Mercedes-Benz’s first electric vehicle (EV), the EQC, aims for popularity through familiarity and delivers a very familiar, comfortable luxury experience
Oslo, Norway –
This is the Mercedes-Benz EQC and it’s the first full production, battery electric vehicle the brand has offered in its long history.
We know Mercedes as the pioneer of the automobile (lookup ‘Karl Benz’ for a clue) but curiously, as a midsized, luxury electric sport utility vehicle (SUV), the EQC already has three competitors on sale in Singapore, so the question we need to answer today is: Is the EQC compelling enough to make a sales splash?
Big three competition between the luxury Germans is nothing new, but in this case the runners are so very close you’d think the cars are all competing for a military contract decided common specification points.
EV SUV must be: just under five-metres in length, around 1.6-metres tall, have a range of at least 400km, pack 400hp with a motor for each axle enabling all-wheel drive.
In that sentence, I’ve literally described the Audi E-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and a little more obliquely, the Tesla Model X.
If you want to know about them, CarBuyer Singapore has naturally reviewed every single one of them already.
There’s a look of vague Mercedes SUV-ness about the EQC, but there are also obvious differences since the car is the tip of Mercedes’ electric spear, the shaft being that by 2025 there will no longer be any gasoline-only cars in its sales lineup.
In the meantime, the EQC certainly doesn’t look like any of the competitors, and the closest visual reference is the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
The rear end is very trendy, sporting taillights that extend into a full-width lightbar, just like the Lexus UX, Porsche Cayenne, but if that’s your sort of thing, the Merc scores extra fashion points with front LED daytime running light strips that also span the entire bonnet.
It’s interesting to look at, but not pretty, and keep in mind that you can’t call the I-Pace or E-Tron conventionally beautiful either. What the EQC does have going for it is novelty and high-tech silicon wow factor, which is just what an EV needs to stand out of the combustion engine crowd.
Inside, it’s the same in that you’ll recognise this is a Mercedes instantly with the now familiar ‘HD Cockpit’ dual 10.25-inch screens spanning the dashboard, the left screen is virtual driving instruments.
The right display is for the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment screen and is touch enabled, and you can also control it via the touch pad, or voice control. The irritation of constantly butting into conversations whenever it hears the word ‘Mercedes’ mentioned aside, it works decently well.
Like many European towns, Oslo’s town centre has the potential to beguile, confuse and generally misdirect drivers new to it. Its population is only 600,000, which makes for far nicer road users in general, but the roads aren’t exactly intuitive, easy to see through, or wide.
In other words, driving a 2.5-tonne 408hp SUV here isn’t ideal, but the EQC lives up to its three-pointed star badge and provides an unnaturally smooth experience that’ll soothe ruffled brows and loosen clenched fists/sphincters.
Its dynamic behaviour is extremely neutral, in normal driving it corners flat and doesn’t wallow, the steering simple to fathom, the ride quality exemplary, and the driver’s eyeline unblocked.
It’s thus relatively simple to thread through Oslo’s tarmac intricacies and constant roundabouts, far easier than we expected from a luxury, semi-performance SUV.
Mercedes says it paid extra attention to controlling NVH and lessening vibrations generated by the motors (they spin at up to 13,000rpm) and the results show it: The EQC is tremendously refined even for an EV.
Wind and tyre noise are almost non-existent, and there’s not even the electric whine that the competitors make on acceleration and lift-off. This is a car that could give an S-Class a run for the silent dollar.
Because the car was so quiet, and we’d been warned about Norway’s strict speed limits, there was absolutely no drama from the driver’s seat for much of the journey, and it was easy to forget about the power the EQC packs. Keep in mind that it’s only 0.2 seconds slower than a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupe, despite being 600kg heavier in the trade-off.
Powering the car are dual electric motors, one for each axle, providing all-wheel drive capability. A total of 408hp is par for the course, but the 760Nm total torque is considerably more than its competitors muster.
It endows the EQC with a truly locomotive-like acceleration. It’s not violent, there’s a velvet glove touch to its giant swell of torque, even when you’re in Sport mode and flooring it. The car gains speed with almost lackadaisical ease, the speedo numbers flicking by comically fast.
That electro punch is also paired with a lot of grip – Mercedes says the electric AWD system monitors power transfer up to 1,000 times a second in Sport mode for maximum traction – and even more poise.
Push the EQC hard and the limits start to show in understeer and wallow, as even active air suspension can’t let you pendulum 2.5-tonnes in sharp mountain switchbacks.
What the EQC is, is a tremendously refined, comfortable, easy-to-drive, and possibly the most accessible of all the luxury EV SUVs now.
It lacks the eager-leaper character of the I-Pace (which is fun but can be tiring) and E-Tron, but the flipside is important. Eager drivers might lament that, but that’s obviously not Mercedes’ tack here since it doesn’t have ‘AMG’ in the model name, and the bonus is that the EQC is perfectly suited for electrically easing the daily grind.
Range won’t be an issue either. Energy efficiency was almost as advertised, ranging from 20kWh/100km to 40kWh/100km (the latter over a short, uphill, urban route), so the very, very least you’ll wring from the 80kWh battery is 200km, and on our most efficient route (rural flowing A-roads) the car would have gone at least 400km on a single charge.
There’s even an automatic drive mode (‘D Auto’) that optimises the energy recuperation force automatically, factoring in traffic, speed limits, and road conditions. In other words, it’ll help make a hypermiler out of a leadfooted teenager.
So the more important question isn’t about how close the competition is, but how Mercedes buyers will react to the company’s first EV. Given the EQC is an embodiment of the Mercedes experience, but simply fuelled differently, we wouldn’t bet against it even in Singapore.
Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC
|Electric Motor(s)||408hp, 760Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 80kWh|
|Charge Time / Type||11 hours / Wallbox
40 minutes / DC 110kW fast charge
|VES Band / CO2||TBA / 0 gkm|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$400,000 with COE (estimated)|