Technically the Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid is a smart step forward: the turbo-diesel E250 CDI sedan was launched a couple of months ago, with the addition of electric-assist.
The electric motor allows it to burn less fuel, emit fewer exhaust nasties, go quieter and quicker. Cleverly, it will sometimes even sail along at 100kmh on electric power alone.
So forget the pure diesel E-Class, then? As I said ''technically''. As a real-life proposition, it's not so clear.
The Hybrid costs $23,500 more and burns, per kilometre, just 0.6 litres less per 100km; so basically you'd have to run this thing non-stop for years to offset the price premium.
Yet from a first drive, I'd suggest the Hybrid still has a place. If you have green intentions, it's a good choice; while Benz's standard diesel acquits itself well already, the electric-assist car is better still, with fewer emissions.
Also, supplementing the economic argument is an emotional ingredient.
The E300 BlueTec is that rare thing, a hybrid that is wholly enjoyable to drive. The twin-turbo four-cylinder is hardly deficient to start with, but electric assist makes it more seductive still, not so much on the power side - a 20kW enhancement is barely felt - but for torque, where the battery boost releases an additional 150Nm, almost from rest.
True, ''eco'' work is what it is really about, and this not only demands a certain soft-footed approach but also different footwear.
The small print in Mercedes' media material says best results come with a 16-inch tyre/rim package that stays in Germany rather than the admittedly good-looking 19-inch rims and low-profile tyres standard here.
The electric motor's maximum 0.8kWh output is enough for this E to run on electric power alone for short, sub-1km, low-speed bursts up to 16kmh, at which speed the diesel engine cuts in with a subdued yet still noticeable vibration.
Another fuel-saving trick comes at open-road pace; back gently off the throttle and the engine can shut down as part of a ''sailing'' function, apparently at speeds of up to 160kmh.
The gear take-up can sometimes be a bit abrupt as the car has to use a wet clutch from AMG rather than a torque-converter, but it's nice to run with a proper seven-speed gearbox, with a Sport mode, rather than a constantly variable transmission.
Benz's approach is intriguing. The use of lithium-ion batteries is a future-now step but the hybrid drive is done simply: Small battery, one electric motor, regenerative properties but no power feed into the engine as per the Toyota or Honda way.
The plus of such a compact electric-assist is space-saving: the entire battery array slips into a corner of the engine bay and, all up, the hybrid components - the motor, battery and electronic management system - weigh 100kg, elevating the kerb count to 1840kg. It feels weighty on tight roads, but as the E-Class is a solid car in its feel anyway, that's not so bad.
Its competition comes down to the Lexus 450h petrol electric which is $4000 cheaper but not as torque-rich, nor anything like as economical.
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