Late bloomer: Mercedes E300 Hybrid

Does anyone really buy the Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid because it’s frugal?

E300_2When you are able to shell out RM350,000 for a luxury car, fuel efficiency might not be your number one concern, maybe not even number two. Powered by a 2.1-litre diesel hybrid electric powertrain, the Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid is a luxury saloon that consumes less fuel than a small hatchback, yet the savings in fuel expenses compared to its petrol-powered variants, the E200 and the E250, isn’t as massive as one might assume.

Then there’s also the question of owning a diesel-hybrid powered car, the first of its kind in Malaysia by the way. Enthusiasts, motoring journalists, and those who are auto-savvy may heartily endorse the modern diesel car that’s big on torque but sips fossil fuel, but there is no denying that among the general public, there is still prevailing image of diesel technology being less clean and less refined than the petrol equivalent. Therefore we pose three keys questions that a potential buyer of this car might be wondering about:


Is it OK to buy a diesel-powered Mercedes in Malaysia?

E300_8Mercedes-Benz Malaysia assures customers that the E300 diesel hybrid is not only compatible with Euro 2M-spec diesel fuel that’s available across the country, but is also able to accommodate B10 biodiesel if and when the proposed implementation by the government comes into play. B10 refers to a diesel blend comprising 10% of plant-based diesel (e.g. from palm oil) with the remainder 90% from petroleum. It is interesting to note that all other passenger car brands (offering diesel models) maintain that B10 isn’t compatible with their engines, but the E300’s is. As it stands, deliberations between car companies and the government is on-going.

There is of course the bonus of Euro 5 diesel being made available recently by BHPetrol at selected stations. When brimmed with Euro 5 diesel, the E300’s diesel-hybrid powertrain is actually capable of cleaner Euro 4 emission levels, and presumably, better performance. Since BHPetrol’s introduction of its Euro 5 diesel (which is a B7 blend by the way), other petroleum companies such as Shell and Petronas have also indicated that they too would offer the same in the near future.

E300_9Note that the sale of Euro 5 diesel is entirely voluntary at this point in time and not mandated by the Malaysian government, so if it receives poor reception from the public, the petroleum companies can withdraw it from the pumps at any time. The great thing is that it costs only RM0.10 more than Euro 2M diesel which is currently going for RM1.80 per litre. In case you’re wondering, the sale of Euro 5 diesel is only mandated to happen nationwide in 2020.

In any case, regardless of whether it’s B7, B10, Euro 2M or 5, the E300 Bluetec Hybrid will accommodate.

How much can you really save?

Measured against a petrol-powered E200, with the assumption of 20,000km being clocked in a year, the fuel savings – based on manufacturer’s fuel efficiency claims – actually tally up to less than RM1,000 per year if you’re driving the E300 hybrid. For someone whose fuel expenses are probably paid for by the company anyway, RM1,000 isn’t substantial, but something CFOs would approve of nonetheless.

Interestingly, more can be saved by choosing the E300 hybrid over the E200 by virtue of their retail prices. With Mercedes-Benz Malaysia leveraging on the duty exemptions for locally assembled hybrid vehicles, the price of the higher-spec, more powerful E300 hybrid (RM338,888) is actually RM26,000 lower than the E200 (RM364,000).


Oh, and just a quick word on the 0.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers the 27hp/250Nm electric motor, in case you’re worried about replacement costs. According to Mercedes-Benz, the batteries are expected to last the “lifetime” of the vehicle, thus the cost isn’t revealed. But as with all batteries, available capacity (i.e. how much charge it can hold) will gradually diminish over years, even if its performance (or output) remains the same.

Is it any good to drive?

The E300 hybrid behaves like you’d expect a diesel-powered luxury sedan would, but with a few hybrid electric quirks thrown in. The 2.1-litre diesel four-cylinder (and electric motor) delivers impressive shove (201hp/500Nm) down low but you’re always reminded that it’s a diesel no thanks to its gruff engine note under acceleration. In default “E” setting, idle stop and “sail” mode (engine cuts out under low loads, battery power takes over) will kick in to minimise fuel usage, this requires familiarisation if you never lived with a hybrid before, so do take a longer test drive and ensure that the sales advisor earns his/her commission.


In the couple of days spent with the E300, I found myself resorting to using “S” mode to stave off the constant on-off, start-stop sensation, especially in urban highways where traffic can bunch up suddenly, then released, such as when approaching a toll complex. Given some room to flex its muscles, the E300 is a consummate cruiser, purring along near silently and comfortably, wafting in the glory of torque and instantaneous electric assistance. But let’s be candid about why the E300 has zoomed straight to the top of the sales charts – it’s the staggering amount of standard equipment  (AMG sports package, panoramic roof, LED headlamps, around view cameras, rear entertainment system, etc), the level of which is only available if you pay close to half a million Ringgit for the E400. And for a model that should see a new replacement sometime next year, you’d have to say that the W212 E-Class, after undergoing a much-needed facelift in 2013, is actually looking better than ever.


Mercedes-Benz E300 Bluetec Hybrid 

E300_5Price RM338,888 (incl. GST, w/o insurance)
Engine/Motor 2.1-litre, 4-cylinder diesel, RWD/3-phase AC electric motor
Output 201hp@4,200rpm, 500Nm@1,600rpm (ICE); 27hp/250Nm (electric motor)
Transmission 7-speed automatic w/ steering shift paddles
Performance 0-100km/h in 7.1sec, top speed 242km/h
Fuel efficiency 24.2km/l (combined cycle)
Wheels/tyres 18in alloys, 245/40 R18 (FF), 265/35 R18 (RR)
Safety 8-airbags, Electronic Stability Control
Warranty 4-year/Unlimited