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2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive Review

On Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

The sandwich floor at the bottom of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class first appeared with the introduction of the A-Class in 1997. At the time, Mercedes stressed that the floor’s design was for crash safety, allowing the engine and driveline components to slide under the forward occupants in an accident. To the current point, the Germans said this design would one day be suitable for fitting alternative powertrains in mainstream cars – like batteries for an electric vehicle.

2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class

It took 17 years, but the evolution of that design exists today in the fully electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The result is a fine electric car with one major flaw. We’re talking about the absolutely confounding charger. Two cords emerge from either side of a box containing about 10 pounds of electronics, a three-prong plug at one end, the J1772 charger at the other. The problem is that the prong cord is roughly 18 inches long, so if an outlet is more than that high off the ground the plug has to support the weight of the electronics box. Countering that, the charger cord is coiled, and its tensity tugs on the 10-pound box unless you can park the car right up next to the outlet. Since Mercedes’ instructions nix extension cords, we recommend public chargers.Even when parking right next to an outlet in our home garage, we have to crack the owner’s manual to decode the flashing lights on the charger box. It is as intuitive as the Wookie language.

Plus, there’s no onboard monitoring system. When the car is off, the only in-progress indicator is on the external charger. On the contrary, the Volkswagen e-Golf has a readout in its gauge cluster that tells you how much range remains and how long until the battery is fully charged – even when the car is completely powered down. There are also indicator lights beside the car’s port. The B-Class ED requires you to put the key in the ignition and turn to the accessory position to determine the range.

The EPA rates the B-Class’ range at 85 miles, but we only manage 67 after a full charge. Mercedes says the vehicle factors in the habits of the previous user. It was delivered to us with a 67-mile range, and after five days of mixed driving and three charging sessions it still topped out at 67 miles. You can press a button on the center console to unlock 15-percent more capacity from the battery. That would still only get us to 77 miles, and using that Easter egg diminishes the ultimate service life of the battery.One more glitch: the price. Most of the reason we relish the B-Class Electric Driveis because we relish electric cars, period. Base price is $41,450, and our tester has luxury options that run it to $52,930 out the door. The only competition at that price is the BMW i3, which starts at $42,400, but the Bimmer is so incredibly chic that it feels like it’s in a totally different class.

Back to the e-Golf, then: the SE trim is $28,995, the SEL Premium is $35,595. With the B-Class, it’s hard to justify the tariff for a slightly nicer interior, fractionally more headroom and cargo space, and less range. And frankly, if Chevrolet can really deliver on the price and range estimates for the Bolt, then then the i3 is the only EV left to consider and this discussion is over.

We have a lot of good things to say about the B-Class EV, but they’re the same good things we say about most electric cars. The B-Class is a charmer, but so are all its cheaper, easier-to-charge competitors.

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