Mercedes-Benz E350e plug-in hybrid (2017) review

Fans of the ever-popular E-class wanting fuss-free motoring have no other choice than the E350e.

What's new?

The E-class has become the fourth Thai-built Mercedes-Benz to go plug-in hybrid. The E350e takes the honour of being the first model in the Thai executive saloon segment to come with an electric motor that can be charged via the wall socket.

Rather than getting the 3.0-litre V6 engine of the GLE500e and S500e, the E350e employs the smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder block of the C350e. The E350e is the first plug-in Merc to employ the brand's latest nine-speed automatic transmission.

With combined outputs of 286hp and 550Nm, Mercedes claims that the E350e will sprint from 0-100kph in 6.2sec. The pure electric driving range in the E350e is claimed at 33km with a top speed of 130kph.

There are three trims for the E350e. Avantgarde goes for 3.49 million baht, Exclusive 3.79 million and AMG Dynamic 4.09 million. Tested here this week is the range-topping model.

Due to tax incentives for plug-in hybrid vehicles in Thailand, Mercedes-Benz has phased out sales of the diesel-powered E220d and is putting sole focus on the E350e.

What's cool?

Distinctive blue brake calipers look a bit comical.

Okay, high use of air-conditioning in cars in this country drains electric power. However, users of the E350e will still be able to enjoy pure electric driving for short distances after being fully charged.

After driving several plug-in hybrids from both Mercedes and its competitors, it's quite safe to assume that you can achieve around 60% of what the makers claim. Which meant that the E350e, in our hands, managed 20km.

And the good thing is that you can manage the operation of the hybrid system. You can save battery power for a later stage or make the hybrid charge the lithium-ion pack when driving (by recovering lost energy when braking and coasting).

If you merely choose to leave the system in its default mode (letting the drive system decide what power to use), the E350e packs a decent amount of punch by nearly matching those of Mercedes' conventional six-cylinder engines. In other words, performance isn't lacking at all for the real world.

At the moment, the E-class leads the class with its fine bump-absorbing qualities, but the primary ride can sometimes feel soft. So it's nice to see the E350e coming with air suspension because the sport mode allows for a flatter ride. Complementing the E350e's hi-tech status is some driver-assist tech like active cruise control, blind spot recognition and parking assist.

What's not?

There aren't really any major shortcomings in the E350e, although several petty issues do exist.

If you love the serenity, zero-emission and responsive driving experience of the electric mode, you may find the petrol engine (when it needs to come into life) a bit raucous and not so sharp in throttle feel.

If you happen to like the Sport setting of the driving mode selector, you can't choose how to manage the electric power of the hybrid system. And speaking of this, the battery pack in the boot doesn't make the loading bay flat.

The pettiest issue with the E350e, subjective as it may be, are the front brake calipers painted in light blue to comply with the brand's new EQ philosophy for electrified Mercs -- it just takes away the classiness of the E-class.

Buy or bye?

The decision to abandon sales of the E220d is quite sad because it's a fuel-frugal and conventional model with fuss-free usability. Of course, owners of the E350e don't have to plug in and can merely use petrol power. But they won't save as much fuel as in the E220d and are actually missing the whole point of the plug-in hybrid notion.

If clients take the time to understand how they can reap the benefits from the available electric power, the E350e can be enjoyable to drive and less reliant on petrol stations.

Of all plug-in Mercs, the E350e seemingly manages to deal with the weight penalty of the electrified parts the best. To put it another way, the E350e's driving manners feel the least compromised.

Like in other semi-electric cars, the E350e is a new kind of thing for many people. But if you love simplicity in an E-class, the only option is to forget about that recharging cable in the boot.

E350e is still without a direct rival in Thailand.

Hybrid produces a combined 286hp for V6-like oomph.

Hi-tech status means feature-laden cabin.

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