Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - EQC
Presence, performance, refinement, space, quality, maturity
Room for improvement
Weighs too much, front suspension doesn’t cope as well as the rear end over larger bumps, body control issues, wooden brake feel
Cloaked in normality, Mercedes’ first electric car proves both slick and seductive
5 Dec 2019
BEATEN to the punch by Jaguar (I-Pace) and, by some margin, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz has finally pitched its own premium-brand electric vehicle into an exponentially expanding competitor set.
Hoping to win customers over with the approachability and relative value for money of its EQC400 4Matic battery-electric vehicle, Mercedes-Benz has cannily entered the booming medium SUV segment first, ahead of an electric limousine (EQS) and an electric small car (EQA) destined to join it over the next 12-18 months.
Sharing the same 2873mm wheelbase as Mercedes-Benz’s combustion-engined GLC medium SUV, and thus able to be built on the same production line, the EQC also shares much of its door skins and many interior components with its fossil-fuelled sibling.
But this is a very different car.
First drive impressions
Even for those familiar with switching between cars, there’s an air of anticipation approaching the Mercedes-Benz EQC400 4Matic.
As the first vehicle to parade the EQ moniker for Stuttgart’s three-pointed-star brand – charging headlong into a proposed carbon-neutral future beyond 2039 – the EQC is a big deal.
It’s a fully electric Benz, which brings with it momentous curiosity.
Eyeing the EQC for the first time, you know it shares some of its form with the mainstream GLC wagon, but what exactly?
Mercedes-Benz claims it’s about 15 percent in total – mainly suspension andsteering components – though there’s been much work in that department, repackaging hardware to enable the EQC to cope with its considerable kerb weight.
Despite Stuttgart’s best efforts, the EQC maxes out the scales at a hefty 2480kg, making it much tubbier than Jaguar’s I-Pace (2133kg), but still less than Audi’s larger E-Tron (2560kg) which arrives in Australia next year.
There’s a chunkiness to the way the EQC looks, too, though that’s definitely a positive.
Riding on optional 21-inch wheels (which are standard on the sold-out Edition 1 version), whose bristled form conjures an electric brush motor, the EQC commands a strong, wide-tracked presence which is broadened further by horizontal LED lighting strips spanning both its nose and tail.
Inside, stylistic nods to electrical forms continue.
Circuit-board-inspired air-vent blades in a tasteful copper colour derived from wiring are joined by straked aluminium trim inserts running from the upper doors into the dashboard that are a link to computer cooling.
It might sound nerdy but it’s actually quite stylish – complemented on our test car by a shimmery metallic-silver dash-top overlay with rose-gold stitching that’s partly constructed of recycled material.
The hyper-slick expanse of Mercedes-Benz’s cutting-edge MBUX horizontal dash screens takes on more of an Electric Blue flavour in the EQC (though not of the Icehouse type...), and while the lower-dash and door-trim switchgear are regular Mercedes-Benz fodder, there’s a consistency and a premium-ness that reflect the EQC’s rather substantial $138K pricetag.
‘Cranking’ her up and shifting the column-stalk wand into Drive, there’s a familiarity to the experience that Mercedes must be banking on as a bridge to its electrified future.
This is already a fairly complex cabin so why confuse things any further?
About the only thing you need to know is how the steering-wheel paddles work.
The left one shifts the single fixed-ratio transmission gear from D to D minus (D-), or D double minus (D--), to increase the degree of stopping force from regenerative braking, while the right-hand paddle can raise it to D plus (D+) for minimal ‘regen’ intrusion and smoother driving at higher speeds, where effortless coasting takes precedence.
But city driving is what the EQC is really intended for.
And here, among the unpredictability of Melbourne’s CBD traffic gridlock, the calming silence of the EQC’s electric propulsion feels perfectly in keeping with its hi-tech station in life.
There are aspects of the EQC’s driving characteristics that require some learning,though.
Unless you’re able to sensitively caress the throttle pedal, best leave the EQC’s drivetrain in its ‘Eco’ setting for smoothly progressive take-offs.
If you accidentally punch the right pedal too aggressively in ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’ mode and you’ll know exactly what it’s like to be fired out of a cannon.
With one 150kW electric motor driving the front wheels and another identical 150kW example (for on-demand all-wheel drive) sitting low between the rear suspension’s air springs, this combined 300kW total, in unison with a whopping 760Nm of torque, is enough to thrust the EQC from 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds.
At that very moment, the EQC feels as light as air.Start to change direction in it, though, and you can sense the considerable mass that’s being thrown about.
Unlike, say, Tesla’s original Model S, there isn’t that marvellous feeling of ground-scraping centre-of-gravity and zero bodyroll.
Instead, the EQC feels very much like a lofty SUV, albeit one that’s significantly more adept on the move than your run-of-the-mill GLC wagon.
Like a base GLC, the EQC doesn’t get adaptive dampers, but somehow it manages to smother bumps and absorb road imperfections far better than its massive 21-inch wheels might suggest.
Weight is obviously helping here, but then so are its low-slung batteries when you push it hard in tight corners, aided by a faster steering rack pinched from the GLC Coupe.
About the only real giveaway of the EQC’s heft is the distant groaning of its tyres through roundabouts, and the inability of its suspension to prevent body float over challenging undulations – especially if they’re diagonal heaves.
As a country car, the EQC isn’t without its flaws – wooden brake feel included – but that isn’t necessarily what this electric SUV is all about.
The fact you can get 353km out of it between charging (according to Europe’s more stringent WLTP testing), and that it generally rides with a degree of quietness and decorum should simply be the icing on the cake.
Back in town, it’s the EQC’s effortlessness as a zero-emissions family hauler that hits home hardest.
It’s striking to look at without being too challenging, it swallows four people and their luggagewith almost as much room and practicality to spare as a regular GLC wagon, and it’s packed to the eyeballs with standard equipment.
Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacificmade a very deliberate attempt to be upfront with this car by offering only a handful of options.
Even its 12-month/25,000km service intervalsis as generous as the best combustion-engined cars... not that many EQC buyers will be doing that sort of mileage each year.
Yet we can’t help feeling that the EQC400 4matic is merely a steppingstone toa far more sophisticated future.
Even now you can tell it’s a halfway house – an existing platform heavily re-engineered to accommodate a full battery-electric powertrain – rather than a bespoke vehicle intended solely for electric propulsion.
For Mercedes-Benz, that lighter, more efficient, more other-worldly future is some way off.
In the meantime, if this is the standard we should expect of city-slicking electric SUVs, then the EQC is off to a quietly accomplished head start.
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