Gamble? 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Bets Are In

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric crossover is coming to America, we hop inside for a ride.

By Matthew Askari | November 08, 2013
When you're the largest luxury automaker in the world, your risks are metered. But as any titan of industry will tell you, you don't get to the top without gambling. For Mercedes-Benz, the latest gamble will be arriving next year, in the form of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric crossover. When it hits dealerships during the middle of next year, it will be the automaker's first electric car sold in the United States, its smallest crossover, and a model that Mercedes will be watching closely, to say the least. But the winds of change have already begun for Mercedes: The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class represents the first deviation for the automaker, as it offers its first front-wheel drive car, one that is even smaller than the C-Class. We expect the all-new CLA-Class to do very well, and in the case of the B-Class, there should be even less hesitation. While the electric crossover will be new in America, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class (non-electric) has already sold more than 250,000 units in worldwide markets since 2011. Crossovers are also a burgeoning segment, with America's appetite seemingly insatiable. And while pure-electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf have been slow to take in America, the Tesla Model S--a player in the premium electric segment-- is very much the car du jour.

What You Get

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric crossover uses a Tesla-developed electric motor and battery pack, one that has been detuned to better fit the needs of the B-Class. What exactly do you get? A crossover that can fit five if need be, has ample storage room, and a triple-digit range of 115 miles on a full charge. Charging is also relatively quick. Mercedes engineers say plugged in to a standard U.S. 240 volt outlet, you can get a range of 60 miles in less than two hours. The 130 kW motor equates to about 175 horsepower, and Mercedes says the small crossover sports a 0-60 mph time of 7.9 seconds. The automaker has electronically limited the speed to 100 mph, to help ensure a longer range. Considering the B-Class electric isn't exactly a track vehicle, and 100 mph is far greater than any legal speed you can go in the U.S., it seems reasonable.
Advanced safety technology such as the automaker's radar-based Collision Prevention Assist and adaptive braking assist systems will also be standard equipment. Having the battery mounted beneath the center of the vehicle means the battery pack--and its contents--will be safer in the event of an accident. The convenient placement also has the advantage of offering the same amount of cargo and interior room as the non-electric B-Class.

Our Ride

Along with a small select group of media, we recently were taken for a ride of Mercedes-Benz's newest offering in Stuttgart. While we weren't manning the wheel, there's a lot we can tell from our preview. First off, the 2015 B-Class electric crossover doesn't have some of the quirky, odd characteristics sometimes found on electric cars. Its single-speed gearbox keeps things straightforward, and the whisper-quiet cruise around town was relatively smooth and easy. There's a little noise, a motor hum that is artificially added to ensure pedestrians can hear the crossover coming. While four of us were sitting in the B-Class comfortably, a third could have squeezed into the second row. Mercedes says the B-Class electric is a true five-seater, although three adults in back will become intimately acquainted, or at least their shoulders will. While slightly smaller than the C-Class, the B-Class has at least the same interior room, thanks to its crossover body and styling.


While Mercedes-Benz is venturing into smaller segments, the automaker felt pressure to make the B-Class a true Mercedes, or at least match up to customers' expectations. Inside, a free-floating media screen located above the center stack represents the automaker's modern interior design language. Three large round center air vents look sporty, and overall the materials have a premium look and feel. While it's clear you're not in a six-figure S-Class, it's also clear that you're in a Mercedes. Other features such as attractive door sills, and--leaving the interior for a moment--LED daytime running lights, add to a premium feel. Playing a game of journalist-musical-chairs, I ended sitting behind my original front-passenger seating position, and found both positions to be comfortable and sufficiently roomy.


During our loop around Stuttgart, our driver--the head of Mercedes-Benz electrical vehicle testing--managed to accelerate after an opening in traffic, to demonstrate the B-Class electric's relative quickness. The detuned Tesla motor has also been limited somewhat in the first 15-20 mph range so as not to jump off the line, and to better deliver power delivery and range. But once you get past the initial push, Mercedes really "let it go." While not a sports car by any stretch, the B didn't feel slow at any point. It seemed to be quick enough to get up to speed quickly, and pass a car without difficulty or planning.
We'll be curious to test the braking once we can get behind the wheel in a few months, as regenerative brakes are notoriously "sharp," and can be slightly jarring if you've never driven an electric car before. But in our experience, it usually takes a few hours, or a day of driving to really get in tune so that you can brake smoothly. I should note that during our ride, the braking was very smooth, meaning the car can be driven as such.


Mercedes-Benz has carefully, meticulously, cultivated a brand image that somehow adds up to more sales than any other player in an exclusive market. The fear of losing that cachet in bringing smaller, less powerful and roomy, front-wheel drive cars such as the CLA sedan and B-Class crossover, seems to be for naught. Audi and BMW already have new, smaller, front wheel drive models coming, and in the case of the BMW i3, a premium electric crossover at that.
There will be those that will scoff at the newer models, which certainly break from the company's longstanding tradition of rear-wheel drive luxury cars. But markets evolve and shift, and if Mercedes-Benz wants to stay at the forefront of the luxury market, it cannot remain stagnant while the competition looks to enter new segments. Mercedes is hoping for an optimistic target "in the high four-digits" for the 2015 B-Class electric crossover's first year of sales. By using an existing architecture for its first electric entry in the U.S., the investment costs have already in large part been implemented, and in the end, Mercedes has much to gain. While the automaker was reluctant to offer pricing, we think the 2015 B-Class electric crossover will start under $50,000, possibly around $45k. We'll be curious to see how America will react. And apparently Mercedes will be too; Depending on how the 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric is received, could determine whether we see other variants here too.

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