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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Within the electric-car mission, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive was conceived first and foremost to be logical and luxurious—and to conform with the standards of ride, handling, and responsiveness that you'd find in other base-level Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It definitely does that, from a performance standpoint, with strong performance and a confident driving experience that doesn't feel gimmicky in any way. But it's not as exciting to drive as some of the other small electric cars on the market, like the Fiat 500e or Chevrolet Spark EV—admittedly, both somewhat less comfortable and practical.
More info in our full review
More info in our full review
The Car Connection
Acceleration is strong; and as you'll find of nearly any electric car, you move quickly and silently, especially at lower speeds. The Tesla-supplied motor system makes 177 hp (132 kW), and delivers 251 lb-ft. And at 7.9 seconds to 60 mph, officially, the B-Class Electric is quicker than many crossovers.
As with most electric cars, there are multiple settings that allow you to get either a 'gliding' driving feel that's more 'normal,' or more aggressive regenerative braking that slows the vehicle quickly when you lift off the accelerator (possibly improving efficiency). Like Mercedes models for decades, the B-Class has 'E' and 'S' modes for the powertrain. While 'E,' for efficiency, provides a soft accelerator tip-in and a nice linear reaction to your right foot, you need to press farther to get the kind of snappy responsiveness that's tuned into some electric cars (no complaint there, as it's easier to drive efficiently). Switch over to 'S' and you get the more aggressive response in that first half inch on the accelerator.
Additionally, you need to go past the accelerator-pedal detent (like the 'kickdown' position in an automatic-transmission car) to get all 132 kW of output in 'E' (up at the detent you get 98 kW, then the full amount is delivered with a sudden surge), whereas with 'S' mode, you get not only a more aggressive calibration but the full 132 kW right at the detent—no need to 'kick down' past it.
With the available Radar-based Recuperation System, the B-Class offers four levels of regenerative braking: D (Drive), D+, D-, and D-Auto. D-Auto ramps up the regen depending on how close you are to a vehicle ahead, the slope of the road, and your driving behavior, while D+ provides less regen—a full ‘gliding’ experience, really—and D- gives more regen. While you're driving, you can click through the three regen modes with the paddle-shifters, or hold them down to access D-Auto.
A rather hefty (3,900-pound) curb weight and long wheelbase contribute to this tall hatchback’s settled ride and sense of poise. The E-Class keeps with that impression at lower speeds, or in higher-speed cruising, handling in a soft, stable way. So it's a bit surprising that its well-weighted steering comes more to life in switchbacks and on curvy roads, where the suspension reveals itself as sportier than first thought (the suspension has been recalibrated versus European gasoline/diesel models, and it rides more than an inch higher).
Braking is excellent for quick stops and medium-heft stops in suburban-boulevard stop-and-go, although we noticed that as we inched slowly ahead in an area with both near gridlock and frequent pedestrian crosswalks, low-speed braking precision isn't quite there—a little too grabby.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive doesn’t have the sport-sedan heart of a Tesla Model S or the boldness of an AMG product, but it feels much more eager than you might expect of a 'green' car.