To drive its first modern EV, the 2020 EQC 400 compact SUV, Mercedes-Benz invited the press to Oslo, arguably Europe's greenest capital city. There, the charging infrastructure is already in place, and citizens love their Teslas just as much as they like their electric Hyundai Konas, or BMW i3s. To support this openness towards an electrified future, three years ago, the government proposed a plan to prohibit the sale of all internal combustion vehicles by 2025. You get the picture. Despite being a significant crude oil and gas exporter, this is no country for the old school.
All this means that while great for cycling and hiking, driving around Norway's very pleasant capital is the opposite of a dream cruise. The speed limit varies from 19 mph in the city to 50 far away from it, and the Norwegians wouldn't even consider breaking it, no matter how robust the animal fencing around their woods may seem. In fact, the only time-saving shortcut the locals use is their EVs instant torque, which allows them to rush into roundabout traffic just a split second before it would deem too ambitious. Frankly, a few hours of rolling around in a silent electric car on Norway's roads makes it clear why the black metal scene (spearheaded by ) emerged from here in the 1980s, of all places. People craved stimulation, which continues to be a thing.
Not related to genius, the monotone silence is engineered into the EQC, because in Daimler's book, a quiet ride equals luxury. To achieve it, Mercedes threw the book at this car. The drivetrains are isolated from the body at two levels. The two asynchronous motors sit on rubber bushings inside their subframes, which are then linked to the body via flexible mounts. The teeth inside the single-speed gearbox have been redesigned to get rid of bad vibrations. The rear motor is covered by foam, and there's a whole lot more sound absorbing material glued to the metal all around, some of which is made of recycled fabrics. Even the inside of the fenders are layered.
The result is a vehicle with 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque, yet no more than some muted road noise inside the cabin. If you expect more of a Jetsons whine from a duo of motors which technically rev to 12,500rpm, look elsewhere.
As the futuristic electric equivalent of a GLC, the EQC is noticeably smaller than an Audi e-tron, and unsurprisingly, miles more conventional than a Jaguar I-Pace. And while its lines are cleaner than the internal combustion lineup's to improve aerodynamic efficiency, at the front, you'll still have to make peace with what Mercedes calls a 'Light Band,' the LED strip on top of the black grille connecting the headlamps. It's all in the name of futurism, and to go with the current design trend, there's a similar light setup at the rear, accompanied by strange chromed trim pieces that are supposed to remind you of exhaust tips. You're used to seeing those on your luxury car, and just because you went electric, you shall not be disappointed.
Like this conservative approach or not, there's a lot more good news inside the cabin, especially once you start touching things. Everything feels solidly built and of quality materials, and the electric-specific design elements manage to make the EQC look organically different. On top of the comfortable seats and the sufficiently widescreen digital interface (a 10.25 inch instrument cluster and a 10.25 inch media display), you get rose gold air vents to remind you of the motors' copper content, and polished metallic blades wrapping around the dashboard that look like if the car was hiding a vast radiator grille under all that leather.
It's certainly a nice car to be in. Like all Benzes these days, touch controls are intuitive and as accurate as they get, and when you say "Hey, Mercedes," the car will even tell you how far can you drive, where your nearest charging point is, or pre-set everything for your next trip, including scheduled charging. That's good, because as EQC Chief Engineer Michael Kelz confirmed, the range will vary wildly.
From an 80kWh battery pack that weighs 1437 lbs. (and takes just four hours to remove from the vehicle), the EQC gets somewhere between 277 and 293 miles of go on the European NEDC cycle. Based on what Mercedes has learned after going through some 200 prototypes and GLC Coupe mules in the last four years, realistically, the EQC has a 225 mile range in the summer, or as low as 160 miles in freezing winter conditions. On the side, Mercedes says that with a 110 kW DC fast charger, the car will get from 10 to 80 percent charge in 40 minutes. We put that to the test using the navigation's suggested charger nearby, and while slightly optimistic with its time estimate, the system did operate at a 98 kW average. The question remains whether you have such a charger where you need one, and if so, how much will the operator charge for its usage.
But since your range can change as quickly as the weather, the EQC's navigation will always display your estimated remaining percentage at your destination, and use live traffic data to help you save as much juice as possible, in case you need a few extra miles before you could plug in again. Basically. the powertrains, the battery and charging management, the car's recuperation strategies, your digital assistant and the nav are having a lengthy discussion in the background in order to optimize your drive when speed is not your first priority, but avoiding huge elevation changes is. In Max Range mode, all this includes the introduction of a haptic accelerator pressure point, which will limit torque and your top speed to 62 mph. Normally, the EQC is a 112 mph crossover that will get to sixty in 4.8 seconds, even in the wet.
Other driving modes include Comfort, in which the car won't hold back if you floor it, Sport, which becomes the same as Comfort as soon as you set regen to Auto, Eco, which is your power saving mode, and Max Range, which is the interactive Eco+ mode explained above. You can also go Individual, but at the end of the day, it's your regeneration choices that will make the difference on the road.
Using the paddles behind the steering wheel, you can go from D Auto to D+, D, D- and D--. Auto will make the EQC try to guess what level of energy regeneration would suit you the most. It's mostly wrong, or at least not as efficient as you can be manually. And with no shifter in sight, why wouldn't you get involved?
D+ is unlimited coasting, and it's quite fun. The EQC has the same drag coefficient as the bigger Audi e-tron, without using digital mirrors or an adaptive air suspension that would lover it for a highway cruise. Mercedes also came up with an optional aero package that can push it down to 0.27 Cd, but at the end of the day, completely decoupling anything with friction on such a heavy skateboard will always feel like a train on the loose. Still on track, yet quite free.
D stands for light deceleration when you step off the pedal, and feels like the most suitable setting for normal driving. D- go one step further, which comes handy on tighter roads with many bends along the route. D-- adds 80 percent friction, and allows for one pedal driving according to Mercedes. Except that it doesn't, because unlike a number of other EVs, in the EQC, recuperation won't bring the car to a complete halt. Mercedes argues that making the car behave more like a standard automatic makes sense, because if you forget to push the brake pedal, the active safety systems will still cut in to avoid a collision. D-- is one pedal driving, as long as you don't hit standing traffic. Once you do, the adaptive cruise control steps in. And so can Pilot Assist, to a certain extant.
Once you figure out your optimal settings, which really shouldn't take longer than a few miles, the EQC is a straightforward affair. Its straight line performance isn't mind blowing, but it carries its weight through the corners surprisingly well. Mercedes knows how to tune its steering, and the EQC is a good example of what a difference that can make. And while without having an air suspension, the ride quality is on the average side, the drivetrain takes four-wheel traction to a whole new level.
The EQC's front motor is tuned for efficiency, the rear for performance. The magic is done by the computers, which do such a good job at modulating them that pushed to the max, this EV won't even engage its traction control. Not even floored in standing water. In most cases, the same goes for the ABS under hard braking. These motors can react in four-millionth (0.00004) of a second, and so slip will only occur in the most extreme cases. Mind you, having European-market performance tires on the car do help.
The wheel control and all-around torque vectoring are crucial elements of the active safety equipment. The combination of radar and stereo cameras at the front enhance emergency braking that take blindspots and other road users into consideration, allowing you to stay in control until the very last moment. But after its audiovisual warnings don't trigger a driver action, it will bring the vehicle to a halt, confidently, yet without breaking your collarbone with the belt. A normal driver would never dare to brake as late as the car does, which is good, because early intervention would only make an already risky situation more sketchy.
The EQC will also let you do your own emergency lane change, straightening your line afterwards to make sure you don't lose control due to the sudden weight transfer. It's quite impressive in action, especially since in the heavy rain we got from Norway, reflections made it even harder for the system to recognize where the lines where. But it didn't sweat it, completing a parking job on its own as well, almost as quickly as a human could.
As Chief Engineer Michael Kelz was quick to stress, the EQC is "not an off-roader." It's a compact crossover you can order with 64-color ambient lighting, 21 inch wheels and an army of optional safety systems, including distance, lane and blind keeping assists. What you get as standard on top of all that reassuring traction is 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque, made silent and used mostly to make your journey as relaxed as a summer range of roughly 225 miles would allow.
And if that sounds rather boring, just tell your friends your motor revs to 12,500rpm. That's still not quite at Formula One level, but again, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes hybrids are rather expensive compared to the brand's first modern electric vehicle, which is priced below Audi's, rightly so. And when the revs topic runs out, just shift the conversation towards heat management, and how your car has a heat pump function with two positive temperature coefficient thermistors. There's almost no end to the heat booster chat, especially if you throw in something about your EQC's water-cooled condenser. Pure Star Trek, from where no Benz has gone before.
Alternatively, you can always wait for the next EQ. Mercedes is planning to launch ten more pure electric vehicles until 2022, all based on their in-house tech. And while the approach is different, the race is on.