2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC First Drive Review
Paul Horrell’s 2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC First Drive Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Infotainment, Saftey, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL Mercedes heads into the electric market with an battery-powered crossover. It’s awesomely quiet and relaxing to drive, but a bit cramped.
2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC Specifications (Europe)
Price N/A Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine two permanent-magnet electric motors Power 300kW Torque 760Nm Transmission single-speed Drive four-wheel drive Body 4761mm (l); 1884mm (w exc mirrors); 2096mm (w inc mirrors); 1623mm (h) Turning circle 11.8m Towing weight 1800kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 2495kg (manual) Seats 5 Battery 80kWh Spare No Range 374-417km WLTP
Mercedes has lagged behind Tesla, BMW and Jaguar in getting into the premium EV market. But then at least in Australia, that market hasn’t really existed (The EQC will go on-sale in Australia in October). So for Merc, like Audi, to come late is not big deal here.
What is the Mercedes-Benz EQC? The bald figures are in the ballpark for the regular-range version of the Tesla Model X, and the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-Tron. In other words, it’s got 300kW distributed across the four wheels, by having separate motors front and rear.
The WLTP range is around 400km depending on equipment and wheels, which is slightly less than the rest but then it’s a heavy car for its size and its battery of 80kWh is on the small side.
The car itself looks like an all-new crossover, but under the skin it shares a lot with the GLC. Suspension, wheelbase, much of the floor structure except where the battery sits – they’re all largely the same. Hence the EQC’s very conventional proportions.
Mercedes has even replaced the petrol GLC’s engine and transmission with tube-steel replicas in the EQC, bolted to the same points in the floor. This means the car crashes in the same safe way. But it does use up a lot of space where other EVs have a nice flat-floored passenger compartment.
What’s the interior like? The passenger space and driving position is almost exactly the same as Mercedes’ conventional mid-size crossover wagon the GLC. While the rival Jaguar I-Pace takes advantage of the compactness of electric powertrains to stretch the wheelbase and flatten the floor, the EQC doesn’t. So its rear leg-room is only average for a crossover of the size. Even though there’s no propshaft or exhaust running down the centre of the floor, the tunnel is still there. Being the centre rear passenger is confining.
Still, there’s good provision of reading lights, vents and armrest-cupholders if you’re a family of four. Everyone has their own climate temp setting.
Stretched across the dash is Mercedes’ MBUX system, a huge array of hi-res screen real-estate. At first it can get a bit overwhelming, with functions in so many menus you might never find them.
Many things can be reconfigured, and accessed several ways (screen touch, console pad touch, steering wheel spokes, voice activation or hand-waving gesture control). All of which might make it easier in the long run, but definitely harder to learn. The steering wheel touchpads are fiddly and oversensitive, too easy to brush when you’re steering around a junction.
Being a Mercedes, the cabin furniture is of high quality. The firm seats support you well, and most of the dash and door surfaces are solid yet soft-touch.
Presumably because it’s aimed at a more progressive audience than usual for a Benz, the colours are brighter. Our tester had a slightly iridescent denim-blue fabric covering the dash, with pinkish stitching. Sorry, ‘rose gold’, same as the colour of the air vents. The same material is on the seats in some versions. It’s made of recycled plastics because many EV buyers, apparently, are vegetarian.
The boot is 500 litres – again, not enormous – and unlike some EVs there’s no underbonnet storage.
What’s the infotainment like? Get the top trim level and your ears are massaged by a fabulous Burmester hi-fi. And in a car as quiet as this, the dynamics of the music will be fabulous. It can’t be had as a separate option though.
In most markets that high trim level is the only way you can get Apple CarPlay or Google phone integration. Mercedes hopes its built-in infotainment means you won’t want to. It’s got live services built-in: live traffic, real-time updates on the availability of charge points, and streaming music.
That’s all part of what Mercedes calls the MBUX system. It’s supposed to be self-learning, so if you regularly go to certain places on certain days, or tune to the radio news at a certain time, or phone home 10 minutes before you arrive, it’ll pop up those things as suggestions on the screen, and even pre-load a navigation route with its traffic. No MBUX Mercedes has ever done that for me, but I’m not a regular guy.
The centre-console touchpad is about the easiest way to control most functions, as it has haptic feedback and you can brace your arm on a bumpy road. The screen gets greasy marks if you touch it, and gesture control is plain silly.
There’s also ‘hey Mercedes’ when you say those words and the voice activation comes to life. It also comes to life when you say all sorts of things that sound nothing like ‘hey Mercedes’, so you’ll deactivate that function and use the voice activation button instead. Then, if you’re in a mobile signal area, it can enter destinations, call your phone contacts and more. With not entirely hopeless accuracy.
What’s the performance like? If a gap opens in suburban traffic, it’s yours. Touch the accelerator in the EQC and it leaps ahead like a startled rabbit. There’s pretty much zero delay: whether you’re at a standstill or doing 60km/h, the thing just snaps your head back.
Zero to 100km/h acceleration is 5.1 seconds. That doesn’t sound fast compared with a lot of V8 sports cars. But you don’t need to select first, rev up, manage the clutch and brakes and handle wheelspin. Nope, you just press the right pedal and you’re clean away. Like, now.
That instant answer is the first thing that strikes electric-car novices. The next is the smoothness, because there are no gearchanges: a single ratio takes the EQC from zero to top whack. And as it’s 4WD, traction is superb, and when the wheels do slip they’re smoothly reined back in because an electric motor reacts much faster to traction control than a combustion engine.
Yet oddly, when you’re deep into a full-acceleration event, the sustained gaining of speed isn’t wildly impressive. Not as impressive as the initial response anyway. That’s because the EQC is very heavy, and because the torque tails off as it nears 100km/h.
In short, then, the EQC accelerates like a Tesla or a Jaguar I-Pace, but slightly less so. What it does have on them is an amazing hush. They’re very quiet, but their motors do whine a little bit, and you especially hear it at slow speed when there’s no tyre noise to drown it out. The Mercedes motors and gearboxes are, near as makes no difference, silent.
We should mention regenerative braking. You can select to have the EQC just coast when you lift the accelerator, or to slow down by generating current back to the battery. Coasting is better for range, actually, because it encourages you to lift off sooner. If you do need the brakes, touch the pedal gently and you’re getting regeneration well before the friction brakes wastefully kick in.
There’s also an auto setting for regeneration, where the car’s radar and cameras, and its knowledge of speed limits and hills and valleys and corners, all feed into a strategy to travel your road as economically as possible. The car then varies the regeneration accordingly. Sometimes it’ll regenerate hard if you’ve say lifted off too late before an upcoming junction or the car ahead slows down. Other times if you’ve timed the lift correctly it’ll let the car coast.
It’s a bit odd that the accelerator pedal varies like that, but it does make you more aware of the gains to be had from driving with anticipation. EV hypermiling is a bit of a game in itself, just like screeching the tyres on a sports car.
Drag coefficient is as low as 0.27 if you spec the right options. A heat pump moves thermal energy around the car so none is lost. An app lets you remotely activate cabin cooling while the car’s still plugged in, so you don’t use up battery range. Usual EV stuff, mostly, but neatly executed here.
Overall, driving in gentle conditions not unlike Oz main roads, at about 12 decrees C, we managed to get around 370km of range.
What’s it like on the road? The Mercedes GLC is already one of the most refined and relaxing crossovers of its size. This EQC simply takes it to another level. It’s not just the motors that are silent; wind and tyre and suspension noise has been successfully banished to the distance. The ride is comfortable too – it doesn’t absorb everything, but it rounds off the edges and kills the aftershocks or shudder.
Doing that relies on a soft setup: it rolls a bit, and pitches and floats. The huge weight makes itself felt if you try to turn or brake suddenly. It’s not a car that encourages you to swerve about just for the fun of it. Go gently, it advises, and extend your range. Keep the heart-rate down. Of course, four-wheel traction does mean it’s not upset by slippery going.
The steering, while it’s reasonably precise, is fairly firmly weighted and gently geared. So there’s no sense of nervousness. At a cruise it holds its line well. Besides, with the advanced driver assistance pack fitted (it’s optional in some markets) the car will gently ease its steering wheel to follow the vehicle in front even absent road markings.
What safety features does it get? Mercedes has been super-diligent about protecting the occupants and the battery from impact, with any number of carefully calculated (and tested) crush zones and impact absorbers. The restraint systems are super-comprehensive too.
Meanwhile it does all it can to avoid a crash. All that Mercedes eminent safety engineers can. To demonstrate, I spent a happy hour in the passengers seat as trained drivers drove like inattentive numpties. We drifted out of lane, swerved into the path of oncoming vehicles, failed to brake for crossing children (actually cable-towed dummies) and cyclists (going forward and backward). We careered towards a queue of stationary vehicles in our lane. We turned across the path of a cyclist in our blind spot. We hammered towards a parked car.
In every instance the EQC braked for us, or helped my driver with his steering, and generally kept us and the road users around us safe. We even stopped and opened our doors onto passing traffic, and the car feverishly flashed lights on the doors and sounded warning.
None of this stuff isn’t available on other Mercs, and it’s not vastly different to what Volvo does. But Mercedes really is one of the top drawer car-makers, not just for researching and fitting this stuff, but for examining how real drivers behave in critical situations. That lets it design interfaces that help ordinary people out in a way that doesn’t scare them into doing something else dangerous.