The B-class has a tough job: it must be a proper electric car and a true Mercedes-Benz at the same time. Its 132-kW electric motor pulls juice from a 28-kWh battery and makes 177 horsepower. A one-speed, direct-drive transmission drives the front wheels, and, in our testing, the B-class hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Its cabin isn’t S-class luxurious, but it’s certainly nicer than rivals from Nissan and Ford. The sole drawbacks are its 87-mile range per charge and an EPA rating of only 84 MPGe.
Overview: The Mercedes-Benz B-class, a subcompact hatchback with a slightly elevated seating position, is sold elsewhere in the world with gasoline engines, but the United States sees only the battery-powered B250e electric vehicle. Its 177-hp, front-mounted electric motor and its 28.0-kWh battery are good for an EPA-estimated range of 87 miles. Plugging into a 240-volt outlet can restore 60 miles of range in about two hours. The growing sub-$50,000 EV segment includes the BMW i3, the Kia Soul EV, the Nissan Leaf, and the Volkswagen e-Golf. Unfortunately for the B250e, all except the BMW boast a lower starting price and slightly better range. The new Chevrolet Bolt EV is priced similarly to the Benz but offers more than 200 miles of range; the upcoming Tesla Model 3 is planned to offer similar long-range abilities. Few entries can beat the cachet of the three-pointed star, though, and the B250e is everything a Mercedes-Benz should be—comfortable, well built, and quietly luxurious.
What’s New: The model debuted in 2014 as the B-class Electric Drive and has seen little change since. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have since joined the options list for $350 but require upgrading to either the Premium 2 or Premium 3 package, which brings a larger 8.0-inch infotainment display screen. For 2017, the car has adopted the simpler B250e name and now is slightly more affordable, as the base price has dropped $1550 to $40,825.
What We Like: The B250e’s upright driving position makes entry and exit a breeze and provides a crossover-like feel as well as good outward visibility. The cabin is stylish and upscale, although certainly not at the level of the more expensive C- or E-class models, which are truly decadent. The B250e’s ride is supple and well controlled, while handling is reasonably athletic, something few rivals can claim. Plastic paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel allow for on-the-fly adjustments to the B250e’s regenerative braking behavior. More aggressive settings recapture the maximum amount of electricity, while others allow the B250e to coast like a traditional gas-powered vehicle. Its base price is roughly $3000 more than that of a top-spec Nissan Leaf, but wouldn’t you rather have a Benz?
What We Don’t Like: Mercedes-Benz prestige aside, the B250e isn’t without flaws. Lazy response makes acceleration feel tepid in anything other than the range-robbing Sport driving mode, and although a zero-to-60-mph time of less than seven seconds isn’t slow among the EV ranks, don’t expect Tesla Model S–like performance. Also, the B’s rear seats, while easy to fold down, don’t lie flat, making it difficult to load bulky items. But the most significant drawback is its rated range of 87 miles. The similarly priced and sized Chevrolet Bolt EV boasts more than 230 miles per charge and, as a result, can travel a lot farther afield.