The silent battle for EV-SUV supremacy begins.
It was two years ago that German luxury marque Mercedes-Benz made their intent to take on the emerging electric SUV market, with something that they had dubbed the ‘EQC.’ Based largely on what appeared to be a GLC-Class, the EQC said it’d be the SUV to all people, offering blistering performance (as is expected of an electric car), immense practicality, and state-of-the-art technology, all wrapped up neatly and warmly in a recognisable and reassuringly-Mercedes package that everyone would love.
Today, they delivered.
At an event in Sweden, Mercedes pulled the wraps off their production-ready EQC SUV, which is not only the first fully-electric SUV by Mercedes-Benz but also the first product of their new electrified sub-brand, EQ. It not only sets precedent for every EQ model going forward, but it firmly places Mercedes-Benz in contention with players like Tesla with its Model X (which arguably carved out the niche) and the award-winning Jaguar I-Pace. And rather cheekily, the EQC arrives ahead of Audi’s new e-tron, which launches later this month.
“With the EQC – the first fully electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz – we are flipping the switch. Electric drive is a major component in the mobility of the future. We are therefore investing more than ten billion euros in the expansion of our EQ model portfolio, and more than one billion euros in global battery production.” — Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars
If the EQC strikes you as looking a bit like the GLC, we’ll tell you now that there’s reason for it. The EQC rides on a 2873mm wheelbase that’s identical to the GLC, though the electric SUV is slightly shorter but slightly wider. The reason for the near-as-damnit measurements is due to the underpinnings: EQC rides on a new ‘EVA’ all-electric platform, but EVA is ‘inspired’ by the MRA platform that underpins the GLC-Class. It also helps that the GLC-Class is one of the most popular SUVs from the brand currently: If the combustion-powered version sells well, then so should the electric one, right?
Under the skin lies an 80kWh battery pack, slightly smaller than the pack you’ll get in the Jaguar I-Pace (90kWh) and the upcoming Audi e-tron (95kWh). Motive force is rated at 300kWh and 765Nm, with all that shove going to all-four wheels thanks to a dual-motor setup that places one motor on each axle. Despite weighing nearly 2.5-tonnes, the EQC manages to hit 100km/h from rest in just 5.1-seconds, and boasts a driving range of “more than” 450km on a charge according to the NEDC-cycle. That’s not bad, and neither is its built-in high-power DC charge system that allows the EQC to be charged from 10% battery charge to 80% charge in just 40-minutes on a 110kW fast-charger.
Charge it at home and it’ll take quite a lot of time due to the much, much slower 7.4kW charge rate, but using a Mercedes-Benz Wallbox will triple the charge rate.
Step inside, and you’re immediately greeted by a unique cockpit experience, that is both alien and equal to existing Mercedes-Benz owners. Owners of a new-generation A-Class will immediately recognise Mercedes-Benz’s new user-interface, MBUX, which powers both widescreen displays that sit ahead of the driver and above the centre stack. Saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ will trigger the AI-powered voice-recognition software that is similar in execution to things like Siri and Amazon Alexa.
However, as this is the first time MBUX has been used in an electric EQ-branded model, Mercedes has worked out unique features for the system that’ll display information like charging speed, energy consumption, and suggested departure times based on navigation inputs. The navigation will also show you charging stations, which it will work into your route automatically if the distance you intend to cover exceeds the projected range of your battery.
Safety’s a big deal with the EQC, and given the nervousness people generally have around new technology, we’re glad Mercedes has gone to great lengths to ensure owners and prospective buyers feel secure. Merc’s age-old PreSafe system has been given tweaks to now include a feature called ‘Tailback Control’ which essentially detects sudden traffic slowdown via the satellite navigation, and slows you down accordingly. This works in tandem with the cruise control, and when the tailback disappears, you return to your preset speed.
The 600kg battery pack is protected by electrical components that “exceed legal requirements,” while the structure of the EQC itself has been specially tailored to suit the unique requirements of a battery-electric propulsion system. A new subframe, for example, has been employed around the front drive components in addition to the usual mounting points, while the battery pack itself is surrounded by a shock-absorbing frame. Deformation elements have been installed throughout the battery’s assembly, while at the front, there’s a battery guard to protect it from being “pierced by foreign objects.” If all else fails, there’s an auto-shutdown of the electrical components in the car, either in a reversible or irreversible manner, depending on the situation (or severity of the accident), as well as shutdown points that can be accessed by emergency teams in case of, well, an emergency.
A Mercedes isn’t a Mercedes unless its durability beggars belief, and the EQC doesn’t disappoint. Some 200 prototype cars have covered millions of kilometres across the globe, and have undergone more than 500 unique, individual tests that the EQC simply had to pass before being greenly into production. In addition to the usual quality-control checks, the EQC also underwent specially-designed tests to maximise the durability of the powertrain, the robustness of the fuel cell, as well as how the complex components worked together under duress.
“The new EQC is a genuine Mercedes-Benz. This particularly applies to classic attributes such as quality, safety and comfort. These are accompanied by dynamic performance, thanks to two electric motors at the front and rear axles with a combined output of 300 kW, and an intelligent operating strategy for a superior electric range. The EQC is part of a growing family of purely electrically powered vehicles from Mercedes-Benz.” — Ola Källenius, Management Boardmember (Group & Brand R&D), Daimler AG
The Mercedes-Benz EQC will go into production in mid-2019 at Mercedes-Benz’s factory in Bremen, Germany. The battery pack however, will be made by Accumotive in Kamenz, which is near Dresden. Accumotive is a subsidiary of Daimler AG.
While there was no mention about Australian introduction at the event in Sweden, local Mercedes communications manager Jerry Stamoulis told CarAdvice that a local launch of the EQC should follow soon after the mid-2019 European launch. Pricing is expected to hover around $100k-$150k, which puts it beneath the fire breathing Mercedes-AMG GLC63 ($165k), and in the same ballpark as the Jaguar I-Pace ($119k) and the Tesla Model X (also $119k upwards).