Electric Car Awards 2023: Best hybrid executive car
With electrified cars now coming in all shapes and sizes – and available to suit every budget – we’ve named the best models in every class. Here we look at the best hybrid executive car...
Despite the rise to prominence of SUVs, traditional executive saloons such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class are still a common sight in company car parks and on motorways all over the UK. In many cases, they’re better to drive and swankier looking than their SUV equivalents, with the C-Class in particular being hard to tell apart from a Mercedes S-Class limo at first glance. In tax-busting plug-in hybrid (PHEV) form, they can also be relatively inexpensive to run – especially when they have an unusually long electric range like Mercedes’ C300e.
In our preferred mid-range AMG Line Premium trim, the C300e can officially travel for up to 71 miles between charges. That puts it in the second-lowest, 5% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bracket, making it among the cheapest PHEVs to run from that point of view. BMW’s 330e, with an official electric range of up to 38 miles (in entry-level Sport trim), is two bands higher (12%).
Because you can cover so many miles with the 2.0-litre petrol engine turned off, official fuel economy is spectacular, averaging 565mpg. In real-world use, you won’t get anywhere near that unless you plug in regularly and do mostly short trips, but the C300e’s ability to stretch each tank of petrol such a long way promises to save you money there too. This applies to private buyers as well, although they’ll have to keep the car for a long time to offset the PHEV’s higher purchase price compared with other C-Classes.
If you’re more interested in performance than efficiency, the C300e is happy to oblige. It can get up to motorway speeds easily on electric power alone, but press the accelerator pedal harder and the two power sources combine to deliver swift acceleration, with the transition between them being seamless. The engine does make itself heard when you give it the beans, but its exhaust note is quite pleasant. The rest of the time, the C300e is a pleasingly hushed cruiser.
Despite the extra weight of the battery, the C300e has a smooth and well-controlled ride, making it more cosseting than the 3 Series. The trade-off is that it isn’t quite as much fun to drive as its BMW rival, although it still resists body lean well in corners and its steering is reassuringly accurate.
As with any modern Mercedes, the interior looks swish and is generously equipped. However, it doesn’t feel as robust or classy as those of the A4 and 3 Series, with fewer high-quality materials than you’d expect in a car like this.
We’d understand if you were tempted by those rivals, then, but ultimately neither makes as much sense as the C300e. It’s comfortable, composed and refined. And crucially, its lower costs make it a more compelling choice than any other hybrid executive car.
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