Now let's talk competition. BMW's i3 is due at dealer showrooms around the same time as the B-Class Electric Drive. Both cars are expensive even by electric-vehicle standards: The BMW i3 will cost $41,350, and the B-Class Electric Drive, $41,450. Along with the $49,800 Toyota RAV4 EV they basically comprise the midrange price/feature category for EVs, with the Tesla Model S atop them all at nearly $70,000 to start.
Apparently, a lot of EV drivers are too young and rich to worry much about the price. However, these midrange models should offer more than lower-end options--from itty-bitty cars like the Smart electric drive (made by Mercedes-Benz and starting at $12,490) to the popular Nissan Leaf (starting at $35,020). Everyone would like longer battery range, of course, but better driving experiences would also help. The lower-end models tend to be so virtuous, they're barely tolerable to drive.
I tried the i3 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It definitely has some pep--and a range up to 110 miles. But its unusual design could turn off some people, and the the B-Class is bigger.
Now that BMW and Mercedes-Benz are entering the EV market, it's clear that the category has arrived. Available models span a wide range in both features and price. Mercedes-Benz has a chance to set a standard in balancing EV virtue with some of the brand's trademark pampering. I wish the range were longer, though. Watch this space for a full review of the B-Class Electric Drive's many intriguing technologies.
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