Mercedes-Benz has long had strong credentials in environmentally friendly cars, so is importing an increasing number of hybrids, in several classes to Australia.

Our test car for the past week has been a Mercedes-Benz C 300 BlueTec hybrid, the latest variant of the all-new C-Class. With a recommended price of $74,900 plus on-roads its likely buyers will be the tech-savvy people, as well as those who want to make a statement about caring for the air we all breathe.

Interestingly, Mercedes is using diesel-electric hybrids, rather than the petrol-electric units favoured by others.

The hybrid uses a 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit mated to an electric motor. The diesel puts out a hefty 500 Nm of torque, the electric adds an impressive 250 Nm. As the two powerplants are producing their max at different times you don’t simply add those two numbers together and come up with 750 Nm. What you do get is a great surge of grunt from zero revs from the electric motor that’s fattened out even more when the diesel comes on song. The diesel does most of the work because at this stage only small amounts of electricity can be stored; the eagerly-awaited ‘better battery’ is still a long way off.

Mercedes-Benz 300 hybrid’s CO2 emissions are officially rated at just 105 grams per kilometre. Which puts it into a very favourable tax bracket in many European countries and can result in a price that’s many thousands of dollars lower when compared with C-Class non-hybrid cars.


That’s in Europe, as some Australian governments continue to deny climate change is happening there are no real incentives in this country to buy a low pollution car. That’s sad.

For those who prefer a conventional powertrain the C-Class is also offered with 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol and 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel units. These are sold in different stages of tune to let you juggle between performance and/or economy according to your individual preference. The turbo-diesel in the C 250 is closely related to the engine in the C 300 hybrid.

All engines sit in front of a seven-speed automatic transmission with several modes that let you juggle between full-on economy and strong performance. There are manual overrides in the automatic if you feel the computer has the car in the wrong gear. Drive is to the rear wheels.

The all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is larger than before, indeed it’s not a lot smaller than E-Class Benzes of a couple of generations back. Clever engineering and more aluminium in the body means it’s about 40 kg lighter than the outgoing C-Class. However, the batteries and additional drivetrain components in the hybrid add significant weight when compared with the others.


The shape the new C-Class leans in a slightly conservative direction, though it’s certainly more stylish than ever before. The upright front is a striking feature at a time when others are heading in the sloping front direction. With a bit of imagination you can see a design cues to the Mercedes SLS ‘Gullwing’ AMG at the front.

The profile is sensibly high and the look of the side is enhanced by strong swage lines running most of the length of the body.

The rear is quite different to anything we’ve seen in the rear-drive Mercs in recent years, with softly rounded sides and a distinctive kick up at the top. Aerodynamics obviously play a large part in this rear shape and the C-Class has an impressively slippery Cd number of 0.27. This not only reduces fuel consumption and emissions, but also makes for an even quieter interior.

Inside, the styling is excellent, with various elements nicely working together to give a feeling of stylish quality. A slightly jarring note to our eyes is the positioning of the infotainment screen, which almost looks like an afterthought. Then again, a couple of younger people who checked out the C-Class love the ‘tablet’ look of the screen.

A Bluetooth-capable mobile phone with data option makes the Audio 20 system in all C-Class models internet-capable. Mercedes apps such as Weather, Google, Local Search with StreetView and destination/route download and Facebook can be used in conjunction with Mercedes Comand Online.

Audio and video playback is possible via Bluetooth, from an Apple iPod or iPhone, from an SD card, USB or, even an lode-fashioned CD and DVD.

An amazing feature is climate-control air conditioning that keeps track of the time of day and ‘talks’ to the sat-nav satellites to find out where the car is. It also senses the direction in which the Mercedes is moving and adjusts the air conditioning to provide added cooling to the sunny side of the car.

It also knows when the car is approaching a tunnel and sets the air conditioning to recirculation so it isn’t sucking in dirty air from the tunnel.

All-new Mercedes C-Class models have the highest safety rating of five stars. Better still, it’s one of the leaders in equipment to stop you having a crash. The car can sense an upcoming collision and brake to avoid it; steer itself back onto the correct path between lane lines; semi-autonomously follow the vehicle in front at speeds up to 60 km/h, this includes stopping and starting; senses if the driver is becoming drowsy and even gives them a suggestion it may be time to take a break from the wheel.

Not all of these safety items are fitted in all C-Class models, contact your local dealer for details.

All new Mercedes cars come as standard with a QR reader that provides information to crash rescue professionals, letting them know the best way to cut into the Merc to gain access to injured occupants.

The grunt from the diesel-electric powertrain is addictive when you get stuck into it. This largish economy car can leap to 100 km/h in just 6.4 seconds. The ability to climb hills in high gears and overtake in safety due to the strong in-gear acceleration is reassuring.

Driven gently the C 300 hybrid starts off in electric mode and keeps it for the first few dozen metres if you’re very gentle on the throttle. Then the silence of electric power is ruined by the noisy diesel, the noise is at its worst when the engine is stone cold. This poor aspect of the engine has to be sorted out asap or Mercedes-Benz will lose it’s reputation for engineering excellence.

Thankfully the engine noise is pretty well cancelled out before it gets into the cabin, and is less intrusive on the outside once it warms up.

Fuel consumption is officially four litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle. In real life we found it running in the mid fives to mid sixes in gentle country running, and climbing into the seven and eights around town.

The front seats are spacious and comfortable. New C-Class has a longer wheelbase than the superseded model. Most of this goes into providing extra legroom in the rear seats. There’s good head and reasonable legroom in the back seat for adults. Three full-size people can fit across the rear seat but it really is better if there’s only two adults back there.

Ride comfort is very good and the overall feel and sophistication is of a car a full size larger.

Handling is impeccable. Initially, we found the steering to be rather abrupt on corners such as you meet in the suburbs, but we soon became accustomed to the feel.

Noise and vibration are well controlled and even on harsh Australian backroads there’s very little intrusion into the cabin. Run-flat tyres are improving all the time and there’s none of the harsh feel that was sometimes irritating in first generation tyres.

The boot is large and easy to load. The use of run-flat tyres makes for greater boot depth. The rear seat backrests don’t fold flat, but the centre section can be opened to allow long slim loads to be carried.

Let us have others doing the summing up for us: Mercedes-Benz C-Class took out the Judges’ Choice award in what is arguably the most important contest of all – that of the combined motoring associations’ Australia’s Best Cars (ABC) awards. C-Class has also taken out top spots, either outright and/or in its category in car of the year events run by carsguide.com.au; drive.com.au; and carsales.com.au. That’s impressive.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *