For the oldest car company in the world, to forge into the future has to be a calculated move. Mercedes’ first-ever luxury EV certainly is no knee-jerk reaction to market trends and hence it seems like it took forever for the apex German brand to enter the electric arena. And even then the EQC isn’t built on an entirely new platform, but the GLC mid-size SUV. This isn’t the worst thing to happen to an EV since the GLC is a proven package that embodies all of Mercedes’ values - luxury, safety and technology. It’s also one of their best-selling models so electrifying an already successful design makes it less of a risk. But does it all make sense?
To embrace an all-EV is to embrace a new mindset, both in terms of driving and ownership. Certainly, the EQC can be your one and only car but it definitely isn’t going to be the first. As such, Mercedes has ensured it has all the trappings of a, well, Mercedes. Starting with the exterior design, the two mantras at their HQ are Progressive Luxury and Sensual Purity, which seem to have distilled quite well on the EQC. Even though it looks familiar to the GLC in silhouette, the face wears the new design elements that will be seen on future EQ vehicles too. Blue strips inside the LED headlamp casing, a wide grille lashed with chrome and a LED strip that runs across and a gloss black plastic trim to connect the headlights together.
The sharp shoulder line on the standard GLC is replaced by cleaner bodywork and the rear mimics the front with a body-width LED strip connecting the tail-lights. All of this is purposefully enhanced by the 20in EQC exclusive wheels that look appropriately sci-fi with blue strips on two-tone gloss-black painted alloys. If you want to make an entry looking like Tron, the EQC just replaced the Audi R8 as the most sci-fi looking car in India! But the sensible bits are under the space-age suit. While the EQC is no ballet dancer at a massive 2.5 tons, more than 650kgs of that weight is taken up by the 80kWh battery that sits between the front and rear axle. While this may feel smaller than the competition, Mercedes has encased the battery in a thick aluminium structure that is said to improve impact protection. I’ll take being alive instead of doing 20 extra kilometres, so good call!
Stand out subtly
The two motors are optimised for different tasks as well. From the get-go, the primary front motor which is optimised for efficiency is active, essentially making this an FWD car, but the moment you step hard on the throttle, the rear axle motor which is optimised for power kicks in and boy, does it kick your butt! The 4Matic 4WD system uses complex algorithms and software to send power to the right wheel depending on throttle input and surface traction. In terms of driving, what you feel is an eerie sensation upon starting the car since there is no vibration, no rumble, nothing to indicate that the EQC is ready to drive except for a message on the 10.25in digital driver display. It glides away effortlessly, without a sound and yet the moment you give just a little tap on the accelerator pedal, it lunges forward with the urgency of a cheetah having spotted a gazelle.
It all happens with typical Mercedes levels of refinement, in an interior that is as distinctive as the exterior. Although the twin 10.25in screens hidden behind a single pane of ultra-wide glass remains dominant, there is enough design flair inside the cabin to make you feel a few years ahead of your fuel-burning friends. Starting with the Sunnyvale fabric, its silk-like feel is an impressive way to wrap the top of the dashboard. The cabin is embellished with aluminium slats for speaker grilles and trim inserts, rose gold AC vent controls and a retro-cool, cassette-type main AC vent console that Mercedes says is inspired by consumer electronics. It does remind me of vintage amplifiers and it’s finished in gloss dark-grey, making it stand out from the rest of the centre console elements. Even the top of the door pads are covered in a denim blue coloured material that feels fantastic to touch and overall, it creates an ambience that takes a few minutes to soak in and appreciate. It’s busy no doubt, but also bold and daring for a brand like Mercedes.
Hey gorgeous, hey Mercedes!
Technology-wise, the MBUX in its latest form (NTG 6.0) looks as sharp as ever, with multiple forms of control. The haptic touchpad in the centre console, thumb pads on the steering wheel, touchscreen itself and the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant. It all works slickly, except the voice assistant which is still a work-in-progress but the real standout here is the dedicated EQ control screen that shows all kinds of data that is not just fun, but also critical if you want to extend your driving range. It shows the energy flow from the front to the rear motor, average battery consumption, charge state, charging options and even charging locations which can even be searched via voice assistant. Elsewhere, just like a C-Class of repute, all the typical Mercedes safety features like Attention Assist, Active Brake Assist, Blind Spot Assist, ESC and 7 airbags are standard on this EQC400 variant and that’s the only one we’ll be getting in India.
Even the 360-degree surround-view camera works brilliantly with great resolution but unfortunately, the augmented reality maps aren’t on offer for the Indian variant just yet. A word has to be mentioned about the superb 13-speaker Burmester Surround sound system which just elevates the driving experience even further. The 590W of power is more than enough but it’s also the way in which all that power is delivered that makes it a standout HiFi system and even better than the Burmester on the E-Class sedan. The subwoofers are integrated into the body shell in an arrangement that Mercedes calls FrontBass, to eliminate any sort of door panel or body panel vibrations and increasing definition while the seat optimised surround sound ensures every passenger gets a wholesome listening experience, not just hear the speaker they’re closest to. Along with ambient lighting and the fully-powered seats, it becomes an effortless experience munching a lot of miles.
Different kind of driving
How you cover those miles is an entirely new kind of experience and frankly, that’s what you’re paying the premium over the standard GLC anyway. The lack of a mechanical drivetrain and moving parts under the floor creates a phenomenally refined experience, regardless of being driven or driving. But this is also a testimony to every modern Mercedes cabin and how quiet it feels even with an ICE under the hood that the EQC doesn’t feel like a huge step up. Sure, the start-up process takes a while to get used to without the hint of engine wobble to begin with but once you get going, it’s all smiles. The legend of instant torque is true indeed and it’s like nothing you’ve felt before. Well, unless your other car is a Koenigsegg. Find a gap in the traffic and no other conventional car can do what the EQC can achieve in the blink of an eye.
No more planning overtaking manoeuvres, just tap the throttle and lunge forward of even an 18-wheeler rig. There’s no transmission to speak of but what you do get are paddle shifters behind the wheel that control how much brake regeneration force you want to engage and that in turn controls how the car behaves. D (Auto), D+, D, D- and D- - are the modes available and as the nomenclature suggests, D- - provides the strongest recuperation or charge from the motor back into the battery. In effect, if you’re in D- -, lifting your foot off the throttle results in a sharp decrease in power and hence, works in the same way as engine braking. In stop-go traffic, you could get by just using this mode and never use the brake pedal too, so sharp is the drop off in power. Move up the ranks to D and D+ and it starts reacting like a more conventional SUV, but with better acceleration. I would’ve preferred a better brake pedal feel because you need to really work them hard to feel the bite. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to with the newness of an EV and I didn’t have enough time to make friends with the EQC. Range anxiety shouldn’t be a concern with a claimed range of about 450kms, but again it all depends on how you use the paddles between D- - and D+, so it’s back to school for your right foot. In a straight line, the EQC is quicker than any SUV in its class and even around bends, it stays relatively flat holding its line thanks to the 4WD traction. The steering is direct and while it’s no corner carver, the understeer is mild enough for most people to not even notice.
Charging can be done at home via a standard 15A wall AC socket, a Mercedes installed AC wall box or a public DC charger. Charging times will range from 21hours to 90 minutes between them but the most practical would be the 10hr full charge provided by the Mercedes wall box that can be installed after inspection from the dealership.
Technologically, the EQC makes a strong case even besides its zero carbon footprint. The twin motors develop a combined power output of 408hp and 760Nm of torque, which is beyond what most sports cars offer, not to mention it lifts its heavy skirt and sprints to 100km/hr in 5.1secs! So even if you don’t intend to save the planet in 2020, the EQC is capable of providing enough thrills, but just don’t take it anywhere remote off-road. With a lower ride height and ground clearance than the ICE counterpart, my test car scraped almost every speed breaker or bottomed out in large potholes. Not something you’d expect from an SUV but you’ll have to reset your expectations just the way you have to recalibrate your driving style with the electric motors.
Like Mercedes Me, the EQ Ready app can reside on your phone and let you monitor the charge status, locate charging stations along your route and a whole host of other things you’d expect. Speaking of connectivity, the EQC also has the distinction of already moving on to USB-C ports and has 3 scattered across its cabin, CarPlay and Android Auto support. But none of this can outshine its brilliance as a luxury EV package that doesn’t come with any noticeable compromises besides its shocking lack of dynamic dampers or increased ground clearance. While its actual on-road price will be announced in the coming weeks, based on estimations and the fact that it’s a full CBU, it won’t be shy of a crore so we’re being conservative with our rating. A pleasure to cover long distances in, comfortable to spend the whole day in and easy on your conscience, if your wallet can afford the weight of the world, there’s no reason the EQC can’t be your first proper all-electric car.