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 electric executive car...
Take a look at the latest Mercedes C-Class and the first thing you’ll probably notice is that it has more than a passing resemblance to the German brand’s bigger saloons. However, as problems go, the fact that it can easily be mistaken for an S-Class – which costs around twice as much – is right up there with your wallet being too small for your £50 notes.
That sense that you’re getting a lot of car for your money is particularly prevalent if you’re considering the C300e plug-in hybrid variant. Officially, this can run purely on electric power for 68 miles at a time, with high 50s realistic in the real world. The rival BMW 330e can officially manage only 38 miles at best, and you’re more likely to see around 30.
Having a big electric range isn’t just good for your fuel bills; it also ensures that the C300e attracts a lowly 8% benefit-in-kind company car tax rating. The 330e, on the other hand, is taxed at 12%, as is the Skoda Superb iV. Meanwhile, you’re facing 30% with the most efficient version of the Audi A4.
The C300e is even capable of keeping up with motorway traffic without needing to wake its 2.0-litre petrol engine. Yet when you’re more interested in performance than efficiency, it’s happy to oblige, accelerating from 0-62mph in a hot hatch-baiting 6.1sec if you put your foot down and ask that engine and the electric motor to work together.
Plug-in hybrids tend to be less comfortable than their conventionally powered siblings, because the extra weight of the batteries requires a stiffer suspension set-up. However, the C300e comes with rear air suspension, which helps to solve the problem; aside from the odd clunk over drain covers, it’s a very forgiving car.
The downside of this is that it doesn’t feel as sharp as the 3 Series. But unlike the Superb iV, it’s no blancmange; there’s not too much body lean through corners and the steering is reassuringly accurate.
In fact, the only thing about the latest C-Class that’s a bit disappointing is its interior quality, because there’s too much hard plastic that’s more worthy of an inexpensive hatchback than a premium executive car. It’s fortunate, then, that there’s a huge, 11.9in central infotainment screen with swish graphics to help lift the ambience. And despite being packed with features, this system is pretty easy to use.
A facelifted 330e is due later this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing how that compares. But it’s already clear that it will have to be seriously good if it’s to have a chance of toppling the C300e.