What is it?
A late arrival, mainly. Given we first drove the refreshed C-Class in summer 2018 and the hybrid C300e was first launched in some markets last year, it’s surprising that only now right-hand drive, UK examples are available for us to try.
You can probably blame a mixture of last year’s WLTP testing bottlenecks and a certain ongoing pandemic for that. Crucially, though, it means that since the updated compact executive first arrived BMW has introduced a whole new generation of 3 Series, and Audi has given the A4 a mid-life makeover.
The other major market trend that’s changed in that time is the importance of PHEVs in a brand’s portfolio. While the market share of full EVs tentatively grows, the ‘stepping stone’ plug-in hybrid tech remains (for now) popular, and certainly more so than in 2018. Nowadays, BMW will tell you that its 330e is one of the most popular variants, so it’s unusual that Audi still doesn’t offer a plug-in A4.
The C300e, then, should nab some useful volume (particularly on the company car side) for the brand. And, don’t forget, Mercedes also has the rather good diesel electric C300de. The petrol version used to be dubbed C350e, but for reasons not entirely clear it’s lost 50 badge points for the facelift.
That’s despite it putting out a chunk more power than the old car, mating a new generation 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit to a much healthier 120bhp electric motor (the C350e’s was a mere 80bhp) with all power put through the rear wheels.
Crucially, the battery has more than doubled in size, from 6.2kWh to 13.5kWh. That takes the quoted range from a rather measly 19 miles to a much more useful 34.