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PHEVER PITCH Mercedes E-Class now comes in a diesel PHEV version, and we love it.

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The Mercedes E-Class saloon

The Mercedes E-Class saloon

The Mercedes E-Class saloon

Usually we focus on new arrivals to the Irish motor scene, and with dozens of high-tech BEVs and beautifully upgraded powertrains being released we are never short of cars to write about.

But that is exactly why we are testing another E-Class again this week, even though it looks exactly the same on the outside.

The E-Class, as we know it today, has been around since the start of the 1990s and is currently enjoying it's 5th generation makeover. That 2017 glam-up also came with a 2020 facelift which we have already written about in these pages, but now there is something special going on underneath the bonnet that you wouldn't even know about unless you spotted the 'e' on the ever-growing rear badge.

Mercedes are brilliant at a lot of things but they have lagged behind recently when it comes to the electrification of their vehicles. That is slowly changing and now you can buy a plug-in hybrid executive saloon car to add to their enormous range of model options.

Incredibly, it isn't a petrol PHEV but actually a diesel. The first we have ever driven here at Team Motormouths and we are pretty sure it won't be the last.

Recent figures show that over 1.2 million (5th gen) E-Class Mercs have been sold globally so it is fair to say that the model is a crucial cog in the German manufacturer's strategy. Use that context when you try to weigh up why they opted for diesel.

The challenge with all petrol hybrids is the inferior economy against a diesel PHEV engine when the battery charge is used up and you're relying on petrol power alone. But in this beauty, Merc has added extra battery capacity.

My test car for the week was the 'E 300 de' and would set you back over €62k. And that is before you load up on some much-needed extras.

It is not just beautiful though, it is a powerful beast despite the 'e' on the rear. This is no nimble little sports car. This is a premium-badged executive saloon that has a 2.0 litre four-cylinder diesel that can reach 100 km/h in just 5.9 seconds. It is deceptively quick off the line and the Germans boast a mind blowing 700Nm yet it emits just 33g/km, and only comes with a €170 road tax annual payment. That is VERY impressive.

It is fitted with a 9G-TRONIC gearbox and the transition from diesel to battery power is very well suppressed.

The recent facelift is subtle with a new front grille and headlights/tail lights with standard LED illumination, bonnet bulge and slimmer rear headlights.

When you sit inside you will notice that the cabin has stunning panoramic digital displays and is controlled by the ever-impressive central touchpads, as well as giving you the MBUX voice command. The cabin has swooping designs that have all the hallmarks of the S-Class. And the new seats are firm but supportive, covered with a gorgeous white leather.

So what is it like to drive? This PHEV version of the E-Class fares best on the motorway with extreme comfort and safety. While in electric mode it is frighteningly quiet and Mercedes claim you can get 54km on the battery alone.

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In truth I got under 50km but when you consider the size of this car and the fact I had my family with me and the climate control on as it was a scorcher of a day, I think they have nailed this particular powertrain.

Crucially, and I don't say this of every car I drive, the longer you drive it, the more appreciative you are for owning one. Get yourself a dedicated home charger and the refreshed Mercedes with diesel hybrid power now makes more sense than ever.

Unlike plug-in hybrid rivals such as the BMW 530e and Volvo S90 T8 Recharge, which can only be had with a petrol engine and electric motor, the E-Class hybrid is available as a petrol or a diesel, badged 'E 300 e' and 'E 300 de' respectively.

As standard you get lots of gear. Like 18-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels, 2 USB ports in the rear, a parking package that includes a reverse camera, adaptive brake lights, blind spot assist, a 5m charging cable for domestic socket, a 5m charging cable for wallbox or public charging stations, folding rear seat backrests and galvanised steering-wheel gearshift paddles.

There are also heated front seats, the unnecessary but appreciated illuminated door sill panels with 'Mercedes-Benz' lettering, pre-installation for Live Traffic Information, touchpad without Controller, traffic sign assist (which I recommend disabling on Irish roads), the aforementioned widescreen cockpit and a wireless charging system for mobile devices in the front row.

Optional extras that I would recommend: the centre console in grey open-pore ash wood (€84) and the grey open-pore ash wood trim (€84). The leather 'Macchiato Beige/Black' will set you back €358 but has the wow factor and I have always been a fan of Merc's €918 Night Package, which includes the AMG front apron with front splitter in high-gloss black, waistline trim strip, window weatherstrip and trim strip in the rear bumper in high-gloss black, exterior mirror housings in high-gloss black and heat-insulating dark tinted rear glass.

The Premium Package is a harder sell at €4,483 but if you do opt for it you get multibeam LED headlights, parking package incl. 360° camera, Keyless Go and augmented reality for navigation.

Busy daily commutes, where the roads get congested, slow and polluted, are the moments that a plug-in hybrid really makes sense, and the E 300 de is a compelling option for those who want a decent amount of pure-electric range and low running costs while at the same time driving an executive saloon.

Also this week, the car giant announced their all new EQS, which is directly inspired by the new S-Class, portrayed as a car 'appealing to almost all of the senses'. A fusion of high-tech and artificial intelligence features, it embodies more than 40 new inventions and 20 new design applications.

Given their goal to have a fully carbon-neutral fleet within 20 years, EQS designers have introduced a 'modular' construction method likely to be followed in future battery-electric vehicles.

Helped by exceptional aerodynamics and lightweight components (including a world-beating Cd value in a production car from 0.20), it has an operating range up to 770 kms (WLTP), power output of up to 385 kW and a quoted top speed limited to 210km/h.

Electrical consumption is 19.1-16.0 kWh/100km and 20.0-16.9 kWh/100km for the 450+ and 580 4MATIC+ models respectively. Available fast-charging systems include one that delivers an extra 300kms (WLTP) power in 15 minutes.

With price not likely to be known until closer to arrival here, Ciaran Allen, sales manager for Mercedes-Benz in Ireland describes EQS as "the embodiment of everything Mercedes-Benz represents in terms of luxury, comfort, safety and specifications," adding that its modular build and aerodynamic construction makes it "a mould-breaker many of whose features will be seen in future EQ models".

@Daragh_Keany

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