By Scott Oldham -- Contributing Editor
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz B-Class, a moderately priced EV from an established luxury automaker should be a winner. But the B-Class debuted into a market forever changed by the Tesla Model S. And the competition has grown since and now includes the more affordable Chevy Bolt, which offers 200-plus miles of range. The 87-mile range of the new Mercedes B250e was already small compared to other EVs available, and it doesn’t offer a range-extending gasoline engine as you'll find in a Chevy Volt or BMW i3, plus the B-Class is more expensive. Although its interior offers premium materials, and the new 2017 B250e offers a better driving experience than many other EVs, the new B-Class needs more style and more range to compete successfully in today’s EV market.
If you must have a Mercedes-Benz and you want an EV, then the 2017 B250e is truly the only game in town. And it's no punishment, thanks to its premium interior, good driving dynamics and reasonable price. It also delivers the features and safety systems you expect in a Mercedes.
The 2017 B250e is all-Benz, but it's also a little dull-looking. The BMW i3 and the Nissan LEAF, although no beauties, cut more distinctive profiles, and the new Chevy Bolt offers much more range. The 87-mile range really limits the B-Class to around-town excursions only.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e is essentially unchanged from last year’s model; however, its price has been slashed around $500 to about $41,000, which includes a $925 transportation charge.
Aside from the complete lack of engine noise, there's nothing unusual about driving the 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e. The new B-Class accelerates, brakes and handles with all the skill expected of...
... a car wearing the 3-pointed star. The interior offers the same high aesthetic we've come to admire in the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, with the hard plastics on the lower dash and door panels the exceptions to an otherwise excellent use of materials. The Tesla-supplied electric motor provides 177 horsepower and moves the B250e smartly from a stop, thanks to excellent torque, and it’s 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.
This unique system, which is standard on the new Mercedes B250e, learns your driving style in the first few minutes of a drive, then, as your journey continues, it continues to check your driving and conditions. If it determines you’ve become drowsy it sounds an alert and encourages you to stop.
Cars are more connected than ever these days, and the new 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.
The 2017 Mercedes B250e is definitely a Benz inside. The interior design and build quality are up to the high expectations of today’s luxury-car buyers. The dash top, for example, uses soft-touch materials, and has the iPad-like infotainment screen jutting above three artistically crafted air vents. All very modern-Mercedes, as are the roomy front seats. However, there are a few small glitches that remind you that the B-Class isn’t an S-Class. The hard plastics on the bottom of the dash and door, for instance, feel out of place on a Mercedes, and the rear-seat's high floor limits legroom.
The 2017 B250e is a nice-looking car, with athletic proportions and modern detailing, but there’s little about the styling that's uniquely Mercedes-Benz. Strip the 3-pointed star from its grille and you'd be hard-pressed to tell this tall 5-door from any number of other European or Japanese hatchbacks. Still, we like the blue-tinted grille, which is the Mercedes-Benz way of telling you this is an EV. The LED accents on the headlights provide some visual association with the S-Class. And the deep character lines, which run down its flanks, successfully break up the sheet metal avoiding the dreaded and deadly slab-sidedness.
The front-wheel-drive 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e comes with cruise control, aluminum-alloy wheels, navigation and automatic climate control, power front seats with memory, split-folding rear seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, all pretty mainstream stuff. But there are 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 driver’s knee airbag to prevent lower-limb injuries.
Mercedes’ unique radar-based regenerative-braking system is a must-have. It allows the driver to dial in the level of regenerative braking, and it integrates the active cruise control system to automatically slow the car depending on traffic and conditions. Other options on the B-Class EV include leather upholstery, heated front seats, 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 new Mercedes-Benz B-Class and you'll find a Tesla-supplied electric motor. We'd say Mercedes-Benz got the better part of that deal: The 177-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels accelerates the new B250e electric to 60 mph from a standstill in just under eight seconds, according to Mercedes. The 28-kWh lithium-ion battery provides up to 87 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
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz B250e is actually one of the less expensive Mercedes-Benz models currently available. The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is about $41,000; 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 new 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.