Except for a new model designation (Mercedes-Benz B250e), the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive is essentially unchanged for 2016.
Rumors have swirled for months about big changes coming for Mercedes-Benz’s electric hatchback, chief among them that the German automaker was going to drop the B-Class EV’s Tesla-sourced electric motor and battery in favor of a self-developed system. That may be coming, but not for the 2016 model year.
The only change the B-Class EV gets in its third year on the market is a new name.
It is now called the B250e. We’re not sure what the “250” signifies, as there’s no 2.5-liter gas (or diesel) burner onboard and none of the other numbers associated with the car add up to 250. But B250e is less a mouthful than “B-Class Electric Drive,” so we’ll happily accept the new moniker. Otherwise, the 2016 B-Class EV is powered by the same 132-kilowatt, 177-horsepower electric motor and 28-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that debuted in the 2014 model year, both supplied by Tesla Motors.
Inside, the 2016 B250e looks like a real Mercedes for the most part, with some premium materials and a suite of safety, interior and infotainment upgrades available on the options list. The B-Class EV provides good 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. Luggage and cargo space are also good, as the battery pack is under the floor and doesn’t use space inside the vehicle.
Despite its unique nature, the B250e has some clear shortcomings that should be taken into account by shoppers. The EPA-rated range of 87 miles is just mid-pack for modern EVs. Most of the extra power the B250e stores in its hefty 28 kWh battery pack is used to give the nearly 2-ton hatchback its impressive acceleration. There is a standard range-extending charging option than adds up to 15 miles of travel, but Mercedes warns owners not to use it very often because it shortens battery life. And despite that vaunted Teutonic efficiency, the B250 isn’t very efficient in its use of power. On our Edmunds EV testing loop, a 2014 B-Class EV traveled an impressive 105 miles before it ran out of juice, but it used nearly 50 percent more energy than did a Volkswagen e-Golf along the same roads.
Interior surfaces are an issue, too. They appear to be 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 B250e makes optional 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 B250e’s competitors. Its closest rival, the 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 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 2016 Ford Focus Electric and the Nissan Leaf lack the B-Class EV’s upscale vibe but perform similarly in most other respects.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e comes in just one configuration: a four-door hatchback with seating for five passengers.
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 a 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 EV’s 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. Mercedes-Benz also offers a trio of mbrace system enhancements: Connect, which enables remote locking and diagnostics, a vehicle finder and a host of smartphone-based services such as movie show times and airline flight information; Concierge, which includes traffic, weather and turn-by-turn route guidance; and Entertain, for a variety of streaming radio and music services.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e is powered by a front-mounted 132-kilowatt electric motor connected to a lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor. Both are supplied by Tesla Motors. The motor’s output, which translates to 177 hp and 251 pound-feet of torque, is delivered to the front wheels.
The EPA estimate for the 2015 B250e is 87 miles on average before running out of juice, a figure that translates to 85 MPGe in the city and 82 MPGe on the highway. We expect the 2016 B250e will receive the same ratings. The range-extending feature gives the B-Class EV an additional 15 miles, but Mercedes recommends that you use it only occasionally to prevent premature battery degradation.
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 B250e’s efficiency at 40 kWh of electric power used for 100 miles of driving. For comparison, the BMW i3 has a rating of just 27 kWh/100 miles.
During Edmunds testing, a 2014 B-Class EV sprinted from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 6.7 seconds. That’s about 2 seconds quicker than the average electric vehicle and 1.2 seconds faster than the official Mercedes-Benz claim. The only EVs we’ve tested that are quicker are the BMW i3 (6.6 seconds) and the Tesla Model S (4.4 seconds).
Standard safety features on the 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e 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 standard mbrace system includes automatic collision notification, roadside assistance 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 EV came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, a few feet longer than average for an electric car.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e 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.
The 2016 B250e delivers spritely 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 more than 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 B250e 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.