Mercedes-Benz has taken a big step into the new world of full electric vehicles with the first of what will become a line-up of EQ-branded cars.
On the road
On the road
As electric vehicle momentum continues to gather, and rapidly so, more manufacturers are launching into the sector, and even those with a degree of history are making big changes in how they approach plug-in technology.
Mercedes-Benz is the prime example. It’s a company that has EV history dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, and has more recently dabbled with the likes of the B-Class Electric Drive and the e-Vito van, as well as the whole range of plug-in hybrid petrol and diesel models in its line up. Still, the new EQC isn’t only a new electric car, it’s the first of a new branding, with all future full electric cars gaining the EQ moniker that Mercedes says stands for Electric Intelligence.
1. Electric cars have many less obvious bonuses, such as the ability for silent early morning getaways when you don’t want to wake the neighbours.
2. The infotainment system is comprehensive, but it’s a relief to see the climate controls are kept off it and continue to be regular switches across the centre console.
3. This isn’t the first Mercedes where we’ve noted that the doors don’t stay open when the car is parked on a slope.
The EQC is classed by Mercedes-Benz as a crossover-SUV, and for comparison, it sits 218mm longer, the same width and 22mm lower than its fossil fuel-powered GLC SUV sibling, with a boot 50 litres smaller. It is also almost midway between the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace for length, these two being the car’s biggest competitors. The more expensive and longer-range Tesla Model X is also in the basket of rivals.
Range-wise, apart from the Tesla, there’s precious little between the electric crossover-SUV models. The Mercedes-Benz EQC’s official 259 figure compares with a mileage from 258 for the I-Pace and 250 for the Audi, so there’s almost nothing to choose between them. The regular Audi e-tron trim level is cheaper than the top-spec Mercedes-Benz EQC we have tested, although the equipment levels reflect that, while the Jaguar’s HSE trim is within £500 of the Mercedes, so there’s not much to choose between them. Tesla’s Model X is larger, and has a range of 314 miles in the cheaper of the two models, but costs over £12,000 more than the electric Mercedes.
"The strongest regeneration setting almost negates the need to use the brake pedal"
The Mercedes-Benz EQC’s 80kWh lithium-ion battery drivetrain has electric motors on each axle for four-wheel drive capability, and puts out the equivalent of 408hp, which translates to a 5.1-second 0-62mph acceleration time.
The car looks better in the metal than the pictures may suggest, and has better proportions, although it looks longer and lower than a traditional SUV, almost straddling the space between that and an estate car. It also seems to look better in darker colours.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC comes in four trim levels, kicking off with Sport that includes 19-inch alloys, heated, electrically adjustable seats, keyless entry and active park assist, as well as two 10.3-inch screens across the infotainment and dashboard, multi-beam LED headlights and ambient lighting. Jump by almost £2000 to AMG Line and the car gets external and internal sports styling adornments including sports seats, as well as 20-inch alloy wheels. From there, AMG Line Premium costs a hefty £4645, but that step brings an array of stuff including upgraded audio system, smartphone integration and wireless charging, sunroof and the clever augmented navigation system that uses the forward camera to overlay directions on to the view ahead on the screen. Jump to the top AMG Line Premium Plus driven here, and the extra £2250 buys items including a head-up display, 360-degree camera and memory seats.
Like all electric vehicles, the Mercedes-Benz EQC has an addictive immediate surge of power, although the throttle is on the sensitive side, which combines with the instant reaction for occasionally lurchy progress.
The level of regeneration is adjustable using the paddles behind the gear lever, with three stages of recuperation of the energy otherwise lost under deceleration. The most severe almost negates the need to use the brake pedal, such is the braking force when the driver lifts off the accelerator. It’s a shame the car doesn’t default to the one most recently used on start-up, but otherwise it’s excellent.
The only main complaint about the driving experience is that the car seems to buck and rock backwards and forward like an older SUV, pitching surprisingly over ripples and bigger bumps. Apart from that, the drive is notable for the fact that road and wind noise, which can sometimes be highlighted due to the absence of engine noise on electric cars, are kept very well under control, and the car is a sensible and easy steer.
The cabin is up with the best Mercedes produces at the moment, and befitting of a car with such a hefty price. The central screen looks more integrated than on some less expensive models, and there are plenty of neat design touches, including the angled air vents that don’t seem evident in lesser Mercs. There’s reasonable stowage space, helped by the decent-sized front door pockets with three moulded sections. However, Mercedes has gone down the USB-C port route, so an adapter is needed to plug regular USB leads into any of the five power sockets.
It’s fair to say there’s a lot going on in the infotainment screens, with a huge amount of functionality packed in, including great electric-specific depth. But the car’s cleverness does lead to complication. For example the lumbar support has 100 possible positions, so rather than a simple lever on the seat, you’re required to do four or five presses on the screen to adjust the positioning. And if there’s a way to adjust the height of the head-up display so it’s not right in the middle of your eyeline then we never found it.
Rear passengers will be quite happy – there’s plenty of headroom and enough legroom for three adults to be carried drama-free.
The boot space is behind the EQC’s rivals on paper, and that’s due to the boot being shallower than those of its competition. It’s a decent length and width, but doesn’t offer enough depth. There is a useful stowage space for charge cables underneath the heavy false floor, which is handy, especially if they are wet, plus two bag hooks and a netted corner for smaller items.
As well as comparing the EQC to its electric competition, it’s only sensible to also look at the internal combustion-engined model that’s closet within Mercedes’ own line-up, the GLC SUV.
The 258hp GLC 400 diesel is more than £25,000 cheaper than the EQC, but is actually 9.7p per mile more expensive to run, thanks to the EV’s huge benefits in fuel and National Insurance costs, while residual values have well and truly tipped in favour of electric vehicles, with the EQC’s 51.1% Kwik Carcost prediction comparing with just 34.9% for the diesel GLC. Still, it’s worth noting that the big price difference means that the electric car still loses more in monetary terms.
Then there’s the company car Benefit-in-Kind saving, which is £197 a month at present for a 40% taxpayer, but that changes dramatically when, for the 2020/21 tax year, electric cars pay zero Benefit in Kind, while the GLC driver will pay £596. And then the following tax year it’s £25 a month versus £596. Which illustrates how electric cars make all kinds of sense for higher earners driving premium cars in particular.
Among its pool of premium electric SUVs, the Audi e-tron’s lower P11D price and class-leading RV mean it costs 8.6p per mile less to run, but the EQC does come out 1.5p better per mile than Jaguar’s I-Pace, while the Tesla Model X’s much higher price, lower residual value and high SMR cost mean that car is significantly more expensive per mile, although that is countered by the extra space, seven-seat capacity no other electric rival can offer and much longer range. Plus Tesla’s motorway charge network.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC ticks most of the boxes, and offers another low-risk and low-maintenance way into electric vehicles. As long as logistics and journey patterns suit, it’s another great argument for EVs, and another small reduction in the reasons not to be driving one.
Mercedes may have previously sold the 87-mile range B-Class electric drive, but the EQC is the first production car to wear Mercedes’s new “product and technology” EQ badge, and it has been coming for a while.
The EQC was actually previewed way back in 2016 by the Concept EQ model (pictured).
That was followed a year later by the Concept EQA, a lower-medium A-Class-sized model, and then in 2019 by the Concept EQV at March’s Geneva motor show. The production version of the electrified sibling to the Vito van and V-Class MPV was then shown in September, and goes on sale next summer.
That second EQ production model will be available in six-, seven- or eight-seat configuration, and will be aimed at both larger families and business transport requirements, and in two wheelbases. The range figure will be around 150 miles from the same 90kWh battery system deployed in the EQC.
After the EQV, three other EQ models will be seen before the end of next year. Production versions of the EQA and EQS concepts are logical expectations, as well as another model as-yet unconfirmed, although an EQB SUV has been rumoured.
What they said
What They Said
"The EQC may be completely new, but it is definitely a genuine Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
This particularly applies to the vehicle's classic attributes, which include quality, safety and comfort.
These traditional talents are also accompanied by dynamic performance, thanks to two electric motors at the front and rear axles with a combined output of 300kW, 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 Kallenius, head of Mercedes-Benz cars
Need to know
Three things we like...
The full-width lighting bars front and rear look impressive at night
The three distinct regeneration levels offer discernibly different characters
There’s a great level of detail in the on-screen systems, once you work it all out
...And one we don't
Wheel-mounted touchpads can control the screens, but aren’t easy to use while driving
Performance is punchy, although the throttle response is a little sharp, and it’s more SUV than anything particularly fun to drive.
The 259-mile official range figure seems achievable, and is in line with those of major competitors.
Boot volume is a little smaller than rivals, and it’s a shallow load area, but interior space is good.
There are big cost jumps between the four trim levels, although all are justified by the kit increases. Base spec is good, but it’s a shame only the top trims get a smartphone link.
Much better in the metal than the pictures, even if it’s still an odd mixture of SUV and estate car, neither quite one nor the other.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
Obviously, there’s no engine noise, and wind and road noise are low. Ride quality isn’t great, with the car bucking a surprising amount, akin to an old-school off-roader.
More stylish and coherently designed than some Mercedes interiors. The EQC’s is a pleasant and high-quality cabin, and there’s decent stowage space.
The touchscreen-and-touchpad-driven system is comprehensive, and there’s a lot to find your way around. They’re sometimes a little over-responsive, especially the centrally mounted pad.
Whole life costs 9/10
Residuals and whole-life costs now make the EQC cheaper to run than a top-spec Mercedes GLC diesel.
CCT opinion 9/10
Step one for Mercedes on the EQ EV path is a competitive debut.
The first EQ-branded model is a good one, and is another compelling argument for making the switch from internal combustion engine to electric power.