By Keith Buglewicz
For 2016 the Mercedes-Benz B-Class sounds like a smart idea, and a moderately priced EV-only offering from an established luxury automaker should be a win-win. But the B-Class debuted into a market forever changed by the Tesla Model S. Its 88-mile range is small compared to other EVs available, and there's no range-extending gasoline engine as you'll find in a Chevy Volt or BMW i3. The hatchback shape is unique to Mercedes-Benz, but relatively anonymous in traffic. And while the interior offers premium materials, and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e -- as it's now called -- offers a better driving experience than many other EVs, it's more expensive than plug-in hybrids like the Volt and i3, but without the useful range of a base-model Tesla.
If you're a die-hard Mercedes-Benz fan and you want to go emissions-free, then the 2016 B250e is the only game in town. And it's no punishment, thanks to its premium interior, good driving dynamics and reasonable price.
While the 2016 B250e is all-Benz, it's also a little dull looking; the BMW i3 and even the Nissan LEAF cut more distinctive profiles. Then there's the 88-mile range, which limits the B-Class to around-town excursions only.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B-Class undergoes a minor weight-savings campaign this year: The previous "Electric Drive" badge on the rear is replaced with a new designation, B250e. Aside from the name change, there's nothing new, and even the price stays the same.
Aside from the lack of engine noise, there's nothing unusual about driving the Mercedes-Benz B250e. The B-Class accelerates, brakes and handles with all the skill expected of a car wearing...
... the 3-pointed star. The interior is laid out and arranged with the same aesthetic we've come to admire in the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, and the hard plastics on the lower dash and door panels the exceptions to an otherwise excellent use of materials. The Tesla-supplied electric motor moves the B250e smartly from a stop thanks to its excellent torque, and it can even be considered quick if you keep the "gas" pedal pinned to the floor, although your range will be considerably shortened. The good news is that if you have a 240-volt charger at work or home it takes only about 3.5 hours to fully recharge. The downside is that a 120-volt plug takes more than 24 hours.
RADAR-BASED RECUPERATION SYSTEM
All electric vehicles have regenerative braking, which adds electricity back to the batteries as you slow down. The 2016 B-Class lets the driver select how aggressive it is, and also integrates the active cruise control to use regen braking to automatically slow the car depending on traffic and road conditions.
Cars are more connected than ever these days, and the Mercedes-Benz B-Class uses its mbrace app in some interesting ways. For example, you can program the climate control to heat or cool the vehicle while it's charging, saving the battery for actual driving and not for keeping the car comfortable.
While the 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e is definitely a Benz inside, there are a few touches reminding you that it's built to a price point. The dash top, for example, uses soft-touch materials, and has the iPad-like infotainment screen jutting above three air vents and the rest of the audio and climate controls. All very modern-Mercedes, as are the roomy front seats. However, the hard plastics on the bottom of the dash and door feel out of place with that 3-point star staring at you, and the rear seat's high floor limits legroom. Plenty of cargo space, though.
The 2016 B250e is a nice-enough-looking car, but there is little that's uniquely Mercedes-Benz about the styling. Strip away the 3-point star on the grille and you'd be hard-pressed to tell this tall 5-door hatchback from any number of other European hatchbacks. Still, we like the blue-tinted grille, which is the Mercedes-Benz way of telling you this car is an EV. The LED accents on the headlights provide some visual association with the S-Class. And thankfully, the absurdly long "Electric Drive" badge on the tail has been replaced with the more compact "B250e" for 2016.
There's not a lot available for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e that isn't already standard. It comes with cruise control, aluminum-alloy wheels, navigation and automatic climate control, pretty mainstream stuff. But there's also all the active-assist features. Collision Prevention Assist warns if you're about to rear-end another car; Active Parking Assist helps find a big enough parallel-parking spot; and Attention Assist warns you if you're getting drowsy and recommends taking a break. Safety equipment includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, and a knee airbag for the driver to prevent lower-limb injuries.
We mentioned the radar-based regenerative-braking system earlier, and it's a must-have as far as we're concerned. Other options on the 2016 B-Class EV include blind-spot monitoring to tell you if you're about to change lanes into another car, and lane-keeping assist to nudge you back into the correct lane. Parktronic takes the Parking Assist a step further and actually helps you park the car. The COMAND multimedia system with its 7-inch dash-mounted screen is also optional.
Drive a Tesla Model S and you'll find Mercedes-Benz switchgear and control stalks. Drive a Mercedes-Benz B-Class and you'll find a Tesla-supplied electric motor. We'd say Mercedes-Benz got the better part of this deal: The 177-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels 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 two hours using a Level 2 (40-amp) charger. A full recharge takes 3.5 hours on the same charger.
AC electric motor with 28-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
251 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge (estimated): 87 miles
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e is actually one of the less expensive Mercedes-Benz models currently available. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is about $43,350; add in all the options and you're looking at about $51,000 worth of luxury-branded EV. The best news is that's all before the $7,500 federal incentive, not to mention any local or state incentives, meaning you could get into a fully electric Mercedes for about the same price as a loaded Toyota Camry. Okay, nobody would call that cheap, but the B-Class also qualifies for single-occupant carpool-lane access, a feature worth its weight in gold in congested cities like Los Angeles. That compares well against cars like the BMW i3 and Chevrolet Volt. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what other B-Class buyers in your area are paying.