2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC400 Review
Toby Hagon’s 2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC400 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: The first all-electric Mercedes-Benz brings impressive driving nous and some Tesla-beating smarts to the mid-sized SUV category – at a price.
2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC400 Specifications
Price $140,000 (estimated) Warranty 3 years, unlimited km Service Intervals Variable Safety Not rated Motors 2 asynchronous electric motors Power 300kW Torque 760Nm Transmission Single speed Drive 4WD Dimensions 4761mm (L), 1884mm (W), 1623mm (H), 2873mm (WB) Kerb Weight 2420kg Towing 1800kg GVM 2940kg Boot Space 500L Spare Repair kit and/or runflat tyres Battery capacity 80kWh Thirst 21.8kWh/100km
There’s an electric revolution on the way and the company that invented the car, Mercedes-Benz, is keen to play a big part. The Mercedes-Benz EQC represents the creation of the new EQ sub-brand, pairing a mid-sized luxury SUV with two electric motors and batteries to take you about 400km. It’s due in Australia in October 2019.
Like all electric cars it comes with a decent price premium, but it returns serve with impressive performance and driving comfort and the promise of low running costs. The EQC400 competes with the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, as well as the Audi e-Tron when it arrives in 2020.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
There’s only one EQC model for now and it’s known as the EQC400, the trio of numbers indicating the approximate peak horsepower figure. Pricing is yet to be finalised but will be somewhere around $140,000, according to Mercedes-Benz.
It will come comprehensively equipped, although the exact level of kit is yet to be confirmed. Expect things such as electric front seats, auto wipers and headlights, electric tailgate, blind spot warning and satellite-navigation. There’s also the Mercedes Me smartphone app that allows access to various functions, including the ability to send navigation data remotely to the car, as well as heating or cooling of the cabin before you get there.
One thing Mercedes-Benz has confirmed is that we’ll get the AMG styling pack as standard. It includes unique 20-inch alloy wheels and a grille with fewer slats for a sportier look. For a limited time Mercedes-Benz will also offer an Edition 1 pack, which gets 21-inch AMG wheels and diamond stitched trim.
Down the track, Mercedes-Benz has strongly suggested it will sell a less-powerful EQC with a lower price tag. Details of that car are yet to be revealed.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
Despite the technology and different thinking going on beneath the bonnet, the EQC is thoroughly normal inside, from its five-seat wagon layout to the familiar Merc switchgear and displays. Dominating the interior is a screen that flows from the instrument cluster to the centre console.
There’s a hint of retro to some of the finishes, such as the silver fins stretching from the doors to the dash, which look elegant and classy, even if they’re plastic not metal. If you want you can option a vegan interior, which gets some interesting new finishes made without any animal products. The stuff that looks like leather is Benz’s convincing Artico, said to last longer than the real stuff.
Most plastics and finishes are high quality, but the scratchy grained stuff on the bottom of the door skins and around the rear air vents is a rare low-rent old school finish. The shiny black plastic in the centre console is more styling in a formal sort of way.
Storage is forthcoming, from the deep split centre console, broad door pockets and a less useful segmented glovebox with a scent bottle to one side. In the rear headroom is only just OK and the person in the centre has to (strangely) deal with a large transmission tunnel, despite the absence of a transmission. Best for two people, then. Legroom is respectable, with good under seat feet space.
A rising window line may not work brilliantly for small kids, although vision is otherwise respectable and there are air vents. A folding arm rest with twin fold out cupholders also incorporates a storage binnacle.
The boot has a decent footprint and a 500-litre capacity, but is quite shallow, a result of the various electrical components buried beneath the floor, which itself has segmented storage for valuables. There’s a small netted area to the left that’s perfectly sized for the storage bag for the charging cable. The seats split-fold in a 40/20/40 configuration.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
The nerve centre of the EQC400 is its expansive screen, which incorporates all the customisable instruments (there are three pre-set themes) and trip computer readouts, as well as the various EV functions that can significantly change the way the car drives.
It also includes touch functionality for the infotainment features closer to the centre of the car, including large logical icons and swipe functionality. There’s also a small track pad in the centre console that provides haptic feedback, pinch-and-zoom functionality as well as two-finger controls for additional functionality. It takes some familiarisation, but is a handy alternative control system.
Then there are buttons on the steering wheel, along with thumb pads that allow customisation across the broad screen. Once you’ve worked out the basic functions it makes for easy darting around the menus.
Or, there’s the MBux system that is designed to cope with natural speech to adjust all manner of parameters. It’s great with some of the things it understands, but there’s also plenty it struggles with. Still, it adds to the options.
Rather than regular USB ports the EQC uses smaller USB C ports, so if you’re old school then you’ll need an adaptor. The more you drive the EQC the more you realise many of its smarts are in its software systems. One small example is the navigation, which utilises the forward-facing camera to display a very clear image of the road along with arrows pointing to the exact road you need to turn on. It’s tricky stuff, and shows how quickly the technology is moving. Delve deeper and there’s much more.
When you set a destination through the navigation, for example, it will look at topography along the route, estimated average speeds, traffic conditions and even the weather, the latter determining how much electrical energy might be required to heat or cool the batteries (an important element of ensuring they don’t degrade prematurely).
It’ll also look at where charging stations are and map out the best route, taking into account the most logical place to recharge; they could mean going slightly out of the way to take advantage of a fast charger (the EQC can accept up to 110kW of charge, well below the 350kW of the latest fast chargers, but still quick enough to perform an 80 percent charge in as little as 45 minutes).
One issue we encountered on our car was with the phone connectivity, which simply didn’t work for about an hour. That’s something of an issue for a car that relies so heavily on data, especially when it comes to mapping and gleaning information for charging and even driving functions.
Also, too bad if you wear polarised sunglasses, because they will block the head-up display that provides information on vehicle speed and navigation controls.
What’s the performance like?
While the emphasis is on environmental friendliness, there’s also a strong performance element to the EQC. There are two identical electric motors, which between them produce 300kW and 760Nm. Those figures are none too shabby, and zip the EQC to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds, making it brisk among SUVs.
Despite the similarities, the motors operate quite differently as part of their tuning within the car. The motor up front is tuned more for efficiency, delivering its healthy torque reserves more gently, in turn making for smooth motoring. It’s the motor that does most of the driving in everyday situations. The rear motor is tuned more for performance, kicking in quicker for when you need maximum performance. Not that you get a feel for any of the wizardry going on beneath the skin. Instead, it’s just an extremely responsive car in its initial take-off, the torque making for potent acceleration up to about 60km/h. Even beyond that it’s fairly fiery, although into triple figures things start to taper off.
Plus, you can play with the power delivery through the various drive modes. Select Sport and any prod of the throttle is rewarded with above average acceleration, the sensitivity arguably too much in most situations. Eco and Maximum Range each stiffens the throttle pedal to encourage you to be more gentle. There’s almost a stickiness to the pedal, albeit one you can push through if you need more punch. But it’s not particularly enjoyable, more about making those electrons last longer. Comfort mode finds a nice middle ground, a blend of easy performance and predictable responses. Once that’s sorted, you can then play around with the various regeneration modes – D–, D-, D and D+ – each of which varies how much the electric motor reverses its flow.
D—is very aggressive in its braking, for the most part allowing you to get around without applying the brakes. D+ is opposite, like selecting neutral and coasting, making it good for country roads. There’s also a D Auto setting that brings some smarts to the whole regen equation, all of which works surprisingly well.
Using data from the navigation system and what the camera sees in front of the car, it’ll automatically reverse the flow of the electric motor to slow you down hills, into corners and when approaching other vehicles. If you’re going up hill it’ll activate the coast mode. It can even help adjusting to new speed limits.
It’s clever stuff and, combined with the Comfort drive mode, is the logical one to use most (if not all) of the time. In terms of electricity usage, there are a few claims depending on the options fitted and the testing methodology. The one we’ll adopt here suggests average consumption of 20.8kWh per 100km.
Assuming an electricity cost of 30c/kWh that suggests the car would cost a bit over $6 to cover each 100km. We found it used closer to 25kWh/100km, sometimes more, suggesting that figure could increase to about $7.50. For the performance on offer that’s still around half what you’d expect to pay in a petrol-powered equivalent.
And, of course, if you use solar or free charging stations the cost could theoretically be reduced significantly. Overall range is claimed at well over 400km. The figure we’ve chosen suggests 445km between charges, but it quickly becomes apparent that’s unlikely. Mercedes says real world expectations hover between 320km and 350km, which is still plenty for most driving needs.
During our relatively brief drive the predictive software estimating how many kilometres remained in the current charge was also quite accurate, making it easy to plan ahead. Our drive was in Norway, where fast-charging stations are plentiful, so there’s rarely any worries about where the next electric fix will be coming from. As for charging times, the EQC will take about 34 hours on a regular powerpoint.
Most people will spend a couple of grand on a wallbox charger, which reduces that empty-to-full charging time to about 11 hours. That’s plenty for most people who will park their car overnight. For those looking to cover longer distances the car will accept Type 2 and CCS charging plugs, the latter providing high-output DC chargers.
The maximum the EQC can accept at any time is 110kW, which promises an 80 percent charge in about 45 minutes. But charging speed is affected by the temperature of the batteries and the ambient temperature. Too hot or cold and the amount of electricity accepted by the car will be throttled; the best we saw during some cold weather charging (in about 6 degrees) was 83kW. That still makes for a very fast charge, but it falls short of the 110kW maximum.
What’s it like on the road?
The low centre of gravity makes for relaxed running, the body resistant to leaning. That’s the most obvious sensation with the EQC, its flat cornering belying the SUV body. It’s also allowed engineers to adopt a fairly plush suspension tune, the focus clearly on comfort rather than overt sportiness.
Ultimately you can feel the weight – it’s some 400kg heavier than a GLC -understeer the first sign the 20-inch Pirellis Scorpion Verde tyres (235mm wide at the front and 255mm at the rear) have reached their limit. But relaxed motoring is where the EQC excels, its near-silent propulsion making for a soothing cabin.
As speed increases it accentuates the noise from the tyres, a mild roar present above 70km/h over some surfaces. It’ll be interesting to see if that’s more pronounced on country Australian roads, many known for their coarse bitumen surfaces. Similarly, there’s some muted electronic whining at low speeds, the electric motor part of the aural equation. In some ways it adds to the character.
It’s the suspension that is the biggest surprise, with a suppleness few modern Mercs come close to. It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum to the underdone GLC, which often feels clumsy over bumps. With regular coil springs up front and air suspension at the rear the EQC is positively plush at low speeds, and that compliance continues as speed increases.
Unusually for a luxury car at this price level, there are no adjustable dampers. But given the comfort-focused setup they weren’t missed on our day-and-a-bit with the car. Thump a larger bump mid-corner – or an ugly speed hump – and it needs a couple of goes at controlling the body, but it is generally comfortable and controlled, fitting in with the whole relaxed nature of the EQC.
What’s it like off the road?
The EQC has four-wheel drive and a high-riding body, but it’s very much designed for on-road use. Snow-covered roads would be about its limit.
Does it have a spare?
There’s no spare tyre, only because there isn’t room for one beneath the boot floor. Instead, it comes with a repair kit to take care of minor punctures. Run-flat tyres are optional, providing the ability to drive to a tyre repair shop.
Can you tow with it?
In Europe the EQC is rated to tow up to 1800kg. No word yet on whether that tow capacity will translate to Australia, although it seems logical.
What about ownership?
Mercedes-Benz says the EQC needs to be serviced every 12 months or 25,000km. And while the company hasn’t released the price of servicing yet, you can guarantee it will be less than the GLC – or other regular Mercedes-Benzes. That’s because there’s a lot less to go wrong. The electric motor requires no servicing and the battery pack only needs a change of its cooling liquid after 200,000km. So it’s brakes, suspension and other items that need to be checked as required. There are also cabin air filters that need regular replacing.
What safety features does it have?
The EQC is brimming with safety features, both ones to protect you in a crash and those to help you avoid one. It’s those active crash avoidance systems that are the most interesting. Forward facing cameras and radar take care of autonomous emergency braking, and there’s blind spot monitoring and steering assistance. The adaptive drive systems are also terrific, allowing for more relaxed motoring and letting the car do the basics, something that helps reduce fatigue.