Really rather quietly, Mercedes-Benz has gone and secured itself quite a significant advantage over and above its rivals.
This has to do with the number of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models that currently populate the Mercedes catalogue. Whereas BMW and Audi have just four model lines that combine combustion engines with plug sockets and electric motors, Mercedes now has twice that figure – more if you account for the fact that Mercedes is the only one of the three brands that makes both diesel and petrol-powered PHEVs.
The subject of this week’s road test is the latest, and arguably most important, addition to what Mercedes now refers to as its EQ Power family of electrified vehicles. The A250e hatchback joins that group alongside its A250e saloon sibling and the new B250e compact MPV, bringing the price the average buyer will have to pay for an electrified Mercedes down to just under £33,000 in the process. With no direct rivals from Audi or BMW to contend with at present and the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTE on its way out, Mercedes will no doubt be gleefully rubbing its hands together at the prospect of monopolising the market for posh plug-in hatchbacks – temporarily, anyway.
But while Mercedes has got the jump on its two traditional arch-rivals, that head start won’t necessarily allow the new A250e to shoot straight to the top of the class by default. Even with the hugely appealing savings in company car tax that the A250e’s electrified powertrain currently affords, it won’t do that on its own.
To succeed here, the plug-in A-Class must complement those attributes with all of the silken refinement, plush comfort and intuitive driveability that has always marked out Mercedes’ finest offerings. Time to find out what’s what, then.