The EQA is the cheapest pure electric Mercedes, but it’s proof that the EV revolution is now unstoppable
SINGAPORE — Whether you like it or not, electric cars are here, and the latest to hit Singapore is the Mercedes EQA. (Strictly speaking it’s a Mercedes-EQ EQA, not a Mercedes-Benz EQA, but if you point that out to people they will politely mumble something about social distancing and back away from you.)
Come to think of it, the EQA is only the latest. These past two months a flurry of battery-powered cars have passed through CarBuyer HQ — the BMW iX3, Audi RS e-tron GT and the MG 5 EV, to name names. More came before them (including Mercedes’ larger EQC), and more still are coming.
By now it should be clear that the switch to electric cars is no longer a matter of debate. Only the speed of adoption has a question mark at the end of it, but Mercedes is pretty bullish about that. Claudius Steinhoff, the chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Singapore, reckons the brand will be all-electric here in 2030.
It’s clearly the EQA’s job to get that ball rolling. With a S$222,888 launch price (with Certificate Of Entitlement and net of all rebates and incentives), it’s the cheapest pure electric Mercedes, and will be for the foreseeable future, since the next models from the battery-only Mercedes-EQ label are all bigger.
The EQA itself is the electric counterpart to the GLA, the baby sport utility vehicle (SUV) that has seduced so many into the Mercedes fold, so you know big things are expected of it.
With all that in mind, what do you get for your money, and what does the future feel like when a Mercedes is your stepping stone to it?
Answers to these ahead, and more!
Let me guess, this is a “compliance car”?
Yes and no. Carmakers have painfully tough fleet emissions standards to meet in Europe, and pure EVs and plug-ins are now vital, so the EQA is a handy model for Mercedes to have. But it isn’t a GLA with its engine ripped out and a motor put in.
Mr Steinhoff says the current GLA was actually designed with a pure EV version in mind, albeit for a just-in-case scenario. He knows what he’s talking about because in a previous life he worked at Daimler’s product planning department.
Ok, so what’s under the skin?
The basic bones come from the GLA, but like most EVs the EQA has its batteries tucked away under the floor.
There’s a single 140 kilowatt motor (that’s 190 horsepower in our money) that drives the front wheels, and the bulk of the EV hardware lives under the bonnet: the inverter that converts the batteries’ DC to AC for the motors, the motor controller, the rectifier that converts AC to DC for charging, that sort of stuff.
Can people tell it’s electric?
Actually, the EQA does turn heads. That’s likely because of the light bar that spans the front, which is a striking feature that grabs the eye.
The black panel that replaces the front grille is another giveaway, since it tells the world that this is a car that doesn’t need to inhale lots of fresh air.
Another light bar adorns the EQA’s backside, and it’s weird how lots of EVs have them (light bars, not backsides). It’s like some sort of e-mobility secret handshake. For what it’s worth, it’s probably the EQA’s most interesting styling feature, and with that strip of bright red stretching across the tailgate, it’s impossible to mistake this for an ordinary GLA.
I won’t go into the various versions available in Singapore and what they offer (especially since Derryn did it so well here), but we drove the more expensive (by S$18,000) AMG Line version, which is visually a sporty step up from the base Progressive variant.
These interesting, drag-reducing 19-inch alloys are part of the bundle, as are sporty seats for the cabin.
Nice! Who doesn’t love sporty front seats?
Sad people. Everyone else ought to dig the EQA’s thickly-bolstered items, with red stitching (of course) and Artico upholstery, a synthetic suede that looks and feels more like it came from a racing paddock than a livestock paddock.
That said, the EQA is really similar to the GLA, right down to the column-mounted gearlever.
Hmm… Not sure what to make of that, really.
There’s good and bad, of course. The plus side is the current Mercedes cabins are a visual treat, especially at night, when their lovely cabin lighting really sets the atmosphere.
The twin-screen MBUX system does take getting used to, but once you finally figure your way around it (ask any 12 year-old for help), it’s easy to appreciate how good the graphics really are and how smoothly the system renders everything.
On the minus side, if you’re expecting your EV to feel like something from 2051, you’ll be disappointed. It’s all very Mercedes, meaning it’s contemporary, rather than futuristic.
Of course you do get displays specific to electric drive (fun fact, according to the MBUX screen roughly 10 per cent of the juice you put into your EQA will be for running the air-con alone), and there are slightly special bits such as this back-lit panel on the passenger side of the dash.
But otherwise, you’ll never forget who designed and made the EQA.
Does it drive differently from a GLA, at least?
Most definitely. The EQA is almost eerily noiseless, even for an electric car, and when it boots up and gets rolling it makes so little sound that you could hear a fly squeeze out a fart in the cabin. Some EVs hum or whirr a bit, but the Mercedes doesn’t do much of either.
Outside sounds are properly kept at bay too, and for a compact car the EQA is just stupendously silent. Like better-than-Bentley silent.
The ride quality isn’t commensurately plush (the Mercedes weighs more than two tonnes so it presumably has pretty beefy springs), and the low speed bumps seem to jostle it more than when you’re wafting along quickly, but the ride is much, much better than in the GLA, or the other cars that use Mercedes’ small car platform. All in all, the overall refinement is the single best thing about the EQA.
Does it accelerate like an EV?
Yes. It’s the strong, silent type, though it isn’t actually that fast. The response to the accelerator is instant, of course, and there are no gearchanges for the car to get through, so the EQA feels like it runs on Red Bull, but the acceleration is rapid and linear rather than frightening. There’s only so much 190hp can do.
Mind you, when the roads are slick with rain, the motor puts out so much torque that the front tyres struggle to keep it all tidy, so maybe 190hp is as much as you want from a front-drive EV.
What you really want is a seven-seat version, innit? If so, there’s next year’s EQB…
More powerful EQA variants are on the way, and they’ll have rear motors for all-wheel drive.
Meanwhile, the handling is serviceable at best, and nothing to fire up your inner Lewis Hamilton.
Instead, the EQA feels as if everything has been carefully calculated — the steering light enough to disguise the car’s mass, the springs hefty enough to just about keep all that weight under control — but for a small car, it’s definitely more relaxed than agile.
Does it have that one-pedal EV stuff I’ve heard so much about?
Sort of, yes. The cool thing about electric cars is that when you slow down you put power back into the battery. Some make use of this so much that they offer one-pedal driving; judge traffic right and you can slow the car to a halt with regenerative braking mostly, especially in city traffic.
Others, like the Mercedes, let you set the regen amount so you can drive according to how much deceleration you’re used to when you lift off the gas in your normal car.
But sometimes it’s more efficient to freewheel, so some EVs have a setting for that, too.
Cleverly, the EQA has a radar-based system that figures this out for you. Lift off when there’s no one ahead, and the Mercedes sails along like a champ with its motor dormant.
Car in front in your way? The EQA sees it and turns up the regen by itself.
It takes some getting used to but it presumably works; after our first day with the car the trip computer predicted our full charge would be good for 407km.
Is that good?
It’s very competitive, actually. The Mercedes is apparently good for up to 426km, but subtract a good 50km from that to be realistic; after slightly more spirited driving over a weekend, we ended up covering 202km with 173km remaining range predicted — total range, 375km.
That’s more than a week’s motoring, easy.
An 11kW wall charger gets you from empty to full in about six hours; 50kW DC charging could probably put 100km under your belt in less than 20 minutes. At 66.5kWh, the EQA’s battery isn’t that big, so the car’s impressive range is down to an inherent efficiency.
Unsure about charging or other aspects of owning an EV? Check out our handy dandy guide!
Something interesting (to us, anway) is that the CarBuyer team generally finds it easier to match energy consumption claims for EVs than for petrol cars.
So could I live with one?
Who knows? If you have access to regular charging, of course you can. In that scenario you’ll probably only set the max charging level to 80 percent, to keep the battery healthy.
Otherwise, if you can manage an hour with a 50kW charger on weekends while you grab coffee, you’ll be just fine as well.
No I mean could I live with one?
Ah, that’s different. In terms of practicality, the EQA suffers from comparison with the GLA. The batteries take up space, so boot capacity is down to only 340 litres (though the rear seats still fold down if you need more).
Another thing is, the rear floor doesn’t actually have wells for feet, so moderately tall people who perch in the back end up in a sort of knees-up position. It’s no real hardship, and some other EVs are compromised the same way.
So here’s something I’m starting to hear: EVs all feel the same. True?
It’s true that it’s become fashionable for journalists to ask a given brand what makes their EV special, anyway.
To some extent, EVs do have very common characteristics — the instant acceleration, the quiet efficiency, even the busy ride over bumps. But the Mercedes EQA is a fine example of how other things come to define a car.
If you live in a flat, the people directly above or below you probably stay in a place with the exact same layout, but it’s a fair bet that everyone’s home looks and feels different.
In the same way, the EQA is more Mercedes than EV in flavour. It has the style and visual presence of a Mercedes, the user interface of one and the top-notch refinement you demand of a car that wants you to part with nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
Come to think of it, would I be better off buying a combustion Mercedes for the money?
Surely you’ve only read this far because you’re ready to take the EV plunge? If so, BMW’s iX3 is worth a look. For slightly more clams you get a larger and more powerful car with livelier handling, though it’s less distinctive looking for sure. Tesla’s Model Y, when it gets here, would be a natural rival to consider.
Got more under the mattress? Scaling up to the EQC 400 would be fun. Here’s what we think of it…
Meanwhile, if you’re still on the fence about EVs, here’s something to think about: the EQA is a better Mercedes than most other Mercedes. The drive system does make combustion power feel outdated, and it’s well suited to the refined sophistication that cars with the three-pointed star are supposed to exude. If you think Mercedes has had an illustrious past, the EQA suggests that its future is no less bright.
Mercedes-Benz EQA 250 AMG Line
|Electric Motor||190hp (140kW), 375Nm|
|Battery||Lithium ion, 66.5kWh (net)|
|Charge Time / Type||6 hrs / 11kW wallbox,1 hr (0-80%) / 50kW DC charger|
|Electric Range||“Up to” 426km|
|VES Band / modifier||A1 / -S$25,000|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Price||S$240,888 with COE|
|Verdict||Smooth, refined and stylish, the EQA is a better Mercedes than most Mercedes. It bodes for the brand’s EV future|