The new Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive offers 'electric mobility with no compromises', according to its maker. It seems a little way off that to us, but it certainly looks like it could be one of the most practical electric cars out there when it goes on sale early next year.
Complete with a 174bhp electric powertrain (essentially a de-tuned version of that in the Tesla Model S), the pure-electric B-Class can cover up to 124 miles in optimal conditions, or around 70 miles in more energy draining, real-world use. The car can be charged from a standard domestic socket, but Mercedes will provide a fast charger for home use that will deliver a full charge in 3.5 hours.
Passenger and luggage space remain unaffected by the conversion from conventional engine to electric power, so the B-Class retains its high-roofed, small-MPV practicality and big boot.
What’s the 2015 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive like to drive?
Smooth and fast – or at least that’s how our prototype test car felt. Having no gears, a linear stream of power and all the torque served up from the off gives most electric cars rapid, easy to modulate acceleration, but regenerative braking systems often make them hard to stop smoothly. Not so in the B-Class. It’s as easy to bring the car to a gentle halt as it is to hare off up the road at near hot-hatch pace.
The electric B-Class does still use regenerative braking – a technology that functions by applying the brakes automatically when you lift off the throttle in order to harvest energy from the car’s forward motion. In its default setting this is noticeable but quite subtle, or you can increase brake resistance (using the paddles on the steering wheel) for maximum range, or decrease it to the point where it doesn’t seem to be applying the brakes at all unless you step on the pedal.
Ultimately, regardless of the braking mode, the B-Class is very easy to drive. It’s well balanced and stable going round corners, despite the added weight of the batteries packed into its floor, and the steering is predictable and satisfying to use.
Ride quality could be a problem in the UK. The standard diesel and petrol B-Class models don’t have the most comfortable ride, and the electric car doesn’t feel any better. In fact, the extra weight has made it feel even more crashy over potholes and bigger bumps, even on the generally smooth German roads we tried it on. The tightly controlled suspension means it regains its composure quickly, though, and the body doesn’t lean too much in corners.
Refinement is outstanding. There’s no whine from the electric motor, no suspension thump, and road and wind noise are well suppressed.
What’s the 2015 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive like inside?
Almost identical to the standard Mercedes B-Class. The only difference is that the rear bench is a few centimeters higher, but there’s still enough space for tall adults to lounge in comfort. Other than a battery gauge in place of the fuel gauge, and a dial showing how much energy you’re using or preserving in place of a rev counter, you also won't notice any difference over a conventional B-Class, meaning decent material quality and plenty of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel, if slightly confusing menus and switches.
The boot is unchanged, so you get 488 litres of space in a practical, square load bay.
Should I buy one?
Without driving the final production version and having confirmed prices, it’s impossible to say. However, the B-Class Electric Drive does offer more space than the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf, which will be its closest competitors, and it’s one of the easiest electric cars we’ve yet experienced to drive in town. If the price is right, it could be a compelling option in the electric car market.
What Car? says…
Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive
Engine Electric motor
Price from tbc
Torque 251lb ft
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Top speed 100mph
Fuel economy na
CO2 0 g/km