Test Drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e 4MATIC
Mercedes-Benz fans may well embrace the 2018 GLC 350e 4MATIC as another technological step forward in the company's celebrated history of innovation.
Others may question the accomplishment, however.
The 350e is a plug-in hybrid that can go up to 14 miles on electrity alone before switching over to a hybrid mode that gets an EPA rated 25 miles per gallon.
Some may argue those numbers aren't particularly impressive. Other plug-in hybrids can go much farther on electricity alone, and most get better mileage after switching over to hybrid mode.
What makes the 350e worth considering is the fact that is not a small car but a well made luxury compact crossover with all-wheel-drive that weighs more than two tones. Few such combinations are on the market today, and you would be hard pressed to find any that beat the its $49,990 starting price.
On the other hand, if you live without Mercedes' level of luxury and engineering, the all-new 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander compact plug-in hybrid crossover also comes standard with all-wheel-drive, beats the 350e with 22 miles of electricty-only power, matches its 25 gas-only mileage, and starts at $34,595.
Such is the dilemma facing both manufacturers and consumers these days at the pressure mounts for reduced and zero emission vehicles. Practically all auto makers are rushing to offer electrified vehicles, inlcuding hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electrics. Some make more sense than others. Shoppers are having to consider how much any amount of electric power is worth as gas prices remain relatively low.
But there's no doubt the 350e succeeds as a luxury compact crossover. The exterior styling is clean and refined, the interior is outfitted with the highest quality materials, the infotainment system is among the best in the world, and the ride is incredibly quiet. The suspension and powertrin can also be set in four modes that range from Eco to Comfort to Sport to Sport Plus. We found the ride in the Comfort mode was very, well, comfortable over smooth pavement, but the susension tended to feel unsettled over potholes. Though firmer, the suspension handled them better in Sport mode, where we left it after concluding that Sport Plus was too firm for day to day driving.
Regardless of driving conditions, the industrial strength climate control system easily handled changes changes from chilly mornings to hot afternoons and muggy evenings. Although the large round air vents found in all Mercedes these days look a little cartoonish, they do their jobs well, directing large amounts of heated or cooled air throughout the cabin. We've tested a few compact crossovers with small engines recently that weren't up to such a routine duty. Not so the 350e.
Our test 350e came with multiple comfort, convenience, entertainment, safety and technology packages that pushed the total price tag to over $66,000, which again raises questions about paying the premium for the plug-in hybrid system. At the same time, such a price is not out of line with other luxury plug-in hybrids on the market, further proof that research, development, battery and related costs still need to be brought further down for such vehicles to have a chance of becoming big sellers.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e 4MATIC
Base price: $49,990
Price as tested: $66,040 (before federal incentives)
Type: Compact crossover
Drivetrain: Turbo 2.0-liter inline 4 and electric motor (320 hp, 413 ft-lbs)
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 74 MPGe/25 gas only average
Overall length: 183 inches
Curb weight: 4,464 pounds
Final assembly: Bremen, Germany