SINCE last year, the Malaysian market saw a number of interesting hybrids making their debut on Malaysian shores.
The BMW 330E was launched in August last year while the C350E was launched by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia two months later. Riding on incentives that the government has provided, they made landfall on Malaysian soil and are being snapped up at dealerships around the country.
Why are these cars selling so well around the country? Are Malaysians a nation of tree huggers ready to embrace the latest in green technology? Economic sense though, may be the ultimate reason why those are selling strongly.
With government incentives and not much tax, the new wave of hybrids and electrics have sticker prices that are much closer to their counterparts in developed countries, delivering a unique value proposition to the Malaysian buyers.
This brings us to the price of the new E350e. The Exclusive Line can be had for RM 392,888, which although may seem dizzying to anyone from the B40 or M40 groups, is quite value for money when it comes to those from the T20 who regularly buy mid-sized European luxury sedans. To put thing in perspective, the lower specified E250 Avantgarde will set you back RM378,888. The difference of RM14,000 is more than made up in the dizzying arrays of technology packed into the E350e.
For that amount of money, you obtain a Mercedes with a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine that produces 208hp and 350Nm of torque, which is ingeniously paired to an electric motor somehow integrated between it and a nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission.
The engine delivers a total system output of 286hp and torque of 550Nm, which gives 33km in all-electric mode with a fuel consumption as low as 2.1l/100km (although real world results may differ as we will explain later).
With all the techno-wizardry, the E350e delivers scalding performance. Zero to 100kph is achieved in a mere 6.2 seconds. The car will hurtle all the way to a top speed of 250kph if you are ready to set off some AES cameras.
We drove the E350e from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru, before we swung northwards to Tanjung Jara in Terengganu on the second day of our drive, during which Mercedes-Benz Malaysia organised an efficiency challenge.
Technology has made Mercedes-Benz’s bread-and-butter sedan even more refined than ever before. In electric drive, the E-Class glides its way in cities with nary a sound, with a drive as smooth as silk.
You won’t ever notice the moment it shifts to the internal combustion engine either. So well has Mercedes-Benz engineered the electric to internal combustion engine transition, that it is barely discernible.
The E350e has a great deal of power at its disposal. A pump of the accelerator pedal is all it takes to overtake routine traffic. Despite its role as an executive sedan, it has enough power to shame some cars with sporting pretensions.
Equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s Air Body Control air suspension, the E350e does not handle like a sports car though. Set up soft, even in Sports + mode, the suspension is more supple and comfortable. If you are looking for something with more taut and precise handling, you will need to look elsewhere.
The extra weight of the battery has not affected the driving dynamics of the E350e badly though. It handles no worse than the E250, despite lugging around a 6.2Kwh battery, electric motors and other associated hardware.
On the motorway, the E350e gobbles up miles with a relaxed, galloping stride. Even the undulations of the East coast Highway did little to upset the serene manner in which it wafted across long expanses of motorway.
Another fascinating attribute of this sedan is the sheer quietness of the cabin. You could actually have a quiet conversation while driving at twice the national speed limit. (hypothetically speaking, of course)
TECHNOLOGY OF ECONOMY
Technology is the unique selling point of the E350e, which also results in incredible economy.
The E350e comes with a New European Driving Cycle fuel consumption figure of 2.1 litres per 100km.
On the Johor Baru to Tanjung Jara league of the journey, we managed to achieve an average fuel consumption of 5.5 litres of petrol per 100km.
What was remarkable though was that we had driven an amazing 42 per cent of the journey with the petrol engine completely off. The final readout on the dashboard was 488km total distance travelled, with 206km of it in electric mode.
In fact, the engine was off for a total of three hours and 57 minutes out of the eight hour and 24-minute drive.
It is noteworthy how fast this technology is evolving.
In the W212 Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTEC, for example, which was a diesel hybrid, the battery was rated at 0.8kWh. On a full charge, the car could cover about 1km on electric power alone, and it was limited to a speed of 35kph in electric mode.
There is no doubt that the technology underlying the E350e is still in transition.
The electric range of 33km may well be significantly improved in the next generation of E-Class sedans. Battery technology is now moving at a rapid pace. The E350e already gives significant benefits over its non-hybrid siblings in terms of economy and even the performance.
In its current form, the E350e is already an excellent example of how the future is knocking at our doorsteps, or perhaps more accurately parked in a dealership near you.