Len Ingrassia: Mercedes hybrid takes a fast track

The 2019 Mercedes GLC 350e combines bold looks with stylish lines.Courtesy | Len Ingrassia

Mercedes-Benz cars have always stood tall in the automotive world with leading edge designs and performance innovations that set it apart. Little wonder that its newer GLC hybrid moves the bar in a different direction with speed and comfort high on its list of priorities.

The 2019 GLC 350e may change the way you look at hybrid systems in an odd sort of way. It’s one of four trim levels below the GLE Class and above the GLA Class

Pros: sleek design; adult size room in all seats; compliant ride.

Cons: dated infotainment system; hybrid mileage lacking; confusing stalk levers.

The compact luxury crossover looks much larger than its segment suggests. While it shares most of its sibling’s looks and measurements, it strays with an inline turbocharged four-cylinder engine tied with an 85-kilowatt electric motor.

Together they produce an impressive 315 horsepower and more than 400 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes also adds a plug-in to the mix to run on pure electric power, albeit for a short time.

And that’s where the oddity comes into play. Most plug-ins carry the vehicle 25 to 50 miles before seamlessly moving to engine power. And with hybrid efficiencies, the mileage numbers with gasoline only tend to be on the high side — 40s, 50s and above.

The 350e will move about 10 miles on electric before switching to its gasoline engine. Adding to the bafflement is the combined fuel efficiency of the hybrid at 25 miles per gallon, according to Mercedes — 1 mile more than its gasoline only siblings.

Confused? There is more to consider. Charging the battery takes about two hours on a 220-volt commercial or installed line at your home.

Regular 110-volt household current will take about six hours.

Add roughly $8,000 increased cost for the 350e over its nonhybrid models and you may want to reconsider. On the flip side, if your work commute is within 10 miles and you are able to charge the system there, the ratios make more sense.

Another plus is the quick off-the-line acceleration that the 350e enjoys with its instant-on electric propulsion and all-wheel drive. Our test car managed the zero to 60 mph sprint in a quick 6.2 seconds; premium fuel is required.

Of course, the 350e is laden with all the creature comforts and new technologies that go into a luxurious Mercedes and that alone may tip the scale at a base price of $51,645.

An available radar-based regenerative brake system monitors traffic ahead and cleverly works with adaptive cruise control using the regeneration rather than brakes to slow the SUV. Enhanced navigation tweaks also optimize use of regenerative braking for upcoming hills and roadway changes.

An available parking-assist package also adds sensors all around and a 360-degree overhead view to make the occurrence dent-less.

If you are still on the fence, you may want to consider waiting for an updated 350e model in 2020 or look at rival Volvo XC60 T8 for comparison.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

What was reviewed

2019 Mercedes GLC 350e

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder coupled with 85-kilowatt electric motor.

EPA rated mileage: 56 mpg combined; 25 mpg gasoline only

Assembly: Full production of the E450 is completed at a Mercedes assembly plant in Bremen, Germany.

Crash Test Ratings: Ratings from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were not available as of this writing.

Warranty: 4-year/50,000-mile limited and power train coverage. No scheduled maintenance included.

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