The Mercedes-Benz brand has long been synonymous with luxury, quality and performance, but even the century-old icon of the automotive industry is not immune to the ever-present winds of change. When the first Mercedes-Benz-branded vehicles came onto the market in 1926, the commercial engine work of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, and that of Karl Benz had already celebrated their respective 40th anniversaries. With its modest horizontal cylinder and flywheel and three-wheeled design, the 1885 “Benz Patent Motor Car” laid the groundwork for technological innovations and a patent portfolio that encompasses virtually every component of the modern automobile.
While Mercedes-Benz has forged ahead over the years with innovations that include the first multivalve engine (1910), the supercharger (1921) and the first diesel-powered passenger car (1936), few people realize that the company first employed a battery-electric drivetrain in a vehicle early last century. Indeed, the pre-Benz Mercedes Mixte was a gas-electric hybrid vehicle designed for racing that would run up to 75 miles per hour—in 1906.
Fast forward nearly a dozen decades and Mercedes-Benz is still at the forefront of advanced powertrains, and as is often the case in the automotive world, technologies that were once available only in a laboratory or in experimental quantities are now extensively integrated throughout the model range. We visited Mercedes-Benz of Thousand Oaks to experience two of their electrified models currently on the market.
Pure Electric Luxury
The Mercedes-Benz B250 Electric Drive is a 5-door compact powered by an all-electric drivetrain that moves its distinct, practical silhouette with nary a whisper of audible response as its electrons exit the 28-kwh lithium ion battery cell and put power to the wheels. Good for 177 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque and with seating for five, the B-Class gets its power exclusively from a plug in the wall. This particular example comes in at a palatable MSRP of $47,780 and features just about everything one could desire in a practical, eco-friendly family hauler. Its interior is naturally all Mercedes-Benz with real wood trim, optional heated seats and certain modern must-haves such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, and even a refrigerated glove box. The B250’s upright profile gives it an airy and spacious feel that belies its compact size.
While certainly no dragstrip demon, the Mercedes-Benz B250 is a stout performer on the road. Steering feel is tight and composed, body roll is minimal and acceleration is brisk enough thanks to electric motors offering 100% of torque being available from rest. Indeed, the B250 Electric Drive will accelerate to freeway speed in under seven seconds. Now, testing the car’s 0-to-60 times repeatedly will certainly have a negative impact on the car’s 60-mile range, nevertheless, it’s good to know the car will respond in a time of need—provided the battery has the juice.
Overall, the B250 Electric Drive is a practical and luxurious car for the eco-friendly set. It won’t get you to the front of the valet line or even to Glendale and back on a single charge, but then again, that is not this car’s mission.
Green with Envy
Available since 2014 and updated nearly every year since, the Mercedes-Benz S550e is a so-called plug-in hybrid that also operates in pure-electric mode. Under the hood is a gasoline engine and in the trunk is a battery pack that combine to produce over 400 horsepower and pound-feet of torque while rocketing the car to 60 miles per hour in just over five seconds. And what is the point of multiple power sources? In this case, the answer is an effective MPG rating of 58 combined—not bad for a 5,000-pound bank vault of a car.
As the pinnacle of the production-grade Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle lineup, the S-Class is known for its uncompromising luxury and formidable road presence. This vehicle retails for $107,825 and features some impressive technology and creature comforts, like the AIR BALANCE® cabin fragrance system and rear seat entertainment screens that rival your local sports bar. Indeed, the only way to truly comprehend the luxury offered by the top of the Mercedes-Benz range is to experience it yourself. Should the S550e turn out to be too over the top for your personal style of eco-friendly transportation, don’t worry. The S-Class’ precocious younger sibling, the Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid, could be just your cup of green tea.
Mercedes-Benz of Thousand Oaks is a proud member of the Silver Star Automotive Group, 3905 Auto Mall Drive, Thousand Oaks. Visit MBZThousandOaks.com or call 805.371.5400.