What is it?
How will history judge plug-in hybrids once the revolution is complete and we’re all driving zero-emission electric cars? Right now, it already feels they’re a half-way house for those who are motivated to join the EV era, but understandably don’t yet have the confidence in our charging infrastructure.
In other words, this latest hybrid Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a car for the here and now. We know where the future is taking us, but we’re not there yet – and a compromise is what’s needed. Does the c-word sound like a critical verdict? It’s not meant to. It’s just a reflection of the reality this car represents.
The E300e is powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine, plus an electric motor that when fully charged via a cable offers a standalone range of around 30 miles. Two cables are provided to charge from a standard three-pin socket in around five hours or via a 7.2kW charger in just an hour and 25 minutes.
There are four modes of operation to choose from: hybrid, E-Mode (electric only), E-Save (engine only) and Charge (engine only, but battery is charged). Some charge is also reclaimed by the powertrain as the driver lifts off, recycling energy to improve efficiency though a combination of (apparently) optimised gear changes and operating temperatures. All clever stuff.
Inside, the cabin offers the plush comfort one would expect of Mercedes' AMG Line status. On our test car, the black Artico/Dinamica upholstery was enhanced by attractive open-pore ash wood trim stretching across the dash and around the doors, in which stylish metallic Burmester speakers (for the optioned 590-watt sound system) catch the eye as well as the ear. Infotainment comes via a 12.3in colour display with Merc’s optioned Comand system operated by an easy-to-use control wheel.
The seats are figure-hugging but comfy, even if your girth is more ‘challenging’ than you’d like. The rear bench is ample in leg room, although strictly for two adults despite the provision of a middle seatbelt.