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The C-Class with EQ Power: How to build a better Mercedes

THE E 350 e is not the only plug-in hybrid car from Mercedes-Benz. In other markets, an EQ Power version of the smaller C-Class is available, in the form of the C 350 e. Like its larger sibling, it has an electric motor and 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, so it's capable of the same tricks: short runs of near-silent electric drive, with longer distances from the fossil fuel engine if need be.

That tells you who this car is for; if you're a sales exec who is constantly on the road, you would be better off with a diesel engine. On the other hand, if you mostly use your car for a short drive to work and back, you would get the most from a plug-in hybrid - as long as you had somewhere to charge it.

Leaving that aside, plug-in cars are capable of other neat tricks. Using your smartphone you can pre-cool the cabin if the car has been plugged into a charger, as its air-conditioning system can run off mains electricity, for example.

But what's most unusual about the plug-in Mercedes is the way it drives. The Business Times drove a C 350 e in Malaysia, where the car is built to satisfy growing demand for hybrids there.

As an electric vehicle, it's hushed and responsive, the way a Mercedes should be. Put your foot down, however, and the acceleration pins you to your seat.

Singapore isn't getting the current C 350 e because Mercedes recently facelifted the C-Class family, and a plug-in version of the updated car hasn't yet been revealed.

Like the E 350 e, however, the C 350 e that eventually goes on sale here will be relatively expensive. The bulk of C-Class sales is usually from the very cheapest versions.

The price gap between a plug-in and a basic C-Class means the former is unlikely to produce any real savings at the pumps. But the C 350 e does demonstrate why you might want a plug-in Mercedes if you can afford it. The technology offers a mix of refinement and performance that means people who buy a plug-in Mercedes are not just getting a more efficient one, but a better one.

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