In E-class of its own: Mercedes E300
Ryan Hirons finds out if Mercedes' diesel hybrid delivers the goods
There are two strong trends in the motoring world at the moment - a decline in diesel, and a surge in electrified vehicles.
Diesel engines have been lambasted for their impact on the environment, while EVs are quickly becoming feasible for daily drivers, rather than the niche machines they once were.
Combining the two is almost unheard of, but Mercedes has decided to have a go with the E 300 de.
After all, why not link the long-distance efficiency of a diesel with the guilt-free urban capabilities electric power brings?
It's the 'de' that's crucial on this particular E-Class, denoting its diesel-electric powertrain. At first glance, you wouldn't guess it's anything out of the ordinary compared with any other option in the saloon's range, with Mercedes preferring to keep its electric capabilities understated, at least in terms of the car's design.
What's under the bonnet?
Powering the E 300 de is a 2.0-litre diesel engine - on its own producing 191bhp - paired to an electric motor with an output of 121bhp, with a total torque figure of 700Nm. The result is a car capable of 0-60mph in 5.7 seconds, reaching a 155mph top speed.
This pairing also translates into a claimed 166.2mpg, with emissions coming in at just 41g/km. It's a seriously compelling combination. When in hybrid mode, the diesel engine seldom kicks in, resulting in a car that's refined and can deliver an impressive fuel return on longer runs, sitting around 60mpg in real-world driving.
Its 32-mile all-electric range may not seem like too much, but it could make this the perfect car for drivers with a short commute.
What's it like to drive?
Electrifying the E-Class hasn't done a whole lot to change the overall driving experience. It remains akin to driving around in a giant pillow, with a very cushioned ride. It's far from an engaging experience, but that's the trick of this car - making driving effortless and relaxing. It would be quite easy to chew up a few hundred motorway miles without thinking about it.
That said, it's still huge, so navigating around town is not its strongest point. Visibility all-round is good, though, which softens the blow, and a whole host of optional cameras and assistance technology are at hand if you're willing to dive into your pockets for the sake of convenience.
How does it look?
Though many manufacturers are keen to make their electrified vehicles stand out, Mercedes has avoided such temptation here, preferring to keep the E 300 de firmly in line with the rest of the range.
In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to even notice this is a hybrid model at all, save for the flap covering the charging point.
It is understated both as a hybrid and as a car in general, retaining a reserved yet elegant approach to design.
A little more flair can be introduced on AMG Line models, but Mercedes has largely avoided heading down the route of wild, performance car-esque add-ons, as other manufacturers could be accused of doing.
What's it like inside?
That typical Mercedes theme continues into the cabin. High-quality materials are deployed throughout and the E-Class's large dimensions translate to plenty of space for all five occupants.
Staying with the manufacturer's trends, though, controls of the car can be a little confusing at first, with a column-mounted shifter, touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel to control the digital instrument cluster and the firm's confusing old infotainment system, which is operated via a trackpad.
We would like to have seen its more user-friendly MBUX software make an appearance here.
Boot space is notably affected by the introduction of batteries, however. It's down to 400 litres from 540 litres in non-electrified variants.
What's the spec like?
We tested the SE variant of the E 300 de. As standard, this trim benefits from blind spot assist, illuminated door sills and split-folding rear seats.
Mercedes' parking package brings sensors front and rear, plus active parking assist, which can self-park the car (though the system can be hit-and-miss), ambient lighting, heated front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Its £47,700 starting price seems fairly reasonable, though it quickly skyrockets in the options list, with the £2,295 premium package bringing highlights such as a Burmester surround sound system and a panoramic sunroof.
Speccing the £1,855 comfort package requires the former too, though it brings with it air suspension technology for a more comfortable ride.
Though the combination of diesel and electric is rare on the market, Mercedes has made it a very appealing prospect with the E 300 de.
It delivers the efficiency of diesel on longer runs, while also proving just as usable as an EV around town, even if its range is somewhat limited.
The company hasn't spoiled the E-Class formula of elegance and comfort in the process, though those searching for more driver involvement won't find it here - and it's hard to ignore the 100 litres of boot space lost over its more traditional siblings.
Facts at a glance
Model: Mercedes E 300 de
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel-electric hybrid
Power (bhp): 191 (engine), 121 (electric motor)
Torque (Nm): 700
Max speed (mph): 155
0-60mph: 5.7 seconds
Emissions (g/km): 41