THERE are less than a handful of diesel-electric plug-in hybrids on the market and the Mercedes E 300 de is one of them.
If you want to mix pure electric capacity with the long-distance cruising strengths of a diesel, it's a luxurious shoe-in.
The plug-in diesel-electric hybriddelivers up to 34 miles of electric driving range for local journeys - more than enough for my daily commute - and its diesel engine obviously gives it the ability to munch up motorway miles at a decent whack on longer journeys. Expect over 55mpg on motorway trips.
After just under 290 miles of commuting, country roads and A-roads, I returned 52.3mpg, well short of the ‘official' figure, which will require almost daily charging.
The E 300 de has a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre diesel engine matched to an immaculate nine-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels, together with a 13.5kWh battery and an electric motor. The combined system power is 302bhp.
However, this is backed by a sumptuous 700Nm of torque. When you want this Merc to power forwards, it powers forward.
There are four modes of operation - Hybrid, electric only E-Mode,, E-Save (which uses the engine only to save battery) and Charge, which again uses the engine only but helps charge the battery on the move.
There are also different drive modes - Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual. Quite frankly, I can't think of any reason to take it out of Comfort mode, especially on a long trip. Forget the train, let the Merc take the strain.
However, don't expect BMW-style agility from the E-Class on country roads. Despite it's rear-wheel drive handling, it weighs over two tonnes so, even using the steering-wheel mounted paddles to change gear, there's a lot of hard work to do. That said, it's nose dips nicely into corners. As I advised earlier though, why not just keep it in Comfort mode.
As always with an E-Class, everything feels suitably luxurious. There's leather galore and heated front seats as standard and a 64-colour ambient lighting system, with LED strips along the bottom of the fascia, on the door cards and along the side of the centre console. That's almost as many colour choices than B&Q.
The most noticeable change on the latest E-Class is the adoption of the brand's 'Widescreen Cockpit' dash design, which sees two 12.3-inch displays, one for the instrument cluster and one for the central MBUX infotainment screen - one of the best in the business - blended beneath a shared glass cover. Readable at a glance, it's impressive with plenty of handy ‘shortcut' buttons.
Four adults can easily travel long distances in comfort, too thanks to the E 300 de's relaxed chassis settings - even though the Night Edition features agility control with selective damping system and lowering by 15mm.
Unfortunately, the diesel-electric's need to house the PHEV system battery beneath the floor cuts boot space from 540-litres to 370-litres, though you can fold forward the 40:20:40-split rear seat to extend it.
As the top of the range version, the AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus comes with an almost bewildering list of features including multibeam LED intelligent headlights, Active Parking Assist with 360-degree camera, 18-inch gloss black alloys, panoramic sunroof, high-quality Burmester surround sound system, AMG bodystyling and more automatic safety systems than you could shake a stick at.