A Kent Island glimpse at a compact luxury PHEV sedan.

2018 Mercedes-Benz C 350e
On the road with a Mercedes-Benz C 350e.

The Mercedes-Benz brand has remained elusive among my press fleet vehicles, a situation I plan to amend by next year. You simply can’t properly evaluate the market without a steady dose of M-B models to compare with Audi, BMW, and other luxury products.

At the recent 2017 WAPA Rally on Kent Island, Maryland, I had an opportunity to drive the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 350e, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Certainly, 45 minutes isn’t enough to give a full evaluation, but it does provide a “first look” overview, which I’m sharing here.

Now in its third year, the C 350e offers a blend of luxury, performance, and efficiency worth exploring. This compact luxury sedan comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 60-kilowatt electric motor to deliver 275 combined horsepower. Under hard acceleration, this rear-wheel drive only PHEV goes from 0-60 mph in just 5.8 seconds. Paired with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, under optimum conditions the C 350e delivers a combined 51 mpg, in part due to its approximate 20-mile electric-only range.

Quite frankly, these are amazing numbers and likely the reason why we’ll see far more PHEV variants in the coming years.The 2018 C 350e costs $47,900 plus $995 for destination.

2018 Mercedes-Benz C 350e

Exterior Highlights

There’s little difference between the standard C-Class and the PHEV and that’s a good thing. Already a handsome sedan with a long hood and short rear deck, Mercedes-Benz wisely chose to keep this hybrid close to the standard bearer’s looks.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch twin 5-spoke wheels and your choice of 11 colors. Or perhaps what I should say is you have a choice of black and polar white paint schemes with the nine other choices costing an additional $720, $1,080 or $1,515. Wheel and tire upgrades are available as well, costing $1,340 to $3,260 for the seven package options.

Other single options include the following AMG upgrades: rear apron trim ($810), front splitter ($780), rear apron flics ($310), side sill panels ($1,100), and a rear spoiler ($520). It may seem odd to include AMG elements on a PHEV, but that’s something Mercedes-Benz offers.

You can also opt for an Advanced Lighting Package ($800), bringing in active LED headlamps with adaptive high beam assist, a panoramic roof ($1,000), and various accessories.

Interior Highlights

Mercedes-Benz interiors are exquisite and boast an assortment of materials. Standard features include power front seats with driver memory, dual-zone climate control, a high-resolution dashboard, and a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat.

This five-passenger sedan offers your choice of three cloth or three leather coverings. Further, you can also upgrade to nappa leather, offering two color choices for $3,800 each. Notably, a leather seating package ($1,950) splits that difference and adds driver seat memory for the passenger seat. Four wood trim options are also available.

Individual interior upgrades include heated seats ($580), heated and ventilated front seats ($1,030), a wood/leather steering wheel ($500), and a heated steering wheel ($250). Certainly, there are no lack of upgrade opportunities with this and other Mercedes-Benz models.

Mercedes-Benz C 350e

Audio and Navigation

All C 350e models come with a central controller, Bluetooth audio streaming, a pair of USB audio ports, HD Radio, and a Front-Bass audio system.

Among the entertainment and convenience packages available include a Premium Package with keyless entry and satellite radio ($700), a Navigation and Multimedia Package ($2,200) and a Comfort Package ($750) — adding a power rear and side window sunshades.

Individual upgrades include a Burmester Surround Sound System ($850), Head-up Display ($950), and GARMIN map pilot ($625).

Standard safety features include nine airbags, a pre-collision system, adaptive braking technology, and a rearview camera. Moreover, you’ll even find a crosswind assist system to help maintain control when a truck passes by or if you are buffeted by high winds.

Package options include a Parking Assist Package with active parking assist and a surround view system ($1,090) and a $2,250 driver assist package, adding lane keep assist, blind spot assist, pedestrian detection and several other safety features. Further, you can also opt for blind spot assist ($550) and active parking assist ($970) separately.

Mercedes-Benz C 350e

Behind the Wheel: Mercedes-Benz C 350e

I’m not a fan of the stalk-mounted transmission shifter on the 350e. I understand why it’s there — to free up space on the center console. Once I got used to its location, I was able to enjoy the drive.

In fact, Mercedes-Benz utilizes the same engine in the C 300, which produces 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque on its own. However, that model gets the 9-speed transmission and offers available all-wheel drive.

Step on the accelerator and the C 350e quietly moves away from a dead stop — battery power gets this sedan going. Press hard on the gas pedal and the engine roars to life, moving this sedan with authority. The steering is crisp, the ride comfortable and the brakes firm with only a minimal amount of “squishiness” detected, thanks to the regenerative braking system.

Parting Thoughts

First looks are just that — long enough to gauge highlights about a vehicle, but not too short to assess as I do for a weekly drive. Still, I like this sedan and see it as one more example of automakers flexing their electrification muscles. The $7,650 price premium over the base model is hard to swallow, but an available $4,043 tax credit closes the gap by more than half.

Mercedes-Benz C 350e

This article was originally published by Auto Trends Magazine.

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