Published on July 21st, 2015 | by Subhash Nair3
Mercedes E300 BlueTEC Hybrid Review: A Diesel That’s Pure Electric
The Mercedes E300 BlueTEC Hybrid is one of those rare cars that just makes too much sense in Malaysia to ignore. Think about this: this is the cheapest E-Class you can buy brand new in Malaysia, yet it has all the standard equipment of the most expensive petrol version, including styling courtesy of AMG, a sunroof, and 8 airbags.
At RM348,888, it’s about RM145,000 cheaper than the top of the line E400, yet arguably has more to play around with given that it comes with an electric motor attached. Plus, this diesel-hybrid only consumes 4.1 litres every 100 kilometres. For reference, a small hatchback typically burns 6 litres covering that distance. So how do any of these numbers even add up?
Let’s start with the smaller numbers first: the incredible mileage. Diesel engines are a lot more efficient than petrol engines for a number of reasons, and they’re not popular here in Malaysia for a number of reasons as well. The long and short of it is this: domestically, only Euro2 standard diesel is supplied. This is a bit of a problem for many modern diesel engines that are designed for Euro5 diesel, but Mercedes have given the E300 BlueTEC Hybrid the 2.1-litre ‘OM651 DE 22 LA’ engine and specially tuned it to be compatible with the fuel we have here.
So imagine the efficiency of a modern diesel unit; now combine that with the fact that the BlueTEC Hybrid system doesn’t have to burn fuel once you’ve reached cruising speed. THAT is how the car achieves its low consumption numbers.
At speeds of up to 160km/h, once you’ve eased off the accelerator, the diesel engine shuts off and the electric motor takes over, with its 250 Nm of torque providing a few minutes of fuel-free driving. It’s really quite amazing to see the tachometer reading ‘0’ when the speedometer is up at ‘100’, but what’s even more amazing is how natural it all feels. Even when the diesel unit comes back to life, it’s a smooth roll up the revs. All you have to do is pay attention to the road, and the drivetrain figures out how to most efficiently conserve energy.
Well, that’s if you’re driving the car in ‘Comfort’ mode. A simple press of the button and the E300 BlueTEC Hybrid turns into a twin-motored beast in ‘Sport’ mode with both power sources working in tandem to deliver 204 horsepower and 500 Nm torque.
Driving a diesel aggressively isn’t a familiar experience. It doesn’t feel like you’re driving a sportscar – it feels like you’re driving the Batmobile. The E300 ploughs through rather than cutting, with the electric motor filling gaps in power delivery. Accelerate uphill, accelerate downhill, it’s all the same game for this powerhouse. Having so much torque to play around with is certainly a refreshing feeling, and the fact that the car comes with paddle shifters on its AMG Sports steering makes the experience with the excellent 7G-TRONIC plus gearbox even more engaging.
It’s nice to know that even an energy-efficient vehicle can provide this much fun when its asked, but what about if you want to drive it like it was a Tesla?
The good news is you can! But the bad news is that it only works for 1km and at speeds of less than 35km/h. So, more of a golf cart than a Tesla then… But before you snigger or dismiss it as an unusable feature, consider how much fuel you’ll be saving while hunting for a space at a crowded car park. While testing the car out, I found it to be unexpectedly practical. You don’t even having to press a button to activate it, just drive slowly for a bit and when the battery’s charged enough, you’ll be a silent electric cruiser.
With the car’s driving performance out of the way, it’s time to talk about looks. Just like all of the current E-Class models, this E300 BlueTEC Hybrid has a classy yet aggressive design. You’ll notice the bumpers are a lot more menacing than on regular E-Class models and that’s because the E300 BlueTEC Hybrid benefits from the AMG Sports package, which comes as standard here like it does on the aforementioned E400. This package also adds massive 18” alloy rims, twin exhaust with steel tips a lot of other exterior parts that give it a sportier aesthetic.
In addition, the lighting here is especially eye-catching, both at the front and at the rear. And even though this is a facelift rather than a completely new car, this version of the E-Class brings the dual headlight trademark design to an end after being introduced in 1995. Even though this sort of change can drastically impact the identity of a car, the E-Class has managed to survive the transition unscathed. Moving away from that feature opened up more room for the designers to play around with the look of the car and my have they used that liberty well.
In any light, at any angle, this car is an absolute dream to behold. And unlike the C- and S-Class models whose newer designs have a more curvaceous form, this particular E-Class retains the handsome, angular looks that makes it stand out not just amongst its rivals, but amongst other Mercs in the current line-up as well.
The interior is a similarly distinct experience, with Mercedes trademark door-mounted seat controls and centre-mounted COMMAND media interface controls making an appearance. Like most new Mercs, the gear selector is where you’d expect the wiper stalk to be. Instead, the wiper controls are merged with the turn indicator controls on the left stalk and headlights are controlled with a knob to the right. The whole system makes a lot more sense than it sounds and is actually simple to use. In any case, you can just leave the headlamps and wipers on auto and just worry about turn signals and gear selection.
The cabin is finished in very exquisite materials and at night, the bluish glow that comes out from under the interior trim really give it an ultra-luxurious feel. Mercedes have a way of making their interiors feel a lot more soft and cushy than you’d expect from how it looks. One surprise here was the inclusion of velour floor mats, which are great on bare feet – just remember to reserve that experience for when riding shotgun.
Rear passengers are pampered as well, with the inclusion of not one but two headrest-mounted screens for video playback. This means that the E300, though far from being a limo, is still suitable for those who are regularly chauffer driven and want something clearly exclusive with affordable running costs.
And speaking of costs, here’s how the other part of the equation adds up. Mercedes-Benz Malaysia got the price below the RM350,000 mark by taking full advantage of the National Automotive Policy 2014’s clause on tax exemption for locally assembled hybrid cars, which of course, this is. So there’s no cost cutting whatsoever, just plain and simple tax avoidance.
What’s important to note is that tax break expires at the end of 2015, so if you haven’t yet saved up for a deposit, the time is now. And if you’re still on the fence because you’re worried about the car’s resale value, consider taking a look at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s flexible financing schemes, which allow for owners to retain or return the cars after a certain period. Click here to learn more about this.
In conclusion, if the Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC Hybrid is within your budget for a car, then it’s an absolute no-brainer. The car is loaded with all the Mercedes tech and goodies we’ve come to expect and it’s cheaper than the base model. And while the car is far from cheap, what it is is true value-for-money.
It may come with all the preconceived notions of power attached to the three-pointed star, but what it also represents is how much value Malaysians should be getting out of the cars they pay for. And that alone is enough to make this car symbolically important in more ways than one, now more than ever.
Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC Hybrid
Engine 2.1-litre Diesel + Electric motor
Transmission 7G-TRONIC Plus 7-Speed Automatic
Max Power 204hp @ 4200 RPM
Max Torque 500Nm @ 1600-1800 RPM
Selling Price RM338,888