► New Mercedes A-Class hybrid driven
► A250e PHEV has 42-mile range
► In showrooms by early 2020
Hybrid power has come to the Mercedes line-up. The brand's range of EQ cars is set to swell, with full electric, plug-in hybrid (EQ Power) and mild hybrid (EQ Boost) cars being launched thick and fast. One of then, is this: the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class PHEV, named the A250e.
The B-Class PHEV was revealed the same time as the A-Class, with a CLA, GLA, GLB and, given Merc’s propensity to dream up new models, more expected in time. Expect a glut of small hybrid cars in the months ahead...
Smaller is better...
The engineers had their work cut out to solve the packaging problems a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain brings. The compact lithium-ion battery is under the rear seat, where the fuel tank would usually be, it, now fitting in the axle integration space beneath it.
Check out our ICE Mercedes A-Class review
Under the bonnet, the power electronics, the cooling for all the different systems means it’s tight in there, but German engineers do love a challenge, leaving out the conventional 12v starter to make space, and using the electric motor instead.
There’s a centre-exiting exhaust pipe under the floor by the passenger seat for when that petrol motor is running. It’s quiet when it does so, and in EV mode, one of five familiar drive settings encompassing EV, Comfort, Sport, Individual and a hold charge one for destination EV use.
I need performance and range figures
There’s a 15.6kWh battery, with a 75kW (99bhp in old money) electric motor sandwiched between the now eight-speed auto and the 1.3-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine with 156bhp.
An all-electric range of 42 miles (under more realistic WLTP testing) is entirely believable, given our experiences.
Jochen Eck, Merc’s Senior Manager Vehicle Testing Compact Cars, told us at our first chance to ride in the car that range will be accurate, too. He’s demanded it, saying too many trip computers in hybrids are wildly optimistic, and that customers need to trust what they’re told. In electric-only it’ll drive up to 87mph, which is plenty enough. Floor it or go beyond 87mph and the petrol engine joins in the fun.
Combined the electric petrol mash-up isn’t pumping out 254bhp; Eck simply said: 'physics'. Altogether the A250e produces 215bhp and 332lb ft and claims a 6.6sec 0-62mph sprint. Not disappointing despite the fact that the PHEV is hauling around a 150kg battery pack and more weight besides; the 221lb ft of torque the electric motor adds being useful here. If used properly, the A250e could be as efficient as 201.7mpg and emit as little as 33g/km.
If you’ve time to stop and charge you can do so overnight at home from a traditional plug in about 7 hours, 1.5-2hrs with a 7.6kW wallbox and as little as 30 minutes on a DC charge, the A-Class adding the possibility of CCS charging.
What’s it like to drive?
Quite relaxing, as you’d expect from a plug-in hybrid. Like most cars of its type the A250e starts up silently and moves away just as silently. There are handy separate charge and fuel graphics on the instrument panel to know exactly how much range you’re capable of and, in Electric mode, it feels like quite a lot.
In fact, as we mentioned earlier and unlike some hybrid cars with electric modes, you can press rather firmly on the throttle and still only use electric power. Acceleration isn’t exactly lighting quick but it’s still capable of leaving others standing at the lights because of all that instant torque.
Leave it in electric mode and you can also use the steering wheel paddles to change the amount of regenerative braking. D+ allows the car to coast freely, while D- and D—add increasingly harsh regen. D-Auto is clever as it adjusts the amount of regen depending on factors like changes in speed limits, cars in front, inclines/declines and intersections/roundabouts using data from the navigation.
Frustratingly, that clever feature doesn’t extend to Comfort mode; instead the paddles are used for their usual purposes of shifting gears. Sport mode leaves the engine permanently on, with the battery/motor pack assisting – this mode is where you’ll feel the sprightliest performance.
As for handling, you can feel the extra weight. The steering, for example, is heavier and a touch more inert than that of an A200 petrol. That makes for a slightly lardier-feeling turn-in in tight corners at speed. On our AMG Line car (predicted to be the only spec the A250e comes in in the UK), the larger wheels coupled with the additional weight made us suffer a little more in the ride quality department, too.
Mercedes A250e: verdict
There’s usuable electric range with the A250e, so much so that most people really could commute entirely on electric power alone and charge up while the car is at home overnight or at the office during the day. The silent running and smooth progress also help to furnish Merc’s point about the A-Class being a small luxury car.
It’ll be expensive when it reaches the UK, and the PHEV powertrain takes some of the A-Class’ light-on-its-feet dynamism away but it feels like we’re on the cusp of plug-in hybrids being more than just token gestures of helping to reduce emissions, with the A250e part of that brave next step.
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