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Mercedes E 350 e review: A plug-in hybrid star
INTERNET conundrum of the week: Is it more virtuous to do good and keep quiet about it or to do good and talk about it on social media and garner likes?
The new Mercedes-Benz E 350 e, the brand's first Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) to be offered on sale here, is surely in the former stealth-do-good category.
Besides the 'EQ Power' badge on the front fender ('EQ' is the Mercedes-Benz term for its electrification technology) there's very little to mark the E 350 e out as a car that can travel up to 33km solely on battery power with zero tailpipe emissions.
It's quite the opposite to the Toyota Prius, which has been the go-to car for greenies who want everyone else to know about how they're saving the earth.
The subtle presentation belies the sheer amount of technology onboard, though. The current E-Class, as a key example of a large, German luxury sedan, is already quite advanced, but the hybrid takes things a step further.
Two 12.3-inch high-resolution screens display all the information a driver needs, and you can do everything from changing the display theme to customising the interior lighting to setting a departure time so the car can pre-cool the cabin for you.
There are different modes you can select at the push of a button - E-Mode means the system prioritises battery usage alone, Hybrid makes the car behave like a petrol-electric hybrid, E-Save maintains the current battery level, while Charge does exactly that but at the cost of increased fuel consumption.
The E 350 e has the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine found in the conventional, petrol-only E 300, E 250 and E 200 models, but as a PHEV it also has an 88 horsepower motor-generator linked to a 6.2kWh lithium ion battery pack in the boot.
The engine and motor combine to deliver 286hp and up to 550 Newton-metres of torque.
In full blast Sport+ mode, it'll chirp its rear tyres and surge forward with clear authority, feeling much more like a car with a six-cylinder engine than one with just four.
Yet even without a full battery and operating as a conventional hybrid, the E 350 e delivers fuel efficiency better than 8.0L/100km, which is good for a big sedan.
It's still an E-Class through and through so comfortable cruising shows its best elements, and unlike some PHEVs, it doesn't feel overweight nor unwieldy.
The adaptive air suspension delivers a peaceful ride, although the engine has an obvious burr during operation, so it's not the most refined PHEV around.
If you get sick of driving in traffic, the adaptive cruise control and steering assist take the edge out of the urban crawl, while other features such as a 360-degree camera, automatic parking and wireless smartphone charging make life easier.
It sounds like a lot to take onboard at once, but the good thing is that you can ignore all the doodads, let the car sort all this out itself, and simply drive it normally.
Unlike a fully-electric vehicle, the E 350 e has a relatively small battery, which takes around 3.5 hours to charge with the supplied Land Transport Authority-approved charging cable.
The caveat is the cable uses a less common M-type socket rated for higher currents, which is also used by some high-load appliances like air-conditioners. One upside of that is that most electricians can install a suitable outlet.
A wallbox, which charges the car in 1.5 hours, might be available in the near future.
If you have the space to charge it daily, the E 350 e delivers on the promise of an electric future, today.
But perhaps the most convincing trait isn't its high technology nor its unassuming exterior, but the price tag: The 'early adopter tax' is only 2.7 per cent, or S$8,000, which is the price difference between the E 350 e and its most closely priced sibling, the E 300 AMG Line model.
We might all be dazzled by high technology, but what will really make the quiet, electric revolution widespread is keen pricing like that.
MERCEDES-BENZ E 350 e
Engine 1,991cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 211hp at 5500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1200-4400rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Electric Motor 88hp/440Nm
Battery Type/Capacity Lithium ion/6.2kWh
Charging Time/Type 3.5 hours/Charging cable
Electric Range 33km
System Power/Torque 286hp/550Nm
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 6.2 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 2.5L/100km
Price S$305,888 with COE
Agent Mercedes-Benz Centre Singapore