The first EV from Mercedes-Benz, the EQC 400 4Matic, hits the proper high note on a new experience with the three-pointed star
OSLO, NORWAY - Emotion in this magazine usually means, “My sphincter puckered instinctively as the <insert high-performance car model name here>’s screaming X.X-litre W16 engine delivered XXX horsepower to the rear-wheels alone, and I nimbly applied a dash of backing the hell off the throttle, almost causing a huge power-off oversteer moment until the ESP saved my sorry ass out of turn three at the Nibelung Sudschleife.”
We’re sorry ICE (internal combustion engine) enthusiasts, the days of powering your emotions with thousands of tiny explosions per second are over.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC, the first EV to come from the inventor of the automobile, is ample proof. If you haven’t gathered as much from terms like ‘climate disaster’ being bandied about, well we hate to be the bearer of bad news.
In future, you won’t be able to buy a Mercedes with a gasoline engine alone, even the AMG models will be hybridised. Under the brand’s Ambition 2039 plan to help save the earth, by 2025 every Mercedes will have a 48V mild hybrid system at the very least, and by 2039, it aims for more than half of its sales to be from plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) or EVs.
The bad news is, it’s this or nothing. The good news is, if the EQC is anything to go by, the future is bright indeed. Being an ICE fan doesn’t make you an electric vehicle (EV) hater by default – the TGS Ed is one such example – but like anything new and relatively unknown, it’s what we don’t know or don’t understand that we fear the most.
(We love the BMW i3 as a city runabout... click HERE to read about our sojourn into JB in the little EV)
Luckily, the EQC is not an alien experience. The dissonance of going from an S-Class to an EQC is nothing compared to jumping from say, a Jaguar XJ into an I-Pace.
Ola Källenius, the king-in-waiting at Daimler AG, said so himself at the launch event, “There are no surprises with the EQC, it’s merely a market-timely EV that embodies the Mercedes-Benz brand promise.”
The EQC is a sports utility vehicle (SUV). Why, when the enthusiasts are crying out for a challenger to the Tesla Model S? SUVs still make up the fastest growing segment, makers infer that SUVs buyers might be more open to new things (our guess), and because it’s “a vehicle that we think will hit the luxury sweet spot in all markets,” adds Källenius.
And it’s not just Mercedes that thinks so – when the car arrives in Singapore in the first half of 2021 it’ll already have two closely-matched rivals on the ground: The Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace, which is already on sale.
(The Audi e-tron is a fabulous drive... click HERE to read about our punt through the twisties of the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road in Abu Dhabi)
All three are EV SUVs in largely similar size (mid-size-ish), weigh more than two-tonnes, boast more than 400km of quoted range, 400-ish horsepower via twin electric motors for all-wheel drive, 0-100km/h in less than six seconds and a top speed of less than 210km/h. No surprise that the Mercedes looks the most conventional, though we’d not call any of the three beautiful.
The EQC is actually based on the GLC (they have the same wheelbase), and looks it. As an SUV, it already scores current fashion points, and clocks in more with both a front and rear LED lightbar signature if that sort of thing’s important to you. ‘EQC’ badges in a different font and blue headlight highlights are the other specific touches the car packs.
The interior is recognisably Mercedes, with dual 10.25-inch display screens, though the EQC also has a unique metal rib trim zone circling the whole cockpit, and copper highlights on the air vents – sadly the pretty, magpie-attracting light-up air vents from the A- and B-Class aren’t here.
On the surface things are similar, but under the skin, there’s a whole new world going on, engineering wise. The motors have equal power, but the front motor is optimised for cruising and the rear for sporty work, and they draw their power from a 680kg 80kWh battery pack in the floor (for a lowered centre of gravity).
At roughly 2.5-tonnes kerbweight, the EQC has adaptive air suspension as standard to cope with the mass (the Audi and Jag are similarly hefty) and this is where a Mercedes signature – disguising weight – shines through.
Hop in and drive without peeping at any of the specs and it’s simply an ultra-refined Mercedes that happens to have no engine. Absolute silence is the the name of the game here, and there’s no perceptible whine from the inside – not even the ‘train slowing down’ hum you get when off-throttle in other EVs.
In fact, having been warned of the strict speed limits enforced in Norway, our first leg from Oslo Central north past some (unseen) fjords and the town of Honefoss had a complete and utter lack of drama.
For our jet-lagged, TGS-reporting brains it was perhaps a little too little stimulus, and only after 60km (yeah we’re slow that way) did we realise Mercedes has done this entirely on purpose.
You could drive the EQC for hours and not get tired, it merely swooshes along in silence, little wind or tyre noise, its weight adeptly masked, the steering accurate and relaxed. This thing gives an S-Class a big run for its refinement money, in fact.
But is there any fun to be had at all? At the very least, the EQC has the most torque around (760Nm) and that’s nothing to be sniffed at. The EV delivers a velvet-edged, locomotive-like punch that easily brings the limited 180km/h top whack into spitting range.
It goes like a train, but handles better than one, it’s actually quite agile and enjoyable to thread through a good set of roads. But it’s not for white-knuckle pushing, the 2.5-tonnes do eventually start to show you that the laws of physics are still in effect under the velvet.
And if you have range anxiety, there are worries about juicing out, either. Even with a swarthy, lead-footed journalist assaulting the lithium-ion cells, the EQC held up well and we reckon it’ll do at least 250km even if you’re a taxi driver who treats this electric gas pedal like a government-backed on-off switch.
Well-adjusted humans who aren’t in a rush will probably net 300km or more, and if you know nuts about the subtleties of hyper-miling, well Mercedes has your back too: There’s a ‘Max Range’ mode, coupled with a smart ‘D Auto’ mode that optimises coasting and recuperation based on the surroundings (topography, traffic, roads).
The final ownership experience when the car lands in Singapore is obviously TBC – it should cost at least S$400k with COE, and the EU 7.2kW standard wallbox means 11 hours charge time. Right now, if there was a EQC here, you could fast charge it via SP Group’s public DC fast chargers (they do 50kW) in under two hours.
With the EQC, Mercedes isn’t targeting enthusiast drivers and rightly so. They probably won’t buy an EV that soon – it’s the people who are currently driving a C or E-Class (or rather their GL derivatives) and looking for something new and with less eco-guilt, or those trading up to something newer and cooler (literally and figuratively).
While it doesn’t rock the boat, it is a product positioned exactly where Mercedes-Benz needs to be, and with an EV that says, subtly, “This is the Mercedes of the future.” After all, the enjoyment of a fuss-free, refined and technological advantageous solution is an emotion too.
STORY Derryn Wong
MERCEDES-BENZ EQC 400 4MATIC
Electric Motor(s) 408hp, 760Nm
Battery Lithium-Ion, 80kWh
Charge Time / Type 11hrs / Wallbox; 40mins / DC 110kW fast charge
Electric Range 445-471km
Top Speed 180km/h
Energy Consumption 20.3kWh/100km (avg.)
CO2 0 gkm