Times they are a changin’. Until mid-2016, no Malaysian had successfully sued for sexual harassment at the workplace. Last month KLIA’s immigration service was voted best in the world. Now, driving a Mercedes C350e could well be a gesture of rebellious, antiestablishmentarianism.

Her name is Asmah Mohd Nor, a Tabung Haji employee. It was the Skytrax World Airport Awards as voted by travellers. And last but not least, retail fuel prices have already gone up two consecutive months this year (RON 95 finished off 2016 at RM 1.90 per litre. By January it was RM 2.10 and RM 2.30 in February). BN’s expeditious Strategic Communications Team were of course on hand to allay outrage, noting that while crude oil was getting cheaper by the day, the refinement process itself was not. Grating news by any account. So what’s a poor rich man to do?

May we suggest a sensational response in the form of Mercedes Benz’s C350e plug-in hybrid. With a purely electric range of 31km, you could easily drive from the August Man office in Kelana Jaya to Pavilion KL just 20km away. Then plug-in to a wall socket, do a spot of shopping, have a morsel of lunch and within two shakes courtesy of Mimi the fleshly masseur, be driving back without so much as kindling gasoline fumes. That’s an exageration of course. Topping up to a full charge actually takes less time. Two-and-a-half hours from a public charging point or 90 minutes if you’ve bought the RM7,500 wallbox. In other words, you could be driving to and from the office without ever touching the petrol engine. Then again, how many car parks have conveniently located wall sockets? A bridge to cross when you get there.

This recalcitrant W205 C-Class variant comes locally assembled in three trim levels, ranging from RM 289,888 to RM 299,888. Powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, it makes a healthy 208 hp and 350 Nm of torque. It’s seditious streak comes in the form of an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission, offering dissident drivers an additional 80hp and 340Nm. The C350e’s anarchic potential on full battery is, quite frankly, an astounding 130 km/h for a car weighing 1.7 tons. Radical elements among our readership will be pleased to know with combustion and battery united, this car sends an eyeball-popping 600Nm and 275hp to the rear wheels.

On paper that is. 600Nm of torque doesn’t exactly ring hollow, powering from standstill to 100km/h in only 5.9 seconds and topping off at 250 km/h. Its just not the hot-hatchy experience your instincts might suggest. No real world ophthalmological emergencies to worry about then.

Golfers among you will be glad to know that while the lithium-ion sits under the boot floor creating a minor ledge, space is only reduced from 475 litres to 335 litres. They’ve placed the  100kg water-cooled battery here to magnify crash safety and maximize driving dynamics. Among regular assistance systems like Attention Assist and Collision Prevention Assist, are plus points like Airmatic self-levelling suspension, pre-journey climate control, and a haptic accelerator. The last two features were previously seen only on the S500e.

The former allows owners to pre-set a departure time, so the car starts-up and cools down the cabin automatically. You can do this in-vehicle or from a smartphone. Where else the haptic pedal is a clever driving aid. Say you’re in Electric Mode and you need a little more juice. You’ll feel a pulse in your right foot as you depress the accelerator pass a certain point, signaling maximum electric performance is being delivered. If you continue with pedal to the metal, the combustion engine kicks in for more power. In Eco Mode, the driver gets a double-pulse to say, “We’re going downhill, get your foot off the pedal so the engine’ll do a bit of energy recovery”. Brilliant stuff, especially with the transition between engine and electric drive being smoother than Curling ice. 

So if one’s pockets are deep enough for such a magical car, even if it does an epic 2.1 litres per 100km combined, would fuel prices really play into the buying decision? During the Arab oil embargo of 1973 –  courtesy of another Arab-Israeli war – major oil companies got the shock of their lives when their most lucrative oil fields were quickly nationalized. Suddenly, they weren’t in control of the taps anymore. Gasping to stay afloat, there were more than a few heat-of-the-moment decisions. Gulf Oil attempted to purchase the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Mobil bought the classic American retail enterprise Montgomery Ward. Exxon decided they were going to make electric cars. An Oxford educated chemist called M. Stanley Whittingham invented the first lithium battery for them. Unfortunately, pure lithium metal lights on fire when exposed to air. It takes seven more years before the providentially named John B. Goodenough solves the explosions by embedding lithium in graphite. The solid-state physicist called it the lithium-ion.

When the war fizzled out, it was back to business as usual and funds were rerouted to drilling more wells. No oil company cares for your ozone, your environment, your well being. If they can get away with raping a region for all it’s worth, they will. Just ask Nigerian tribal king Emere Godwin Bebe Okpabi and 40,000 of his community. They’re suing Royal Dutch Shell for devastating pollution that’s made ground water cancerous on their ancestral lands. Previous protests were militarily quelled by the Nigerian army, turning the Ogoni homeland into a war zone. He’s taken his gripes to a London high court because he says the Nigerian judicial system is itself too polluted to offer a fair hearing.

Perhaps this car truly represents something more than the sum of its parts. Does it relieve our dependence on fossil fuels? By a smidge, sure. Can it offer a cleaner burn? Well lab-based fuel efficiency tests report the C350e emits only 48g per kilometre of CO2. Admittedly, it’s hardly a panacea to anyone’s problems with electric mileage that’ll probably be obsolete by the year’s end. But if you asked if it’s a step in the right direction; does it get us closer to the dream of clean transportation? Might we one day tell irresponsible big wigs to go stuff themselves?

That’s an easy, rather stylish, yes.

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