The new Mercedes C 300 e vs BMW 330e

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German magazine auto motor und sport has tested the new Mercedes C 300 e up against BMW 330e. With a bigger battery, the new C 300e plug-in hybrid is impressive, promising an electric range of over 100 km, about twice as long as the BMW 330e. Does this mean BMW is only the second option?

Photo: Auto motor und sport

PHEV models are criticised because they receive generous subsidies but offer low real electric range. Mercedes is one of the first manufacturers to react and offer larger batteries in new generations of models that give longer electric range. After the Mercedes GLE 350 de/GLE 350 e and S 580 e which promise electric ranges of 96/97 km and 111 km respectively, the new Mercedes C 300 e promises an electric range of 110 km according to the European WLTP cycle.

This makes the four-cylinder petrol engine idle for longer periods, as this range is usually enough to commute from home to work and back. Then, in the evening, the Mercedes C 300 e can simply be plugged into the wallbox at home (if you’re staying at home, you can buy a wallbox from Mercedes with 990 euro), and the next day, it’s back in top form.

By comparison, BMW 330e  ran out of electric breath after just 46km (up to 60 are promised). Of course, these differences, which are quite relevant in practice, are not due to the fact that Mercedes has built a revolutionarily efficient powertrain, with the BMW 330e being better at both hybrid and electric consumption and consuming significantly less electricity in combined cycle, with petrol consumption only slightly higher.

comparison test mercedes C 300 e vs BMW 330e

But Mercedes has squeezed a much larger battery pack under the boot than BMW, so while the 330e’s high-voltage storage unit, whose charge level can be frozen at a desired level, has a gross capacity of 12.0 kWh, the C 300e has more than double that at 25.4 kWh. Although the Mercedes also has a more energic recovery and a longer electric range, it is not without its side-effects, the 315-litre boot volume being smaller than the 455-litre capacity of the regular version, being at the level of a small class model.

In contrast, the BMW’s boot swallows 375 litres, and there’s room under the floor for a charging cable. In the C-Class, the cable lies somewhere in the boot, but Mercedes makes electric driving more practical, and not just because of the longer range, with BMW charging at AC stations at only half the speed of the Mercedes, which also has the alternative of faster charging at DC stations of up to 60 kW, for a price of 595 euro.

But the bigger battery makes the C 300 a two-tonne vehicle – 2070 kg kerbweight, compared with 1834 kg for the BMW. Measurements and subjective impressions show, however, that the extra kilos does not affect the driving performance. When needed, both accelerate with plenty of force – either with the power of two hearts (tiny advantage for the BMW) or purely electric (slightly better figures for the Mercedes, with its more powerful electric motor). The system’s power output of 292 HP (BMW) or 313 HP (Mercedes) isn’t exactly low, and the top speed of 230 km/h (BMW) or 245 km/h (Mercedes) isn’t reached only after excruciatingly long acceleration. So we’re dealing with very fast cars, both of which can reach 140 km/h in electric mode.

comparison test mercedes C 300 e vs BMW 330e

However, the differences are more in driving characteristics than performance, as the heavy battery pack behind the C-Class is visible. When changing direction, Mercedes C 300 e feels much less agile than the BMW 330e, which, even as a plug-in hybrid, brings you the joy of lateral dynamics, and the suppleness and precision  which makes you forget its weight in corners.

The plug-in hybrid C-Class embodies more of the classic Mercedes virtues. Steering is more indirect and requires more work, and near the limit, the heavy rear pushes outwards with power until it oversteers sharply, before the ESP makes some corrections. While the C 300 4Matic completed the slalom and dual lane change tests only slightly slower than the BMW 330i xDrive , the C 300 e plug-in hybrid version passed the dual lane change test almost 11 km/h slower.

The differences on public roads aren’t as striking as in the avoidance tests on the racetrack, where the Mercedes feels like a car two classes bigger, but it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that a fan of the BMW brand won’t get genuinely excited behind the wheel of the Mercedes. It will also get over the fact that the Mercedes with standard rear-axle air suspension (conventional rear-wheel-drive models no longer have it, but the heavy battery weight has necessitated the presence of air suspension with maintain constant ground clearance) runs smoother than the 330e and dampens better over sharp bumps or sloppily mounted drain covers.

BMW’s optional adaptive dampers (615 euro) keep body lift better under control on long undulations and give the 330e a harmonious overall set-up, not buttery soft but far from uncomfortable.
In the case of test cars, BMW even comes out on top when it comes to seat comfort. The 330e M Sport’s sport seats may at first seem a little too tight, but they quickly impress with good configuration, including very pronounced side bolsters. Mercedes has been fitted with wider comfortable seats as standard. They don’t do a bad job, but their impact-optimized headrests press on the backs of most drivers’ necks and detract from a sense of well-being.

“Well-being” is a good buzzword. Not so long ago, BMW’s number 30 and Mercedes’ 300 represented noble six-cylinder engines. Now, under the same name lurk turbocharged powerplants with only four cylinders. Both sound rather trite, although in Mercedes the tone is similar to that of a W124-series combustion-engined diesel at low revs. And as if the instrumentation was also meant to show the departure from the combustion engine that some have decided to make, there’s no tachometer in the standard instrument cluster display (BMW) or just one in the form of a narrow crescent (Mercedes). Classic information, essential for petrol enthusiasts, is available in the large, familiar format only in the extra driving modes, and the Mercedes’ digital instruments can be configured in more ways than the BMW’s.

With no buzzing and hissing from the front, but occasional slight buzzing when starting or downshifting, you get into hybrid mode in the absence of acoustic stimulation and activate navigation even on familiar routes. By activating a navigation destination even if you know the road, the algorithms decide where propulsion should be electric-only (e.g. in town or in the destination area) or hybrid, including recovery being tailored to the road typology (it can also be dosed manually on the Mercedes, from the paddles behind the steering wheel). Nothing new in terms of operation. Thanks to iDrive, numerous large-format direct-select buttons and very attentive and precise voice control, BMW does a better job than Mercedes, which is too focused on the touchscreen.
Still, the Mercedes is the more modern, more versatile hybrid. What about the BMW? It’s lost some ground in this area. But it’s still a very good car.
You can find the original article here.

Verdict
1. Mercedes C 300 e
With a much more electric longer range and quick DC charging, Mercedes is the best PHEV here. It offers a more comfortable suspension but is not so agile like BMW and the boot volume is smaller.

2. BMW 330e 
Even as a PHEV, BMW 330e remain a very pleasant car to drive. But the electric range is small and charging needs too much time.

ModelBMW 330e Mercedes C 300 e
Engine4 inline, turbo4 inline, turbo
Displacement (cmc)1,9981,999
Max. output kW (CP)/rpm135 (184)/5,000150 (204)/6,100
Max. torque Nm/rpm300/1,350320/2,000
Output/torque electric motor (kW/Nm)83/26595/440
Max. output PHEV system kW (HP)215 (292)230 (313)
Max. torque PHEV systrem (Nm)420550
TransmissionRWD, 8 speed aut. RWD, 9 speed aut.
L x w x h (mm)4,709 × 1,827 x 1,4444,751 × 1,820 x 1,437
Wheelbase (mm)2,8512,865
Kerbweight (kg)1,8342,070
Boot volume (l)375315
Test consumption (l/100 km- kWh/100 km) 1)2.3 +19.82.1 + 22.6
Fuel consumption hybrid (l/100 km)8,6 9,0
Energy consumption electric mode (kWh/100 km)27.229.5
WLTP official consumption (l/100 km - kWh/100 km)1.5 + 17.20.6 + 19.2
Emissions CO2  (WLTP)
(g/km)
3413
Fuel tank/battery capacity (l/kWh)40/12.050/25.4
Electric range (km) 4675
Accelerations electric/hybrid  (s)
0–  80 km/h8.9/4.18.3/4.1
0–100 km/h13.9/5.612.9/5.9
0–140 km/h -/10.4-/10.8
0–160 km/h–/13.9–/14.0
0–180 km/h–/18.5–/18.1
0–400 m-/13.9 -/14.1
60–100/80–120 km/h2.9/3.73.2/4.0
Top speed (km/h)230245
Brake distance from 100 km/h (m)33.634.1
de la 100 km/h, recem33.634.1
de la 130 km/h, cald/rece57.7/57.156.9/57.4
Interior noise (dBA)
at   80/100 km/h64/6562/65
at 130/160/180 km/h 69/72/7568/72/75
Slalom 18 m TC/ESP on/off (km/h)66.0/66.162.4/62.6
Double lane change (km/h)138.0/139.4127.3/128.2
Price (euro with VAT)55,45053,936.75