2018 Mercedes GLC 350e review – hybrid, not diesel

Mercedes GLC
The 350e is one of two Mercedes hybrids - the difference is in engine size.
The Mercedes 350-e can go up to 140 km/hr on electric power – but not for long.

Mercedes may have dropped its diesel offerings in North America, but it has another fuel-saving opportunity, the GLC 350e. To get the most from this newcomer, you must plug it in every night – yes, it is a hybrid.

Mercedes offers a pair of hybrids, both in crossover guise – the GLC 350e we tested and the larger GLE 550e. The GL tells you it is a utility vehicle, the C says it is based on the C-Series, the lower case “e” indicates it is a hybrid and the 350 – who knows? It used to be that the numerals indicated engine size, but that has not been the case for several years.

To get the most from this newcomer you have to plug it in every night.

The engine, in this case, is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, augmented by an 85 kW electric motor attached to the transmission input shaft. The pair produces a combination of 315 horsepower and 413 lb. ft. of torque. The electric motor alone produces more torque than the turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the GLC 350. Torque, the power you feel when you press the pedal, allows this hybrid to easily outperform its conventional twin. The GLC 350e will scoot to 100 k/hr. from rest in less than 6.5 seconds with both motor and engine at work. It can go up to 140 k/hr. on electric power alone!

But, not for long.  

Mercedes says the GLC 350e can go up to 34 km on electric power alone. I managed half that in conditions not conducive to efficiency – lots of hills and acceleration. When the battery is low you can recharge it in less than three hours from a dedicated 220-volt Level 2 charging station. If you are light on the throttle, and your short commute does not involve hills, you could conceivably avoid buying gas.

battery pack puts the hurt on cargo space

That would go a long way toward offsetting the extra $14,000 for the hybrid version of the GLC 350. The system adds about 255-kg to the weight of the vehicle and the lithium ion battery pack puts a hurt on cargo space. The GLC 350e has 5.5 cubic feet less space behind the rear seat than the conventional GLC 350.

It also has a smaller fuel tank, 17-litres less, to make room for the battery pack. I was quite surprised when I went to fill it up as the gauge neared empty, to find it cost only $55. The overall fuel economy at that stage – for a mixture of city and highway driving was 9.5-litres/100 km.  

A reminder that you are about to step into something different

Another area where the GLC 350e has less than its conventional sibling is the transmission. This one has seven gears whereas the “plain” GLC 350 has nine. The reason is quite simple – the nine-speed can’t handle the amount of torque produced by the engine/motor combo. The 350e does, however retain the excellent 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, adding an all-season attraction.

Integration is seamless

Driving the 350e feels little different than the conventional version. You can run on either gasoline or electric power. The integration between the two is seamless.

Should you choose to become involved, and do your bit for the environment -obviously you care, or would not have spent that extra $14,000 – there are a bunch of settings to play with. The driver can choose between ECO, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual programs. These address steering, throttle response and suspension.

The system uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack and in E-mode has a clever throttle pedal that offers more resistance when you are operating on electric power and call for the engine to join the party.

There are also four operating modes, which alter the mix of gas and electric power: Hybrid, E-mode, E-save and charge.

The system uses regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack and in E-mode has a clever throttle pedal that offers more resistance when you are operating on electric power and call for the engine to join the party. The throttle pedal also has a “double-pump” feel that tells you when you can back off, and let the electric motor alone do the work.

The GLC350e 4Matic has been available in Europe since the fall of 2016. It made it across the Atlantic last summer.

Extremely well built and finished

Aside from the drivetrain, the GLC 350e is typical Mercedes – extremely well built and finished inside and out. The exterior styling is less boxy than most, and the interior impeccably assembled from high quality materials from diamond-stitched leather to natural grain Brown Ash trim.

I have driven dozens of hybrids, many were not a very pleasant experience, too much had been sacrificed in the search for fuel savings. The 2018 Mercedes GLC 350e requires no sacrifices, other than from your pocket book.

The specs

Model: 2018 Mercedes GLC 350e 4Matic

Engine: turbocharged, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 85kW electric motor – combined output: 315-horsepower and 413 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel

Transmission: seven speed automatic, all-wheel-drive

NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 9.8 / 8.6

Length: 4,656 mm

Width: 1,890 mm

Wheelbase: 2,873 mm

Weight: 2,025 kg

Price: $59,900 base, $59,900 as tested, plus freight

About Richard 166 Articles
At the age of five I was already obsessed with all things automotive being able to identify the make and model of car by just the sound of its engine going down the street in front of our house in the small town on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Although I have been covering and writing about the automotive scene for more than 40 years and the light still grows brightly.