Electrifying

Mercedes

Mercedes E300, side
Mercedes E300, side
Mercedes E300, charging
Mercedes E300, detail
Mercedes E300, interior
Mercedes E300, boot

EVEN ahead of BMW and Audi, two marques have always had that something special to set them apart in the - Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.

I love Jaguars and over the years, have driven most of the models in the range with complete delight, both for their excellent performance but also their sumptuous luxury.

But sadly, I rarely get my hands on the products from Stuttgart, which I've always found intensely annoying.

Howsoever, I recently managed a drive in the petrol/electric hybrid E300 e and found it a superb machine in every way.

The marvellous leather draped cabin oozes class and style but although the standard cars come well equipped, many of the items a new owner might like in such an expensive car are only available from the vast list of extras.

What you get for your £47,530 is a luxurious, whisper quiet flying carpet that is unfortunately, tied to the earth.

Even at high speeds, there is little noise to speak of from the car or the passing air and the superb comfort comes out of the same top drawer.

Excellent air body control suspension simply absorbs almost every imperfection in its path, leaving driver and passengers unknowing as to what is going on underneath.

The handling is slightly let down by steering that although precise and helpful when parking, does not give much information about the road surface.

There is plenty of grip, which gives tenacious road-holding, but the overall feel is one biased strongly towards comfort rather than handling.

The air suspension is adjustable and should be set to Sport mode to cancel out body roll. I didn't bother, believing that such a car should be a haven of comfort.

The petrol electric power setup drives the rear wheels through a nine-speed automatic gearbox and the combination gives huge mid-range acceleration thanks to massive torque.

Electric power on its own gives a range of about 30 miles according to the company, but owners say the car's computer control adapts to each journey, often making the distance covered in electric mode much further by adding occasional petrol power and using regenerative braking to charge the batteries.

The interior is sumptuous and cosseting, with marvellous electrically adjusted and heated seats, and real space for five.

The boot however, is smaller than that in other E-Class models, because the batteries are mounted beneath the floor.

The car I drove was fitted with Mercedes' amazing dual screen dash, which looks as though it's just one screen, stretching almost in front of the passenger, with a digital binnacle that's driver adjustable, and a large screen for sat nav and stereo above the centre console.

It's not a touch screen however. The company doesn't believe they are safe so it's controlled with a knob on the spoke of the steering wheel. The system takes a little acclimatisation, but feels and works well fairly quickly.

One option that many could go for is Mercedes' clever Remote Parking Pilot, which allows the driver to use a smartphone app to park the car automatically.

And the latest version of the company's adaptive cruise can keep a safe distance between you and the car in front, and even steer between the white lines at motorway speeds.

Safety innovations include seat bolsters that automatically push occupants towards the centre of the car before an imminent side impact, a smart key saved to an android phone that replaces a normal key, and steering that can negotiate obstacles in an emergency.

FAST FACTS

Price: £47,530

Mechanical:320bhp, 1,991cc, 4cyl petrol engine plus electric motor driving rear wheels via 9-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 5.7 seconds

Combined MPG: 134

Insurance Group: 41

C02 emissions: 41g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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