Mercedes-Benz C350e W205 ‘plug-in’ hybrid

Mercedes-Benz C350e W205 ‘plug-in’ hybrid

The first plug-in hybrid C-Class offers almost 20 miles of range in electric modeand, with its hybrid powertrain in full flow, rapid performance.


WORDS DAVID SUTHERLAND

IMAGES IAN KUAH & MERCEDES-BENZ GROUP AG


Buyer’s Guide The first C-Class plug-in hybrid, the C350e

The battery is recuperatively charged by the engine, but can also be charged at home or at a charging station


Not everyone is convinced that electricity is the way to make cars truly environmentally friendly, because the power for their batteries has to come from somewhere, and production of the batteries themselves has been revealed to consume precious resources.

Nonetheless, the idea now has traction and electric cars are the future – by law, from 2030 you won’t be able to buy a new petrol or diesel car in the UK, and there’s not likely to be a big choice by the mid 2020s. Already, two-thirds of all new Mercedes bought in the UK have electric power…

As a leading motor industry innovator since Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz merged their companies almost 100 years ago, Mercedes has been at the forefront of electric cars and has enthusiastically packaged the technology into useable and, equally importantly, cost effective, motorcars, and a key offering was the model we put under the Buyer’s Guide spotlight here, the 205-series C350e ‘plug-in’ hybrid. Launched in 2015 in Saloon and Estate forms, it was convenient, powerful and at well under £40,000 in Saloon guise once the government grant was taken into account, within an acceptable price distance of normal petrol C-Class models.

It is among the various models launched by car makers that has seen hybrids gain critical mass, switching from being early-adopter curiosities to a perfectly rational and practical choice. Seven years on from launch, you’ll see lots for sale, and from around £12,000 for the first models. But of course, there will be many who will worry that the electric systems adds a fearsome new element of complexity to an already high tech car, making an ageing example an owner’s nightmare. Fact or fiction?


Design & engineering

The C350e is not an electric car as such, but a petrol-engined car – in this case two-litre, turbocharged – with an electric motor that can power the Mercedes for short distances, but whose practical purpose is to add emissions-free power. The battery is recuperatively charged by the engine, but can also be charged at home or at a charging station via a port on the rear bumper, hence the ‘plug-in’ tag. Petrol/diesel hybrids will soon become part of electric car history, as new cars sold with this set up will be outlawed in the UK in 2035, but for now they’re a good introduction to electric cars,not least because there are no battery range issues to worry about.

The C350e’s petrol engine produces 208bhp and 258lb ft torque, on its own a respectable output. However, the electric motor can boost this to 275bhp and 442lb ft, putting this hybrid into the performance saloon category. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels through Mercedes’ usual 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, except adapted for a hybrid application.

This being a modern Mercedes, there are various engine and transmission driving modes, but the four that matter pertain to the power pack and are easily learned. ‘Hybrid’ is the one you’ll likely use most, if not all the time, and which lets the car decide on the appropriate internal combustion/ electric combination for any given driving conditions or driving style.

‘E-mode’ sees the electric motor do all the work, giving up to 19 miles of range. ‘E-save’ limits the amount the electric motor contributes, in order to maintain the battery’s charge level, while in ‘Charge’ the car is driven on its petrol engine only, but charging the battery up to full for later on, a mode that increases fuel consumption. Its hybrid set up gives the C350e a certified super economical 134.5mpg on the ‘combined’ test, while emissions are a mere 48g/km, under half that of a C200.

The C350e’s sole trim pack was Sport, equipped with 15mm lowered suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated sports seats, Garmin sat nav and Active Parking Assist. It came with Airmatic suspension as standard, and mode 2 (8A) and 3 (16A) charging cables. In early 2018, a facelift for the C-Class – by now built in Bremen in Germany, East London in South Africa and Tuscaloosa in the US – was announced. This focussed on appearance and equipment presenting refreshed interior and exterior trim, and some upgraded equipment including extended Active Brake Assist and Multibeam LED headlamps. The205-series C-Class was replaced by the 206-series in 2021, although the C350e was not offered after 2018. Note, a 316bhp C300e model with a 34-mile electric range appeared just before the 205-series ceased production.


Driving the C350e

A basic problem with electric cars is energy-consuming weight, and the C350e is no lightweight at nearly 1,800kg, its supplementary motor and battery making it 22 per cent heavier than the C200. However, this isn’t really evident from behind the wheel, Mercedes engineers having largely achieved their aim of eliminating any differences between petrol and hybrid as far as the driver is concerned.

The two-litre engine is characterless but smooth and quiet, and has more than enough acceleration from any speed – when the battery has charge, at least. E-mode sees the Mercedes glide around near silently, but of course the very limited rangemeans that many owners will try this option infrequently simply to see it working. The transition from petrol to electric and back is pretty seamless.

Otherwise, the C350e is much like any other C-Class, albeit one with a particularly smooth ride quality. It may lack the W204’s robust feel, but this W205 C-Class looks good inside with Mercedes’ usual heavily sculpted fascia and prominent tablet-style information centre, and most comfortable Artico ‘leather’ seats.


What you’ll pay

At the cheapest end of the price scale, you’ll see asking prices starting at about £12,000 for a Saloon. The C350e is quite likely to have been a car acquired new for company use, which would explain the way above average mileage that many have covered. So at this price point, expect 120,000 or 130,000 miles on the clock.

If you want something with under 100,000 miles the budget will have to be increased to £14,000 to £15,000, but even a £20,000 2017 C350e will have at least 50,000 miles. To get the 30,000-mile car from 2018 that everyone wants, you’ll be shelling out £25,000. The Estate was about £1,300 more than the Saloon so used values will be slightly higher. If you want the truly all-protecting warranty that only a franchised Mercedes-Benz dealer can provide, you will be paying close to £20,000 – it’s not that their prices are noticeably higher than at independent garages, but that the stock is newer and hence pricier. For a late C350e from 2017 with 30,000 miles, expect to pay around £30,000.

Inside and out

Specialist overview

Steve Dickens of Autoclass Garage in Milton Keynes “On reliability they’re not really much different to the normal C-Class models. I’ve only seen one hybrid motor failure, but as with all modern Mercedes they do suffer with electrical gremlins, some of which can be rectified with software updates.”

www.autoclassgarage.co.uk

Powertrain

Hybrid heater booster failures are common, preventing the car from starting, and causing the red high voltage battery warning light to come on. The reason for this is water entering the module, which is located in the offside wheelarch.

● The engine in the C350e can suffer a failed starter motor, but you might not notice this because the car starts off under electric power, leaving the only sign – a bump – felt on the move as the petrol engine effectively kickstarts itself.

● The M270 petrol engine can suffer a failed crankcase vent valve, which will bring the engine light on. The water pump and thermostat can give trouble, also illuminating the engine warning light.

● The gearbox is a variant of the proven ‘724’ unit, and if serviced correctly and on time seems to be reliable. However, this must include adding the Mercedes-Benz supplied anti-foam solution when the gearbox service is carried out.

Suspension, steering and braking system

● Front spring link ball joints often wear out, causing a creaking and/or knocking noise when driving over bumps or manoeuvring at slow speed. The only way to rectify this is to replace the affected suspension arm.

● All 205-series models can develop a squeaking noise that’s heard within the cabin, caused by the lower steering shaft plastic sheafing coming loose. The cure involves removing the shaft and re-bonding the sheathing back on.

● All 205s can display brake judder as a result of the wheel hubs not having been cleaned while the discs are replaced, and also because the wheels have not been correctly torqued in a certain sequence. The result is brake judder not long after the discs and pads have been replaced. Specialists advise sticking to Mercedes brake parts rather than aftermarket.

Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual modes available

Bodywork and wheels

Mercedes-Benz anti-rust treatment improved after a low period in the 202-/203-series C-Class era, so even the oldest 205s should still be solid in the body. All panels are galvanised so should not rust, but check for any poor accident repairs that might have left incorrect panel gaps.

● Mercedes-Benz wheels still seem very vulnerable to wear and tear. Check for cracking and buckles, and listen and feel for judders if road testing the car.

E-mode sees the electric motor do all the work, giving up to 19 miles of range

Airmatic suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard.

Interior and electrics

● The DAB tuner can give trouble. The remedy might simply be a software update, although sometimes the unit must be replaced. This applies to all 205s, not just the C350e.

● Check that everything works properly: electric seats, Comand, audio and so forth. Modern Mercedes receive regular software updates from main dealers, which makes a full M-B history a useful bonus. There is no paper history other than payment invoices, but official dealers should be able to give details.

● The 205-series C-Class, including the C350e, was a popular corporate-funded car. Hence look out for careless ‘user abuse’, such as damaged trim.

Mode 2 and 3 charging cables included; boot largely unaffected by the battery pack.


Verdict

At the beginning of this Buyer’s Guide, we asked if the hybrid aspect of the C350e brough added trouble for the used car buyer, and it doesn’t. This is a superbly engineered model whose electrics have proved extremely reliable, and if you’d be happy buying a diesel or petrol 205-series with 100,000 miles, then a C350e with the same miles should hold no worries.

That doesn’t of course answer a second question: what does a C350e offer that another 205-series C-Class doesn’t? Better economy and a slight reduction in the carbon footprint of your motoring is the answer. But the car works so well, we say just enjoy it and don’t feel the need to justify it!

Hybrid: Does it make sense?

In the current 206-series C-Class range, the equivalent model to the 205-series C350e is the C300e, whose 60-mile electric range is three times that of the C350e (the rare, 205-series C300e that arrived late in the day had a 34-mile range). The C350e featured here uses what Mercedes-Benz said was the most advanced lithium-ion battery at the time; water-cooled, it weighs around 100kg, and for crash safety and weight distribution reasons is mounted underneath the rear axle in a steel housing. Mercedes said the C350e’s battery can be recharged from 10 to 100 per cent in around 1hr 45mins at a dedicated charge point. But unlike the more recent all-electric Mercedes-EQ range, whose only power source is an electric charger, the plug-in hybrid C350e need never be connected to a charger, because the engine can recharge the battery. Plugging it into a wall charger would charge the battery to its maximum, but given the C350e’s limited range under pure electric power, that’s not a significant advantage, and unlikely to persuade many people to invest £600-plus in a home charger even if using it is cheaper per unit than a public charger.

Typical basic servicing costs

(A/B services including VAT)

MODEL OIL SERVICE MAJOR SERVICE

C350e Saloon/Estate £245 £295

Quotes from Autoclass Garage

Non routine servicing costs

★Replace front brake discs and brake pads £380

★Replace a failed engine crankcase vent valve £275

★Fit a replacement engine coolant thermostat £400

★Replace both front spring link ball joints £650

★Four premium tyres (225/45R18, 245/40R18) £550

What you’ll pay

£12,000-£13,000 Lowest price for a C350e Saloon or Estate, an early ex-fleet car with at least 120,000 miles

£13,000-£15,000 In this price bracket, you’ll see cars with under 100,000 miles on the clock, but not by much

£15,000-£20,000 2017/2018 cars with 50,000 to 75,000 miles, Estate models cost slightly more

£20,000-£25,000 Most of the cars offered by Mercedes-Benz dealers are in this price band, the mileage typically around 30,000 to 40,000

£25,000-£30,000 Mercedes-Benz dealer stock, under 40,000 miles and in very good condition

Spotted for sale

MERCEDES-BENZ OFFICIAL RETAILER

C350e Saloon AMG Line saloon

2018/18, black, black leather,

36,000 miles privately owned, £26,995, Mercedes-Benz of Salisbury

INDEPENDENT DEALER

C350e Estate Sport

2016/66, silver, black Artico leather, 89,500 miles, £15,500, Wakefield

PRIVATE SELLER

C350e Saloon Sport

2016/66, black, black Artico leather, panoramic roof, 140,000 miles £13,250, west London


Just the facts Mercedes-Benz C350e (W205)

  • ENGINE M270 1,991cc 4-cyl turbocharged + electric motor
  • COMBINED MAX POWER 275bhp @ 5,000rpm
  • MAX TORQUE 442lb ft @ 1,200-2,000rpm
  • TRANSMISSION 7-speed auto, RWD
  • WEIGHT 1,780kg
  • 0-62MPH 5.9sec
  • TOP SPEED 155mph
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION 134.5mpg
  • CO2 EMISSIONS 48-52g/km
  • YEARS PRODUCED 2015-2018

All figures from Mercedes-Benz; fuel consumption according to NEDC combined; top speed electronically limited

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