Last week, we got a peek at the far future of Mercedes-Benz with the autonomous F 015 concept. We also got a feel for what's next for Benz from behind the wheel of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid.
The C350e is available in Base or Luxury trim levels. Seen here close to fully loaded, the hybrid is loaded to the gills with all of the latest tech and amenities offered by the automaker.
Thought the conventional C-Class can be had with an all-wheel drive system, the C350e's hybrid system is only available as a rear-driver.
The charging port hides behind a small door in the rear bumper.
The small charging point and the "C350e" badging are the only indicators that this C-Class is unique in the lineup.
The addition of the battery pack sacrifices a bit of the C-Class' truck space. However, there is still a good deal of room back there and the rear pass-through doesn't appear compromised.
Under the hood, the Benz is powered by 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine that is mated with a 7-speed automatic transmission.
Between the engine and the gearbox, where you'd typically find a torque converter, Mercedes-Benz has fitted the electric drive unit via a wet clutch.
Total system horsepower is stated at 275 horsepower and total torque at 443 pound-feet.
This example is equipped with Mercedes-Benz' air suspension, which is adjusted along with vehicle's drive modes to make the ride soft or dynamic.
The cabin's fit and finish is superb. This is already a quiet and comfortable ride that's made more-so by the silent operation of the electric motor.
The center console is finished in glossy black plastic with chrome trim.
The driver can adjust the performance of the vehicle between sport, sport+, comfort, and eco modes with the chrome toggle. Eco mode has four sub-modes: hybrid, e-mode, e-save, and charge.
The driver uses the new COMAND controller to interact with the infotainment system. The knob can be twisted, nudged and tapped to make selections. Alternatively, the driver can swipe and tap the glossy touchpad.
Our C350e Luxury featured a full loadout of driver aid features including adaptive cruise control, a head up display, lane keeping assistant and more.
The dashboard also boasts a healthy selection of physical shortcut keys on its dashboard.
The Burmeister premium audio system sounds fantastic at low volumes and when cranked up. It also looks quite good.
The C-Class now uses this tablet-like display that sits atop the dashboard like a lump. This screen is not touch sensitive.
Maps are crisply rendered and animate smoothly.
The COMAND interface has a few new tricks and design elements, but I found its learning curve to be a bit steep.
The system has too many control schemes, an interface that seems to be constantly changing, and web connectivity that takes far too long to connect.
The hybrid system is good for about 115 mpg on the European testing cycle. On California roads, I managed to average about 40 mpg.
From here the driver can monitor and adjust various elements of the vehicle's performance.
The COMAND home screen boasts an icon-based overview of all of the C-Class' infotainment functions.
Though the performance is noticeably augmented by the different drive modes, I was most impressed by the seamless transition from full-electric to gasoline power.
Though not standard features, the C350e is also available with LED headlamps.
The C350e's accelerator pedal features haptic feedback that helps the driver to manage the efficiency of the hybrid performance. Check out our in-depth first drive for more details.
A 360-degree camera system stitches together views from cameras in the grill, at the rear, and in the wing mirrors.
Mercedes-Benz plans to bring 10 new plug-in hybrid vehicles to the market by 2017. The C350e is at the leading edge of this initiative.