Used 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive Review

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive beats most other EVs in luxury and refinement, and has even more standard equipment than before, but it doesn't match up well in real-world performance.




what's new

For the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class, the formerly optional navigation system, keyless entry and ignition and range-extending mode are now standard equipment. Mercedes has also expanded availability of the B-Class to all 50 states.

vehicle overview

It took a while, but Mercedes-Benz has jumped into the world of electric drive with its upscale, five-seat B-Class battery-electric model. And after a limited launch of the inaugural 2014 model it is making the 2015 B-Class Electric Drive available all across the U.S. The front-wheel-drive hatchback couples a powertrain built by Tesla Motors with Mercedes' usual array of high-tech standard features and options.

The B-Class Electric is powered by a 132-kilowatt (177-horsepower) electric motor connected to a 28-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, both of which are supplied by electric car pioneer Tesla Motors. According to the EPA, that combo is good for up to 87 miles of range. Recharging with a 240-volt power source takes fewer than 3.5 hours, Mercedes says, but that requires a dedicated 40-amp, 240-volt service. Lower amperage home charging systems will increase the recharging time. There is no quick-charging option for the 2015 B-Class E-Drive.

Inside, the 2015 B-Class Electric looks like a real Mercedes for the most part, with some premium materials and a suite of safety and multimedia features and interior and infotainment upgrades available on the options list. Unlike the cramped rear seating of the CLA sedan, which shares the same platform, the B-Class provides more headroom and legroom for four adults. It has seating for five, but the fifth passenger had best be on the small side if the rear-seat riders hope for a comfortable trip. There is a lot of luggage and cargo space for an EV, as the battery pack is underneath the floor instead of taking up space inside the vehicle.

Despite its unique nature, the B-Class Electric has some clear shortcomings that should be taken into account by shoppers. The EPA-rated range of 87 miles is just midpack for modern EVs. Most of the extra power the B-Class Electric stores in its hefty 28-kWh battery pack is used to give the nearly two-ton hatchback its impressive acceleration. There is a standard range-extending charging option that adds up to 15 miles of travel, but Mercedes warns owners not to use it very often because it shortens battery life.

The B-Class also lacks the efficiency found in some other EVs. On our Edmunds EV testing loop, a 2014 B-Class with the optional range-extension package, the same powerplant and range-extending feature now standard with the 2015 model, traveled 105 miles before it ran out of power, but it used nearly 50 percent more power than a Volkswagen e-Golf along the same roads. The EPA says the 2015 B-Class Electric will gobble 40 kWh of electricity every 100 miles, versus just 29 kWh for the 2015 eGolf. BMW's i3 electric car does even better, using just 27 kWh per 100 miles.

Interior surfaces are an issue, too. They appear high-quality but the seats are stiff and many dashboard pieces are made from hard plastic. It takes the expensive optional Premium Package to get some soft-touch material on the upper dashboard and door panels. It's also worth noting that the B-Class is missing some features — such as heated seats, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring and even an integrated garage-door opener — that are standard on many luxury cars.

Given the growing number of all-electric car models on the market these days, we think potential buyers would do well to check out some of the B-Class Electric's competitors. Its closest rival, the 2015 BMW i3, surprisingly roomy for a small car, earns our recommendation for its superior performance and efficiency, cutting-edge carbon-fiber construction and futuristic interior. We also recommend the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf for its premium and roomy interior and pleasing driving characteristics.

There are a few solid choices from more mainstream brands, too. The 2015 Nissan Leaf and the 2015 Ford Focus Electric lack the B-Class' upscale vibe but perform similarly in most other respects. And if a little bit of all-electric drive with a lot of gas-electric hybrid range and Mercedes quality would suit you just fine, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid could be worth checking out. It will offer almost 19 miles of all-electric range per charge, plus several hundred miles of conventional hybrid operation before it needs its gas tank refilled.

We like the concept of an affordable luxury EV, but the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric still has too many drawbacks for our wholehearted recommendation.




trim levels & features

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric is a four-door hatchback with seating for five passengers. It is offered in a single trim level.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, air-conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, MB-Tex (premium vinyl) upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way power lumbar support, seat memory settings for up to three drivers, 60/40-split folding rear seats, cruise control, front collision mitigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch display screen, Mercedes' COMAND interface and mbrace emergency communications, a navigation system with voice controls, and an audio system with in-dash CD and DVD player, a USB port and HD radio. The now-standard Range package includes a heated windshield, additional insulation in the roof and doors and deep-charging mode that makes it possible to eke out a few extra miles between recharges.

Most options are grouped into packages. The Premium package gets you radar-based self-adjusting regenerative braking, bi-xenon headlights, auto-dimming driver-side and rearview mirrors, a premium Harman Kardon audio system with satellite radio and iPod integration, an 8-inch color display screen and a Homelink garage door opener. The Interior package includes leather upholstery, heated front seats and upgraded interior materials. The Multimedia package includes a rearview camera and an SD card reader.

Stand-alone options include blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parallel parking system and a radar-based system that can adjust the B-Class' regenerative braking amount based on traffic conditions. Heated front seats, wood interior trim, the premium audio system and satellite radio also come as stand-alone options for 2015.



performance & mpg

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric is powered by a front-mounted 132-kilowatt electric motor connected to an underfloor-mounted lithium-ion battery pack. Both are supplied by Tesla Motors. The motor's output, which translates to 177 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, is delivered to the front wheels.

The EPA estimates the B-Class Electric can travel 87 miles on average before running out of juice. The standard Range package gives the B-Class EV an additional 15 miles, but Mercedes recommends that you use this feature only occasionally.

Recharging can take anywhere from 30 hours on standard 110-volt household current to 3.5 hours with the proper 240-volt charging station. The EPA rates the B-Class Electric's efficiency at 40 kWh of electric power used for 100 miles of driving (remember: the lower the number here, the better). For comparison, the BMW i3 has a rating of 27 kWh/100 miles and the e-Golf checks in with 29 kWh/100 miles.

During Edmunds testing, a 2014 B-Class sprinted from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds. That's about 2 seconds quicker than the average electric vehicle. The only two electric vehicles we've tested that are quicker are the BMW i3 (6.6 seconds) and the Tesla Model S (4.4 seconds).

safety

Standard safety features on the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, active front head restraints, frontal collision warning and mitigation, including automated braking, and a driver attention monitor. The mbrace system includes automatic collision notification, roadside assistance, remote lock control and stolen vehicle location.

Front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera and a blind-spot warning system are all available as options.

During Edmunds testing, a B-Class came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, a few feet longer than average for an EV.

Driving

The 2015 B-Class Electric delivers sprightly acceleration around town, and while head-snapping 0-30 times are one of the things EVs are noted for, the B-Class does it with more snap than most. This is no small feat considering the fact that its powertrain is tasked with moving a vehicle that weighs in at over 3,900 pounds. Different driving modes and adjustable levels of natural-feeling brake regeneration give the driver a choice of more energy-efficient or sportier performance.

That regeneration can be dialed-in by the driver using the three-position steering wheel-mounted paddle "shifters." It also can be left to the radar-based automated mode to decide for you what levels of regeneration will make the car work best and store the greatest amount of juice without running into the cars in front of it. The automated mode can let you navigate heavy traffic with only the rare touch of foot to brake pedal.

Once you get past the snappy acceleration, the driving experience in the B-Class Electric is pretty unremarkable. It's as quiet as you'd expect it to be, with no engine to generate noise and plenty of insulation, but seating comfort and ride quality aren't as good as we'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz in this price range. The seats are a bit firm and so is the ride, which largely interferes with an otherwise serene and quiet driving experience.

Interior

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric has the aesthetically pleasing interior you'd expect, especially when done up in two-tone color schemes and optional real wood trim. Design cues are typical Mercedes, from the circular air vents to the COMAND display screen perched atop the dash. That free-floating screen looks a lot like an afterthought, though, and some of the interior plastic is disappointing, too.

Front- and rear-seat headroom is acceptable, but taller occupants will have to slouch a bit. Rear-seat legroom is adequate for adults. There is plenty of cargo space, though, with a healthy 21.6 cubic feet behind the 60/40-split rear seats; fold down those seatbacks and, though they don't fold completely flat, you still have a generous 51.4 cubic feet of space to hold stuff.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.