This is the future of Mercedes-Benz.
I take the Mercedes EQC to Mid-Wales and meet Henry Catchpole in a Lamborghini...
Launched over 2 years ago, the Mercedes Benz EQC has only just begun to appear in UK showrooms and is still a rare sight on our roads. After viewing the EQC at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, I was chomping at the bit to drive the future of motoring. Thanks to Mercedes Benz of Shrewsbury yesterday I got the chance to test the EQC on roads that I know like the back of hand, read on to find out how it faired…
How is the driving experience different to a conventional petrol/diesel SUV?
Setting off in the EQC for the first time, in fact my first ever time in an electric car, my head was full of questions. How will the throttle pedal feel? How do I gauge my speed with the absence of gears and mechanical noise? How will I handle the range anxiety?
All of these questions, and I guess fears, rapidly disappeared as I pulled out of the dealership. Simply put, the fundamental driving experience is akin to driving any large displacement engined car with a decent automatic gearbox. The only difference is that the car starts to move the instant you begin to press the pedal. After that, the pedal travel correlation to speed and acceleration is akin to a “normal” car, just with the pleasant absence of gear changes. For some unknown reason I always thought that in an electric car the pedal would need to be kept open. Similar to controlling a scale-electric or RC car. It sounds silly I know, but in all the reviews from far better qualified people than myself, I’d never read how this fundamental aspect of driving felt.
A motor per axle and an auto centre diff make the EQC a true AWD. The huge torque and easy throttle control should make it extremely capable in snow and ice.
With 408hp and 760nm the EQC certainly falls into the lively category, however, Mercedes don’t market the sporting credentials that heavily. Speaking of weight, you can’t ignore the EQC’s mass, at 2,495kg it’s no lightweight. Thanks to the nature of the electric drivetrain this mass isn’t too apparent in a straight line, evidenced by a blistering 0-62mph of just 5.1 seconds, due to the torque on tap acceleration is instant regardless of speed or climb. Imagine the sensation of when the turbo picks up, it’s like that all the time - a vast well of torque waiting to rocket you past the polluting car in-front. Thanks to its weight and suspension (springs upfront, air on the rear) the EQC squats under hard acceleration – a very humorous and strangely addictive sensation when coupled with the quietude. The AWD drivetrain is also surprisingly dynamic, it's quite happy to wag it's tail a little if you over cook it out a roundabout, just remember it's a high riding SUV when you get to the bends.
Suitably swish looking for a Mercedes, I do prefer Mojave or Iridium Silver over black
For the purposes of the range test I kept the EQC in “comfort” mode throughout, not only is this the car’s default mode, it is also realistically the only mode that you’ll ever need to drive it in. An aspect of the electric driving experience I was particularly keen to explore was “regenerative braking.” This is where the electric motors, one per axle in the EQC, are turned by the wheels. The resistance of spinning the motors causes the car to slow down, the resistance created generates electricity which is fed back into the battery. Then, when you accelerate, the car uses the energy previously stored from regenerative braking instead of tapping further into its own energy reserves. Think back to your childhood and those toy pull-back cars that you push backwards to build up energy in the motor, and then release to go shooting off, usually disappearing under a sofa. The basic idea of creating energy is the same.
A very green black car.
The EQC has four different drive programs: Max Range, Eco, Comfort and Sport. In each drive mode there are five levels: (D Auto) where the car automatically decides how much or little to apply thanks to very complicated software that uses the satnav to “read” the road. Simply put, if you’re going down a hill, the car notices this and applies more regenerative braking than if you were driving in town. You can also manually increase or decrease the level of regenerative braking via what where previously gear change paddles on the steering wheel. Using the “up” paddle you decrease the level to minimal regen, indicated by (D+) on the dash, basically coasting. One tap of the “down” paddle increases it to (D) similar to a normal automatics amount of engine braking. Another tap to (D-) a level similar to a conventional down shift. Yet another tap of “down” takes you to max regen, (D--) this feels like heavy braking in a “normal” car. I found (D-) best for town and flowing A roads, with (D --) ideal for B roads and when approaching roundabouts on A roads. (D--) makes the physical brakes virtually redundant, you are able to accelerate and decelerate all the way to stationary, just by balancing the throttle pedal. For those of you who have experienced HGV’s or heavy machinery such as a Unimog, regenerative braking has a similar sensation to a good exhaust brake.
I adore these wheels, however, the thought of keeping them clean during winter makes me wince.
In my relatively short life, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel in a vast array of cars, everything from Defenders to W12 Bentaygas and Conti GTs. In terms of quietude, the EQC wins outright. Acoustic and thermally insulated glass eradicates wind noise and road noise from over vehicles whilst the chassis and cabin are swathed in multiple layers of sound deadening resulting in no tyre roar from the 21inch rims. Thanks to Mercedes stellar build quality and wide usage of premium materials there are no creaks, rattles or groans from the cabin. To fill the sound vacuum, a 590w Burmester sound system (standard on AMG Line Premium and Premium Plus.) The Burmester system really is one of the best on the market, clear consistent quality throughout the entire range.
Thanks to my background, BMus(Hons) at the Royal Northern College of Music, my playlist for testing a sound system is a little more erudite than other’s. Afterall playing electronically derived music loudly only tests two aspects of a sound system’s capability – bass and treble. Throwing everything from Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor and De Falla to the Foo Fighters with a smattering of Rachmaninov really tests the range of a systems ability. Thanks to the sound insulation and clarity of the Burmester system you are treated to a concert hall-esque experience.
There is some acoustic feedback from the drivetrain at low speed, remember back to pre-covid and when we could go on holiday? Well, imagine you’re sat on a plane waiting to depart, remember that slight whine the engines make whilst they idle? It’s a little like that. Apparently, that’s there so visually impaired people don’t step out on you, in reverse the EQC also has a little white noise-esque bleeper that plays automatically.
Stepping into the EQC for the first time you are presented with the now familiar MBUX and array of screens. Personally, I really like the screens and the operating system, but prefer the earlier twizzy knob-controlled version to the current “haptic” touchpad. Thankfully there are still button shortcuts to the major functions. The main dash features easy to read information about range and can be configured in a multitude of ways, I always leave them in “classic.” Despite being twenty-two I have the digital know-how of someone much older – probably due to a childhood spent outside instead of inside, not glued to a screen as many of my peers seem to of been. I also didn't fall victim to "Hey Mercedes" sensitivity bug that people complain about - perhaps clear enunciation is the solution to their problem.
One of the best Mercedes interiors currently available. Screens + buttons = perfect.
My favourite part of the whole EQC experience is the combination of interior materials. The designers have really gone to town on creating a truly unique interior yet keeping it instantly recognisable as a Mercedes. Real leather (one hundred percent real – no plastic cows here) covers the seats, dash, steering wheel and the majority of the door card. A modern combination of gloss carbon fibre-esque trim and a wonderfully ribbed aluminium element wraps around from the doors into the dashboard. The centre console is traditional gloss black with a selection of useful buttons, one directly takes you to the charging point locator feature of the sat-nav, very handy.
Interior bronze accents hint at the electrical energy beneath your right foot.
The driving position is typical SUV with good all-round visibility; however, the rear window is a little small. The front seats have electro-pneumatic four-way lumbar support for driver, with electronic pad and back tilt, forwards/backwards distance is manually adjustable. (Premium Plus gains the full 12-way electrical adjustment with memory function) The car on test was an AMG Line Premium so was equipped with the “Energising” and “Air-Balance” packages, these use a combination of scents and ambient lighting to improve your mental wellbeing. Oh and a sun roof!
With a 500L boot there is plenty of space for a large shop or a number of suitcase’s, under floor storage is plentiful, allowing for easy stowage of the assorted charging cables. The front and rear seats are very supportive, sadly only the fronts are optionally heated. Even with the driver’s seat positioned in a comfortable position there was plenty of leg room for myself to sit in the back, quite a feat as I’m 6’4”. The rear seats fold flat (60:40) allowing for transport of longer items, my unique test is whether a full-size double bass fits in – the EQC passed.
Only 15% of the EQC is shared with it's chassis mate, the GLC.
There is a vast array of technology in the EQC, everything from safety systems to pre-entry climatization, it’ll heat/cool the car for you whilst charging! If you’re really interested in the battery technology, I’d recommend watching this video – link. It answers all and any of your questions far better than I can.
Real world range.
In WLTP testing the EQC, regardless of trim level, is claimed to hit 248-252 miles. Well when I picked the car up it had 210 miles of range showing, 4:47 hours of driving later covering 149 miles of A roads and Welsh backroads with the AC on at 20, music playing and with a normal driving style I had 93 miles remaining. Quick maths shows that I added 32 real miles to those original 210 miles. 149 miles covered + 93 miles remaining = 242 miles. That’s thanks to the regenerative braking. In total, the cars computer stated I added 34.9 bonus miles. Presumably the surplus 2.9 miles where used in overtaking. I think that this goes to show that EV’s are a very viable mode of transport for most people, and don’t forget the EQC will gain 80% charge in 40mins at a proper high output charger and will charge overnight from your standard 13amp plug in the mains.
The numbers don't lie, apologies for my shirt in the reflection - gingham check is about as exciting as it gets.
Is it worthy of the Mercedes star? Yes. Would I put my money where my mouth is? If I had enough money I would. I’ll happily admit I was a little apprehensive of the EV idea, after all I’ve spent a vast majority of my youth in my dad’s not very economical cars. However, I think that EV’s like the EQC are the way forwards. If we managed to get at least 50% of normal consumers into electric powered cars imagine the benefits to the environment. The majority of press seem to think that the electric car is the death bell for the combustion engine full stop. Really? Did horses suddenly disappear because we invented cars. No, they didn’t. I personally think that in the future the majority of cars will be electric, well actually they have to be, and the faster we get that thought in our minds the better. Whilst the majority of cars will be electric, the combustion engine will not go extinct, instead they’ll become something to be savoured and enjoyed as a memory of a bygone era in the same way people still ride horses, ride bicycles for fun and circumnavigate the globe in ships powered by sail.
As tested: EQC 400 4matic AMG Line Premium (RRP £74,055 incl. options) courtesy of Mercedes Benz of Shrewsbury
The Carfection tracking car in pursuit of Mr Catchpole - thanks for the quick chat!