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The new Mercedes-Benz C 350 e: Efficiency, dynamism and comfort – the best of three worlds
Following its premiere in the S-Class, Mercedes-Benz is now offering its most advanced hybrid technology yet in the C-Class and, for the first time, also in an estate model. The dynamism and efficiency of the C 350 e make it a convincing proposition in both its saloon and estate variants. With an all-electric range of up to 31 kilometres, local emission-free driving is now a reality. Its four-cylinder petrol engine, in conjunction with a powerful electric motor, gives it a total system output of 205 kW (279 hp) with a system torque of 600 Nm.
The new C 350 e thus delivers the performance of a sports car while offering a certified consumption of just 2.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in both its saloon and estate variants. This corresponds to CO2 emissions of 48 grams (49 grams for the estate) per kilometre. Both models are also equipped as standard with AIRMATIC air suspension plus a pre-entry climate control system that can be controlled via the internet, adding up to a truly exceptional level of driving and climate comfort. The C 350 e is available at dealerships from March 2015.
Following the C 300 BlueTEC HYBRID, the C 350 e is the second hybrid model in the new C-Class and the second Mercedes-Benz model to feature plug-in hybrid technology. Thanks to their combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor, hybrid drives stand out with their low consumption and high performance. The electric motor can replace or support the combustion engine and makes use of energy generated while braking by converting it into useful electric energy, which is stored and reused.
The C 350 e employs the currently most advanced hybrid technology. Its electrical energy storage unit is a high-voltage lithium-ion battery with a total capacity of 6.38 kWh, which can be charged from an external power source to make an effective contribution to the low consumption and emission figures. The battery is water-cooled, weighs around 100 kilograms and is mounted in a sheet steel housing underneath the rear axle in order to maximise crash safety, driving dynamics and boot space.
Thanks to an intelligent on-board charging system, the battery can be recharged in around 1 hour 30 minutes at a wallbox or at one of the growing number of public charging points (230 V, 16 A, 3.7 kW single-phase), which in some cases offer privileged parking. Alternatively, charging via a domestic power socket is, of course, also possible. Depending on the connection, a charge time of around two hours is achievable (with 230 V and 13 A, 3.0 kW, single-phase).
Despite the space taken up by the battery, the C 350 e still has a boot capacity of 335 litres in its saloon format and 350 litres in the estate model or, in the latter case, 1370 litres with the rear-seat backrests folded down and, as ever, a level load compartment floor.
Plug-in hybrid for the first time now with four-cylinder petrol engine
In the new Mercedes-Benz C 350 e, this hybrid drive concept is combined for the first time with an efficient four-cylinder petrol engine. From a displacement of just under two litres, it produces 155 kW (211 hp) with a maximum torque of 350 Newton metres. Its direct injection system with spray-guided combustion uses electronically precision-controlled multiple injection and fast multi-spark ignition to deliver outstanding performance coupled with high efficiency and exemplary emissions. The electric motor in the C 350 e has an output of up to 60 kW and delivers a torque of 340 Newton metres, making for a total system output of 205 kW (279 hp) with a torque of 600 Newton metres.
7-speed automatic with additional clutch
The hybrid module of the standard 7-speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission incorporates both the electric motor and an additional clutch between the combustion engine and the electric motor. When driving in all-electric mode, this decouples the combustion engine from the drive train. It also, however, offers the possibility of moving off using the combustion engine but with the performance of a wet start-up clutch. The clutch here is a substitute for the torque converter.
The performance of a sports car
The high system output as well as intelligent drive management ensure the driving dynamics of a fleet-footed sports car, combined with the ride comfort of a premium saloon, along with fuel consumption and environmental compatibility on a level that, until recently, would not even have been expected of a small car. The saloon can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds, while the estate, at 6.2 seconds, is almost as quick off the mark. The saloon can reach a top speed of 250 km/h and the estate up to 246 km/h, both in conjunction with a certified fuel consumption of 2.1 litres per 100 kilometres. This corresponds to CO2 emissions of 48 grams per kilometre (49 grams per kilometre for the estate). Both variants of the C 350 e also offer the possibility of driving up to 31 kilometres in all-electric mode, thus completely free of CO2 local emissions – for example in the city.
A hybrid is efficient and dynamic to drive
The C 350 e offers all the characteristics of a state-of-the-art hybrid vehicle. These include first and foremost:
- Silent start: the vehicle starts virtually silently and runs in electric mode. At this point the combustion engine is generally kept switched off. Electric output of up to 60 kW is available for driving in all-electric mode.
- Boost: the electric motor kicks in to boost the output of the combustion engine by a further 60 kW – for example for rapid acceleration.
- Energy recuperation: during braking and coasting, energy is recovered and stored in the battery. This energy is then available later for electric driving or as a power boost.
Making by braking
The greatest potential for lowering the energy consumption of hybrid drive systems lies in maximising energy recovery on the overrun and during braking. When the brake pedal is depressed, therefore, the electric motor initially takes on the task of decelerating, acting as an alternator. If harder braking is required, the disk brakes will then intervene mechanically to provide additional grip. This overlap between conventional mechanical braking and the electric braking performance of the electric motor in alternator mode increases the efficiency while remaining imperceptible.
Working in the background, the intelligent drive management system in the C 350 e also automatically selects the ideal combination of combustion engine and electric motor.
Impulses for the driver
An innovation in the C 350 e is the so-called haptic accelerator pedal, which helps to reduce fuel consumption and therefore also exhaust emissions. It provides two types of information:
- If, when driving in electric mode, the driver's foot meets a point of resistance on the accelerator pedal, this is an indication that maximum electric performance is being delivered. If the driver continues to depress the accelerator beyond this resistance point, the combustion engine will kick in.
- A double impulse from the ECO Assist function signals that the driver should remove their foot from the accelerator pedal in order to switch off the combustion engine and decouple it from the drive train. Assuming that the driver does what the double impulse suggests, the intelligent drive management system in the C 350 e varies how the vehicle behaves on the overrun between unpowered (coasting) and energy recovery, using data from the car's radar systems as a basis.
Individual transmission mode
The complex technology of the C 350 e makes it no more difficult to drive than a conventional vehicle with automatic transmission. But anyone wanting to can also intervene manually and regulate the hybrid interplay themselves, with the help of five operating modes and three transmission modes. This is done via an operating mode switch and a transmission mode switch located in the centre console. A display in the middle of the instrument cluster shows the current setting.
Selecting a specific transmission mode enables the driver to define certain functions that influence the driving experience.
The following transmission modes are available:
- I Individual: individual definition of the characteristics of the transmission mode, including: drive, suspension, steering, ECO Assist, air conditioning
- S+ Sport+: maximum boost power, very sporty gear changes, the combustion engine is always active, particularly stiff suspension and damping settings.
- S Sport: enhanced boost power, sporty gear changes, the combustion engine is always active, stiff suspension and damping settings.
- C Comfort: boost power and energy recovery optimised for comfort and consumption, electric drive/ engine shut-off possible up to 130 km/h, comfort-oriented standard settings.
- E Economy: boost power is consumption-optimised, energy recovery minimised in favour of the coasting distance. All-electric mode and engine shut-off are possible. If the navigation system's route guidance function is switched on and the Hybrid operating mode selected, the system will control the charge status of the high-voltage battery according to the route, ensuring that the electric operating mode is used as far as possible in built-up areas. The ECO Assist is also active.
ECO Assist activates an additional function, using the radar technology behind the standard proximity warning system in order to do so. If the radar system identifies a slower-moving vehicle ahead, it sends a double impulse through the "haptic accelerator pedal" to signal to the driver to take their foot off the accelerator. The vehicle will then adjust its deceleration automatically, using the electric motor to do so. In this way frequent braking, particularly in stop-and-go traffic, can be avoided.
Choice of four operating modes
In addition to selecting a transmission mode, the driver of the C 350 e can also use the operating mode switch to influence the regulation between electric mode and use of the engine for driving. In the Eco and Comfort transmission modes, the following operating modes are available:
- Hybrid: all hybrid functions such as electric operating mode, boost and recuperation are available and are applied according to the driving situation and route in the most fuel-efficient manner.
- E-mode: used for all-electric driving – for example in inner-city areas or because the battery holds sufficient charge for the remainder of the journey.
- E-save: the charge status of the battery is maintained – for example to allow all-electric driving in an environmental zone at a later stage in the journey. Electric driving and the boost function are therefore only available to a limited extent.
- Charge: allows the battery to be recharged while driving using the combustion engine – for example in order to ensure a higher state of battery charge for later parts of the journey. The combustion engine remains switched on and fuel consumption may increase. Electric operation is not possible.
In transmission modes S+ and S, the "Hybrid" operating mode is activated. In the "Individual" mode, the choice of available operating modes depends upon the drive system setting.
Route-based operating strategy
The best strategy for efficient operation is anticipatory driving. If the exact destination is known because the relevant data has been entered into the navigation system, charging and discharging of the high-voltage battery in the C 350 e are controlled to ensure the optimal use of energy on the overall route.
Another key point is the requirement that urban areas should be reached with a fully charged battery if possible, so that the vehicle can be driven efficiently in stop-and-go traffic - and frequently in electric mode.
Air suspension and pre-entry climate control as standard
The new C 350 e offers the familiar range of equipment and appointment options that are available for the C-Class and, in addition, includes the enhanced comfort feature AIRMATIC air suspension as part of its standard specification, along with a further comprehensive range of pre-entry climate control options.
Thanks to its electronically regulated continuously variable damper adjustment at both front and rear axle, the air suspension offers outstanding ride comfort with minimal road roar and tyre vibration even when the vehicle is loaded, as well as self-levelling suspension all round.
Pre-entry climate control, a further standard feature, makes it possible to set the desired temperature for the interior of the vehicle before setting off - cooling it in the summer, warming it up in the winter. This can be activated by pre-setting the departure time (can be set in the vehicle or from home via the internet at http://connect.mercedes.me) or directly by pressing a button. This is possible due to the electrically powered refrigerant compressor and electric heating elements for the warm air circulation. In vehicles with the appropriate specification, the seat ventilation or heating will also be activated.
As well as the pre-entry climate control function, the charging of the vehicle can also be controlled via http://connect.mercedes.me. It is also possible to check the charge status of the high-voltage battery or the vehicle's potential range in electric mode.
Two different faces for the plug-in hybrid as well
The C 350 e is available in the AVANTGARDE exterior equipment line, which emphasises its sporty, premium-vehicle character. As an alternative and at no extra cost, both the saloon and estate versions are also available in the EXCLUSIVE exterior equipment line. With its classic radiator grille and three-pointed star on the bonnet, the C-Class conveys a prestige status and sense of modern luxury.
The Mercedes-Benz designers have styled the interior on a level which is rarely encountered even in higher vehicle categories. This is evident from the carefully chosen high-class materials and their pleasant touch and feel as well as from the precision of the finely crafted details. Prominently located immediately above the centre console is a centrally positioned free-standing central display unit. All the functions of the head unit can be intuitively controlled from a touchpad using simple finger movements. Also available: a head-up display that projects important information onto the windscreen directly in the driver's field of vision.
The C 350 e comes with H7 halogen headlamps as standard. In addition to the standard-fit headlamps, two energy-saving LED variants are available: a static system and a dynamic version with the "LED Intelligent Light System".
Assistance systems for added safety and comfort
Both the saloon and estate variants of the C 350 e offer the same extensive range of safety and assistance systems as all other C-Class models. Two of the systems fitted as standard are ATTENTION ASSIST, which can warn of inattentiveness and fatigue, and COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS, which protects against collision at speeds of over 7 km/h and, if the danger remains and the driver fails to react, can also undertake autonomous braking at speeds of up to 200 km/h and by so doing reduce the severity of an accident involving a slower-moving vehicle. Further systems from the new S and E-Class, either new or with significantly enhanced functions, are also available as options.
Vibrant infotainment experience
Even the basic version of the sophisticated multimedia system in the C-Class has internet capability if paired with a Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phone with data option. This enables the internet to be surfed without restrictions when the vehicle is stationary. Also standard is a basic telephony feature, which connects the mobile phone with the vehicle via a standardised Bluetooth® interface.
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