively tailoring the most fuel-efficient strategy according to the various environmental changes.

If the system detects a later stage of urban motoring in a journey it may choose to run the vehicle in Charge mode immediately before the likelihood of increased traffic density, ensuring the car has maximum electric drive before it arrives at the congestion.

As in the case of the C300 Hybrid, electrical and combustion power is sent to the rear wheels via Mercedes' 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission, which can operate in either full automatic mode or with manual steering wheel paddles.

The new addition will share the standard features of lesser C-Class variants in the mid-sized sedan and Estate line-up but will also bring a greater level of equipment as standard.

Mercedes' more comfortable Airmatic self-leveling air suspension will be included at no extra cost allowing reduced road noise and cabin vibration, as well as an adaptive ride-height for towing or carrying heavy loads.

Pre Entry Climate Control will also come as standard fare and can prepare a preferred cabin temperature prior to passenger entry during very hot or cold weather. The system is set via the Mercedes Connect website.

Exterior equipment is offered in two specification levels with Avantgarde for a more modern and sporty appeal or a more traditional Exclusive trim which brings a classic radiator grille and iconic bonnet-mounted three-point star.

Interiors are at the top end of C-Class equipment with premium quality materials, head-up display for the driver and a high-end sound system.

Pricing will be decided following a decision for Australia but its cost is unlikely to be radically different to the $71,900 C300 Hybrid, which uses a typically more expensive diesel engine and is already on sale here.

That vehicle is not available as boot-boosted Estate so the new C350 could potentially mark the first Estate/hybrid combination to arrive in Australia.

Current C-Class Estate variants cost $2500 more than their sedan equivalents so a similar premium for the C350 Plug-In Hybrid Estate would be likely.

The new C350 Plug-In Hybrid will roll into European showrooms in March this year with an Australian arrival expected soon after if it is given the green light.

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