Hey guess what, Driven is back powered by Petronas Primax! My name is Hafriz Shah and then there’s this guy. We’ve kept you waiting but for 2017 Driven is going to be bigger, better and much more critical than ever before So no more fooling around. This time it’s about finding the absolute best cars you can buy right here in Malaysia. For the season opener we’re going to compare two new plug-in hybrid sedans. The Mercedes-Benz C350e and the BMW 330e. The Es mean electric and these plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs are supposed to do, well, pretty much everything. Fast, exciting to drive, comfortable and efficient. Problem is, there’s only two of these around and while the natural third option would be the Audi A4, that car still a CBU unit without the EEV tax exemptions that these two enjoy.So it’s just too underpowered and under-specced to really compete. So instead of bringing the Audi here just to come in last, we have something a little left-field. Introducing Adian! Hey everybody, so let’s welcome the Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI I know it’s not a hybrid and it’s not a premium car like these two, but I believe it has a whole lot to offer for a lot less money. And face it, everyone loves a great deal! In this episode we will compare the cars’ styling, interior practicality and quality before taking them out to see how they drive. We will also have a drag race to see which one’s the fastest as well as find out if the plug-in hybrid is indeed quicker than a conventional petrol version of the same car. We have all that and more, so sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy the show. Welcome to Driven 2017! The Mercedes-Benz C350e is the most powerful, most advanced PHEV in this class Its 2.0 litre hybrid offers a total system output of 279 hp and a staggering 600 Nm of torque.Mercs aren’t supposed to be cheap and this one certainly isn’t at close to RM300k. While the F30 BMW 3 3eries may be showing its age now, this 330e version is far from outdated. It has a similar 2.0 litre plug-in hybrid setup as the Mercedes, but with a lower output of 252 hp and 420 Nm. Still, at under RM250k, it’s far more affordable than the C-Class. The Volkswagen Passat makes do with a normal 2.0 litre turbo engine with 217 hp and 350 Nm. With its quick shifting dual-clutch DSG, it’s just as quick as a rest and whatever savings you can get with the help of electrification the Passat is nearly RM100k cheaper to buy in the first
place, so clearly the smart money’s on the VW. First things first, looks. The C-Class is a great combination of sporty and classy, but personally I don’t quite like all these blue bits on the e version.What I do love are the large 19-inch AMG wheels and this whole mini S-Class look. It’s got to be the prettiest one here right? Well, that depends on who you ask. I’ve always been a 3 Series guy and this F30 LCI really does it for me. It’s not as showy as the Merc but it’s alright. And upfront it’s low and wide, it has all the right proportions. There’s a reason why this class is called the 3 Series class. This is the real deal. The Passat may be just a Volkswagen but in the design department it’s all kinds of premium.You could cover up the badges, call in an Audi and I’m sure that no one would bat an eyelid. It’s the same back here. Smooth, suave. It’s like wearing a tailored designer suit against the Merc’s more ostentatious “hey, look at me, I’m here!” See what I mean? And while the Passat is technically from a class below, it’s the most practical car here. It doesn’t have to carry large battery packs so it’s boot is absolutely massive Close to 600 litres. That’s almost twice as big as the Mercedes, which has a stepped floor to fit in the batteries. For carrying large items, this one is severely compromised. BMW had to raise its luggage bay too, but at least the floor is flat and the cargo room is slightly larger than the C-Class at 370 litres. But unfortunately it’s the only one here without foldable rear seats, making it the least practical overall. But all that changes when you look at rear seat space. The C-Class may look spacious but that’s just because they made the seat base so short. Overall it’s the tightest car here in the back and because this car has a panoramic sunroof, headroom is also quite limited.But on the plus side it’s the only car here with rear sunshades. Many people don’t realise this, but the 3 Series has better rear seats compared to the C-Class. For example the seat bottom over here, it’s in proper length so it’s more supportive and more comfortable. Overall the legroom and headroom back here is better than the Mercedes. The BMW may be bigger than Mercedes but compared to the Volkswagen, they pale in comparison. I mean check it out, look at this place. It’s a vast amount of space – it’s huge! You could very comfortably fit three adults in this car and they would not
complain. The other two cars? I don’t think so. They’d be out of it in minutes.Up here the BMW is starting to show its age. After all it’s over five years old already. With the recent facelift it has added additional piano black trim and chrome trim but at the end of the day the other two cars still look better in terms of dashboard design. And yes I’m also talking about the Volkswagen. Well see for yourself. The Passat has proper premium car credentials, especially in here.It has features that are missing from even so-called true blue premium cars such as this full LCD active info display. I think it’s really really cool and the build quality, check this out, nice and soft. If that isn’t premium, I don’t know what is. This. This is proper premium. The Passat may use good quality materials but the Mercedes-Benz is in a different class. Everything you can touch feels expensive Like this metal trim, real wood and of course, high quality leather. Just a few years ago you’d need an S-Class for an interior that’s anywhere near as special as this. As far as interiors, go there’s absolutely no contest. The Mercedes is the best. If you think that I have been a little bit too harsh on the 3 Series, well that’s about to end now because this is what driving this car is all about. It’s the reason why a lot of people have bought this car and the reason why I bought one as well.It’s just the way it drives. It’s beautiful. The steering feels meaty in your hand and the way it takes corners, it’s way more alive than the other two. In this you feel as part of the driving experience rather than being brought along for a ride. Yes, you can feel the weight from the hybrid system compared to say the 330i, especially around faster corners. This car weighs about 200 kg more but having said that it is still at the top of its class when it comes to handling. By a long shot. Trust me. Now no one’s really going to argue with that the 3 Series has always handled well and the 330e is no different. so this Mercedes-Benz C350e is a bit of a revelation. Why? Well because it’s not very good to drive.Don’t get me wrong, though. The C-Class has gotten closer and closer to the 3 Series in terms of handling, and this latest W205 model is the closest one yet. But this particular version doesn’t quite do it justice. See, this C350e needs to carry along the entire load of batteries and electric motors, so it weighs a full 300
kg heavier than the C300. And that of course affects the car’s steering response, body control, everything. Everything becomes worse! On top of all that is the Airmatic system that comes with this car as standard.Now, this makes the car feel a lot more comfortable than my own C300 which, by the way, is really really stiff. But at the same time it makes this car feel very very loose so overall in handling terms it’s a long way off the 3 Series. While the other two German cars are rear-wheel drive, the Passat is a front wheel drive machine so there’s a fundamental difference in the way it drives. It is a bit less involving, a bit less natural in the way it takes corners. But that’s not to say its handling is bad because no, this is a lot of fun. It practically has the full Golf GTI Mk7 mechanicals, even down to the XDS electronic diff, so it can really pull itself into and out of corners way quicker than any other D-segment sedans can.And of course it’s over 300 kg lighter than the fat Merc and BMW so that means it’s a lot more agile. It’s as close as you can get, I would say, to a VW sedan GTI. I wouldn’t say it’s better than the BMW though. That one has a little bit extra but it is close. And as for comfort, one of the things that got carried over from the Golf GTI is the DCC adaptive suspension system, and that really is a game changer for the Passat. It corners as sharp as can be and it is pretty much very comfortable when you want it to. For 50 grand more in the BMW, you don’t get this. Sadly, yes this 330e Sport or even the more expensive M Sport version doesn’t come with adaptive suspension, something which is offered as standard with the 330i.So what you get is something that’s fixed. You cannot make it harder or you cannot make it softer. Fortunately though it is already well rounded so you get a very good balance between good handling and a good ride comfort As for the Mercedes, the very thing that made this car such an underwhelming experience to drive makes it a lovely car to cruise in. It rides beautifully with this Airmatic air suspension. It’s way better than any other W205 I’ve been in and it’s easily the best riding vehicle here. Just don’t ask me how much it’s gonna cost to replace! This newfound ride comfort fits really well with the C-Class character. It’s very refined, it’s very relaxing to drive. I mean it’s really quiet in here. You don’t hear any wind noise, you don’t
hear any road noise and most of the time you’re not even sure whether the engine is on or off. It’s that quiet. Mercedes-Benz has always done premium really really well and with this one, it gets all the small things just right. The BMW, well this has long been a weak point for the F30.The wind noise is worse than the Mercedes and in terms of road or tyre noise it’s borderline unacceptable for this class. The Passat as you know is measured by different standards to that of the two premium cars, but in terms of refinement it comes closer to the Mercedes than it does the BMW and in my eyes, as far as I’m concerned, that is pretty amazing. On to the engine, the C350e isn’t all that different to a petrol-only C-Class. I mean it’s not especially powerful or torquey in any special way and that’s really disappointing because I expected a lot more. I mean, this car is supposed to have 600 Nm! It’s the same with the BMW you don’t really get that big kick in the back from something that’s supposedly this powerful, so instead of a big shove, what you get is a slight push to move you along. I’m not saying that it is slow but it’s definitely not as quick as the 330i. What’s obvious though is this 8-speed ZF transmission. It feels better than the 7-speeder on the Merc. The gear shifts are smoother and they’re quicker as well. It’s almost like a dual-clutch transmission. The BMW’s plug-in hybrid system has a small advantage too.The 330e has a slightly longer EV range of around 25 km in the real world and the engine kicks in in a more seamless manner compared to the Mercedes. I’m less aware that this is a hybrid, which to me is a good thing. To its credit, the Mercedes does have a haptic throttle pedal that’s missing in the BMW. It’s tell you how much performance you can ask from the electric motors without calling up the engine. This is a really handy feature if you want to maximise Drive in full EV mode. For the Volkswagen it’s not a PHEV, so it feels exactly as powerful as the spec sheet says it should be. No more, no less.And that means it’s not short on speed. This combination of a high torque turbo engine and quick shifting DSG will be familiar to hot hatch owners, and in this car it almost feels unnaturally quick. The dual-clutch box is still a bit hesitant and jerky in traffic but once you get moving it’s brilliant. And before you say anything this car comes with the six-speed wet clutch DSG so there
should be no worries. Not satisfied with how the plug-in hybrids felt on the road, we arranged a drag race to see just how fast the cars are in the real world against each other. They may not feel as fast, but are they actually quicker than the Passat? Time to find out Right from the start, the Merc’s extra power and torque took immediate effect and it won the race by a comfortable margin.The Passat came in last but it was very close to the BMW at the end. Closer than its official figures would suggest. Well okay so the Mercedes-Benz won that race after all, so the spec sheets are not lying to us. But still, it did not feel like I had anywhere near as much as 280 hp or 600 Nm of torque, and in fact my own C300 feels just as fast and this one only has 245 hp and 370 Nm of torque.Well since we have both cars here right now let’s settle this once and for all. Petrol versus PHEV – let’s get it on! As it turns out the C350e has a small advantage on takeoff thanks to its instant torque of its electric motor. Beyond that though, the C300 was just as quick despite the significant powerful output claims. And if we had run the race with insufficient battery charge, both the Mercedes C350e and BMW 330e would have lagged behind because their engines are down tuned to C250 and 320i levels, with a lot more weight to carry.So if performance really isn’t a strong advantage of PHEVs, that only leaves one thing, fuel economy. We tested the cars’ efficiency with Petronas Primax 95 over everyday driving conditions. As the winning formula for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Team, this fuel cleans the engine, creates finer fuel spray and reduces friction, ideal for modern direct injection turbocharged engines such as these. As expected, the petrol-only Passat use the most fuel here, returning 11.2 kilometers per litre. Between the two plug-in hybrids, the BMW 330e came second best with 14.1 km/litre, while the Mercedes-Benz C350e averaged 15.6 km/litre. For comparison, the C300 averaged just 10.8 km/litre in our hands, so the PHEV is over 40% more efficient than a standard model.Near in mind though that we charged the PHEVs’ batteries to full for this fuel test. Without charging, numbers will be much lower. Okay before we wrap up we’re going to do something new. We’re going to point out the five things that we like or don’t like about our cars. Starting off with the Merc, it’s the only car here with
autonomous emergency braking so that’s really good. It also has a 360-degree surround view cameras, the others only have a simple reverse camera.Inside you get a nice premium audio system and electronic steering adjustment – really nice. What’s bad is a tight driver foot well – that is bad conversion to right hand right there. Eorse still is the COMAND system that may look like an iPad but it’s not a touchscreen and the BMW iDrive is way more intuitive to use. As for the BMW its 5 year unlimited mileage warranty and free service is still the best in the business. There’s also the BMW Concierge Service that you can call – again an industry first here in Malaysia. Bad points – this old-school handbrake. It’s 2017, move all already. Back here there’s no power boot. Even the Passat, which is RM60k cheaper has one. Lastly the fuel tank is tiny at 41 liters, so the cruising range is very limited. The Merc has a 50 litre tank, and the VW, 66. The Passat, the exhaust tips are both fake! The real pipes point downward. Lame. There’s no sunroof either. Yes, completely useless in our weather, but still nice to have.Next it’s the only one here without run-flat tyres. But that’s a good thing because it gives you a proper spare tyre. And you know how much the tyres on the Mercedes cost? Double the price of this. The driver’s seat has a massage function as you drive along – that’s awesome. and this active info display – that’s just so damn cool All right, decision time.Is it going to be the BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Volkswagen? Well it really depends on how you value brand image. The Volkswagen Passat here is solid proof that if you’re looking for something premium it does not have to have a premium badge. It does about 90 95 percent of what the Mercedes and BMW can do at 50 or even 100 thousand ringgit less. It is also the most spacious car here and while it might not be quite as quick as the other two it’s more than fast enough for most people. If you’re looking at the logical choice of saving money up front rather than the long-term benefits of the PHEVs then the Passat is the car for you. Now that makes a lot of sense Adian, but the thing is to many of us, it’s very hard to look past the badge. Yup, and while the both of us agree that logically, objectively the Passat is the best buy here, it won’t even register to most people as a viable option in this class, so for the rest of us, it’s still between the BMW
and the Mercedes.And choosing between these two is a bit tricky. The BMW it is more affordable and it is more of a driver’s car. The Mercedes on the other hand, it is quicker and it is more economical. And coming back to the BMW it is definitely showing its age so that’s a negative point. And the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, it looks great from the outside, it is even better on the inside. It’s not going to be an option for driving enthusiasts, but that’s fine because that’s what the BMW 3 Series is for. The C-Class however has a much wider range of talents and for that it has to be the winner here. Well fair enough then. I guess it’s settled. If you’re going to think with your head rather than your heart, then the Volkswagen Passat is the car for you. If you’re going to go for the badge, then it has to be the Mercedes. And for those of you who put driving above all else, there’s always the BMW.Now thank you so much for watching Driven, we will see you next time! .