Following last year's launch of an all-new C-Class, Mercedes- Benz is expanding the range to include plug-in hybrid technology it will introduce to California by the end of the year and an AMG Sport model to bridge the gap between the C300 and Mercedes-AMG C 63. After the plug-in's California launch, the Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-in Hybrid will continue to roll out in the rest of the country through 2017, while the AMG Sport is expected this fall.

Powered by a turbocharged 208-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine backed by an 80 horsepower electric motor fed by a lithium ion battery pack, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-in Hybrid offers combined system output of 275 horsepower and 443 lb ft of torque. Mercedes says the vehicle is capable of 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph.

Pure EV range of 20 miles

Thanks to its 6.2 kilowatt battery pack, the vehicle has a dedicated EV range of 20 miles and a top speed in that mode of 80 mph. The water cooled battery pack weighs only 220 lbs. and can be recharged either at a dedicated EV charging system or a simple wall socket. Even with the battery pack, the C350 Plug-in Hybrid still offers 11.8 cubic feet of trunk space.

The car's electric motor is incorporated in the 7-speed automatic transmission housing and it's used to disconnect the engine from the gearbox when operating in pure EV mode. The accelerator pedal also employs haptic feedback to help coach the driver to find the most efficient mode of operation. In EV mode, the driver's foot will reach a point of resistance that indicates that maximum electric power is being delivered. If pushed beyond that point, the 4-cylinder engine is engaged. A double impulse in the pedal signals the driver to back off the throttle to switch off the engine and decouple it from the drivetrain to maximize efficiency through coasting and energy recuperation.

Multiple transmission modes

The C350 Plug-in Hybrid features five different modes for the transmission including Sport, Sport+, Comfort, Economy and Individual, which various parameters can be selected by the driver.  In Sport and Sport+ modes, the transmission is programmed for sporty gear changes, the suspension is stiffened and the hybrid system is used to boost overall performance. In Comfort, the shifts are more relaxed and regenerative braking switched on, while Economy uses a more aggressive regen to recoup maximum energy.

Among the standard features found on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-in Hybrid, is the Airmatic air suspension system and Pre-Entry Climate Control that allows the driver to remotely cool or warm the vehicle before getting in. Available options also include two energy-saving LED lighting packages, one static and one with Active Curve Illumination, in place of the standard halogen headlamps. Pricing will be announced closer to the vehicle's launch

AMG Sport boasts 362 horsepower

As part of Mercedes-Benz new AMG Sport lineup, the new C450 AMG Sport pumps out 362 horsepower and 384 lb ft of torque from a twin-turbo V6 engine. The powerplant features a 7-speed paddle shift automatic that delivers output to all four wheels. There are four distinct driving modes, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, as well as a mode that allows the driver to individualize steering effort, suspension and powertrain responses.

In addition to a taut suspension and more responsive powertrain, the C450 AMG Sport has larger brakes, a more aggressive exterior package thanks to additional aerodynamic elements like an integrated rear spoiler and diffuser and distinctive front intakes as well as custom 18-inch alloy wheels. Customers can opt for the complementary Night package, which adds high- gloss black front bumper trim, a high-gloss black diffuser-look insert at the rear, and two black chrome-plated dual tailpipe trim elements.

The interior is clad with MB-Tex/DINAMICA upholstery while the instrument panel trimmed with black MB-Tex man-made leather. MB-Tex is also used on the upper edges of the body, the armrests, the door center panels and the center console. Red contrasting stitching, red safety belts and black floor mats with red edging along with the aluminum trim pieces with light-tone longitudinal grain embedded in the instrument panel and the doors add a sporty flair. Sports seats with AMG-specific seat upholstery and aggressive bolstering offer long-distance comfort. The interior also includes a 3-spoke Nappa leather multifunction sports steering wheel with flat bottom. Details such as red stitching, a molded grip area, steering-wheel paddle shifters and silver chrome steering wheel trim round out the aggressively styled interior. In typical AMG style, the instrument cluster also features dials in the sporty "checkered flag" design, a 175 mph speedometer scale, red speedometer needles and a specific typography.

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