From £29,0359

Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

This may be a two-tonne Mercedes C-Class, but it shoulders its mass effortlessly when getting going. On a cold, damp, slippery day at the proving ground, the C300e had enough traction and drivability to hit 60mph from rest in less than 6.0sec, and it needed little persuasion to do so besides a slightly feathered throttle on step-off.

In perfect test conditions, a 5.5sec time ought to be achievable, making this car a good half-second quicker off the mark than most of its rivals.

For outright in-gear potency in roll-on acceleration, the C300e’s performance feels comparable with that of a saloon with a multi-cylinder diesel motor – except that the electric motor’s ‘torque fill’ comes instantly, making for even better responsiveness than even that comparison would imply, as well as better mechanical refinement.

So when Mercedes argues that this car no longer needs six-cylinder engines, in one sense it is absolutely correct. Accelerating from 30-70mph in fourth gear takes just 6.5sec: the BMW 330d Touring we tested in 2020 was only seven-tenths quicker.

Even so, it’s not the C300e’s urgency that really sells it, but rather its relaxing drivability and good cruising manners: dynamic qualities that seem to suit the Mercedes brand ideally well. The car’s 2.0-litre engine (which doesn’t rev with much enthusiasm at other times) settles to a reserved cruise, and its nine-speed gearbox (which can seem slow with a downshift when greater demands of the car are being made) does well not to disturb the flow by shuffling ratios around too much in normal driving.

This is undoubtedly a complicated powertrain, but Mercedes lets you engage with as much or as little of that complexity as you choose. Automatic radar-based energy recuperation comes as standard (which makes a bit of a mockery of the fact that radar-based cruise control doesn’t), and so if you leave the gearbox in D Auto mode, the car will either coast or regenerate on a trailing throttle depending on what’s ahead on the road.

Back to top

Once you learn to trust the system, it works quite well. If it irks, however, you simply flick one of column-mounted shift paddles to select D+ mode (maximum coasting) or D- (for a one-pedal driving feel) for a more predictable and consistent operating regime.

The car offers Mercedes’ familiar Dynamic Select top-level driving modes as well, its paddles assuming control of gear selection in Sport mode as you would expect of them. Here, though, while outright performance is quite strong, the slightly coarse and disinterested way in which the petrol engine takes on high revs is a check to your enthusiasm, and likewise the light and spongy feel of the brake pedal.