By Keith Buglewicz
Electric cars are becoming more mainstream, and the best evidence is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive hatchback. Conventional in appearance, electric range and charging time, this first electric car from the German manufacturer nonetheless distinguishes itself with its uniquely Mercedes driving experience. It also offers up comfortable seating (especially for the front occupants), cargo space that's uncompromised by the underfloor battery pack, and some unique twists on "regenerative" braking – using the energy produced under braking to charge the battery pack. Using a drivetrain supplied by electric-car leader Tesla, the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive doesn't break a lot of new technological ground. Yet it refines and matures the genre with a premium feel, handsome but not eye-catching style, and a surprisingly reasonable price.
If you want an electric vehicle from a luxury manufacturer, but aren't looking for outrageous styling, then the Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive is just the ticket. The hatchback's $41,500 entry-level price is also low enough to attract EV buyers who just want more cargo space in their environmentally friendly ride.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is an all-new model for Mercedes. While the B-Class is old hat in Europe – and sold with a variety of powertrains – the 5-door hatchback is new for the U.S., destined to be the company's electric vehicle for the U.S.
Driving Impressions The 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive is utterly conventional in the way it goes about its business. Rather than wow you with a whole new way of driving a car,...... the B-Class simply gets the job done, always with a premium feel and very good control of things like wind and road noise. The firm suspension and good steering aren't exactly sporty, but they do make the B-Class more athletic. As for the drivetrain, the electric motor moves this car better than you might expect. After an initial rush of torque, the B-Class electric settles into the same steady accelerative pull you get in a jet airliner taking off. Of course, foot-to-the-floor starts will discharge that battery quicker than you can say, "Where's a charging station?"
RADAR-BASED RECUPERATION SYSTEM
Electric cars use regenerative braking to recharge the batteries as the car slows and coasts. The 2014 B-Class electric offers a system that lets the driver choose the regenerative braking's aggressiveness. Most interesting is an adaptive mode that uses radar to slow the vehicle depending on traffic and road conditions.
Using the Mercedes-Benz mbrace app, B-Class electric owners can monitor and control a variety of functions from their smartphones. Our favorite is programming the climate control system to cool or warm the car while it's still plugged in, saving the batteries for driving, rather than getting the temperature just so.
The new Mercedes B-Class interior is high quality, with the dash top and doors covered in soft-touch materials, and hard plastic on the lower parts and center console. An iPad-like screen juts out from the top of the dash, above three air vents and the rest of the audio and climate controls. The front seats are roomy, but the high floor in the rear limits passenger legroom. There's plenty of cargo space though.Exterior
While handsome, there's not a lot of visual pizazz to the 2014 B-Class electric's styling. The tall 5-door hatchback shape is shared by a number of other vehicles, although the 3-pointed star on the nose classes things up on its own. We also like the LED accents on the headlights, which emphasize the kinship this car has with other Mercedes vehicles like the S-Class. Callouts to the car's electric nature are subtle, with just a few "Electric Drive" badges here and there, plus a blue-tinted grille.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive comes well equipped for a reasonably priced electric car. In addition to cruise control, aluminum-alloy wheels and automatic climate control, the car wants to assist you with just about everything. Collision Prevention Assist warns if you're about to rear-end another car, while Active Parking Assist helps find a big enough parallel parking spot. Attention Assist determines if the driver is getting drowsy, and advises to take a break from driving with a dashboard warning. Safety equipment includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, and a knee airbag for the driver to prevent lower-limb injuries.
In addition to the radar-based regenerative-braking system, the 2014 B-Class electric offers up several other high-tech options. A range extension package allows drivers to add up to 18 miles to the B-Class electric's range, although it could affect the battery life in the long run. Blind-spot monitoring warns if you are about to change lanes into another car, and lane-keeping assist helps nudge you back into the correct lane. Parktronic with Advanced Parking Assist helps drivers find and park in a parallel parking spot. The COMAND multimedia system with its 7-inch dash-mounted screen is also optional.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive comes with one powertrain option only: A 177-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels. Supplied by the electric vehicle pioneers at Tesla, the motor accelerates the B-Class electric to 60 mph from a standstill in just under eight seconds, according to Mercedes. The 28-kWh lithium-ion battery provides up to 85 miles of driving range, and can be recharged to 60 miles of range in about 2 hours using a Level 2 (40-amp) charger. A full recharge takes 3.5 hours on the same charger.
AC electric motor with 28kWh lithium-ion battery pack
132 kW/177 horsepower
251 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge (estimated): 85 miles
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive will have a base price of around $42,400 when it goes on sale this summer. However, prices for individual options have not been announced, so we can't tell you how much a fully loaded model will go for. The good news is that price is before the $7,500 federal incentive and any local or state incentives, meaning you could get into a fully electric Mercedes for about the same price as a loaded Toyota Camry. That's still not cheap, but it's not too bad for a Mercedes-Benz that qualifies for carpool-lane access – a feature worth its weight in gold in congested cities like Los Angeles. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying.