The all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQC is excellent to drive, it looks good, it has a very upmarket interior and lots of space, it could just do with a bit more range…
Mercedes-Benz was one of the pioneers in the area of electric cars with its smart sub-brand, having a battery electric vehicle on sale before lots of other manufacturers. Mercedes has also developed EVs under its own brand, such as the electric B-Class, but it hasn’t had a mainstream production offering – until now. Enter the EQC, which has taken longer to get to showrooms than promised, but at least you can now buy an all-electric car with a Mercedes badge.
With its curvy SUV shape, the Mercedes-Benz EQC is exactly what buyers want from a styling point of view – helped by the huge 21-inch wheels on our test car.
The interior is also a very nice place to be; the dashboard has a modern, upmarket appearance and high quality materials, along with a wide, one-piece screen incorporating the instrument display and central touchscreen.
There’s lots of space for occupants and for luggage, with a large 500-litre boot.
Underneath the EQC sits an 80kWh lithium-ion battery, two electric motors which deliver all-wheel drive, and a single-speed automatic transmission.
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Okay, here it is: the EQC is the best Mercedes that we’ve ever driven. Although we’re reporting here on living with a test car, the first time we drove an EQC – last year in pre-production form – we drove it back-to-back with its Mercedes diesel 4×4 equivalent, and the EQC was smooth, refined, quiet, effortless, rapid, luxurious etc etc. Whereas the diesel 4×4 felt cumbersome, noisy and old-fashioned in comparison.
Having the EQC on test only served to reinforce the view above, and it allowed us to confirm that the production version feels very well developed in terms of the chassis (with the suspension having a much more ‘premium’, well-engineered feel than a Tesla Model 3 for example). The driving experience is excellent: with 408 hp, a massive 760 Nm of torque, and a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, performance is impressive – although it’s not delivered in a ‘shove in the back’ way as in some Teslas. Despite the huge 21-inch wheels on our test car, the ride quality was also very good.
But perhaps the most surprising thing was that the EQC feels relatively agile. Why was that surprising? Because the EQC weighs 2.5 tonnes. The battery accounts for 652kg of that, which still leaves 1,850kg of car according to our maths. We’ll come back to the consequences of this later, but as far as the driving experience is concerned, the EQC does a very good job of masking that weight, and it feels more agile to drive than the equally impressive all-electric Audi e-tron.
With all the weight of the battery low down in the floor, the low centre of gravity helps with the car’s handling through corners.
Although the steering is generally well-weighted, it can occasionally feel slightly over-assisted, but we’re guessing that’s due to ensuring 2.5 tonnes of car is user-friendly to manoeuvre on the school run.
There are five drive modes: Comfort, Eco, Max Range, Sport and Individual. We’d recommend not using Max Range unless you’re desperate, as the responses to inputs on the accelerator really are virtually non-existent. There are also steering wheel-mounted paddles, which can be used to provide more brake regeneration.
The wide screen incorporating the main instrument display and the touchscreen provides sharp images and the satnav mapping is clear (although the screen isn’t particularly deep). The MBUX infomedia system feels modern and works well overall, however some of the controls, such as those on the steering wheel, feel a bit over-complex. And we would still argue that conventional rotary controls for changing interior temperature, rather than controls accessed via the screen, are more user-friendly.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC has an official WLTP combined electric range of 232-259 miles. Our EQC test car arrived, after various delays, on the day that the coronavirus lock down was announced. So we had to do a very compressed review compared to normal, and the best driving range that we could achieve in, albeit somewhat limited, real-world driving was 203 miles.
We’ve referred to the 2,495 kg kerb weight already, and although the Mercedes engineers appear to have done a good job of masking the weight during the driving experience, the fact is that the EQC weighs 2.5 tonnes and the laws of physics dictate that this will have an impact on the driving range. And so we have the mathematical equation of an 80kWh battery plus 2.5 tonnes of SUV = a driving range of just over 200 miles in the real-world.
The EQC can be charged at home using its 7.4 kW (AC) charger, when a 10-100% charge using a wallbox takes 11 hours. Rapid (DC) public charging takes 40 minutes for a 10-80% charge at 110 kW.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC AMG Line Premium Plus costs £74,610. Our test car had options of Driving Assistance Plus package (£1,695) and Brilliant blue metallic paint (£685), taking the price as tested to £76,990.
The big news is that pure EVs have zero percent Benefit in Kind tax from April 2020, so despite the high purchase price, the EQC will be attractive to company car drivers. And of course ‘fuel’ costs can be as low as around one-fifth of those of petrol cars.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC is an excellent car to drive and to live with. The Mercedes badge is a huge draw for many people, as is the prospect of an SUV, and if they also want an electric car, the EQC sounds ideal for them.
However the EQC costs around £75,000 and it was promising a driving range of just over 200 miles after a full charge during our time with the car. So although this is our favourite Mercedes – it’s much better to drive than petrol or diesel SUVs, and of course it has zero tailpipe emissions – the high price and the limited range probably means that the EQC will have relatively niche appeal.
Of course the zero percent Benefit in Kind company car tax rate for EVs from April 2020 will be an added incentive. Our work in the industry tells us that businesses have been ordering large numbers of Tesla Model 3s, and a key factor in this is the ease with which you can charge a Tesla using its Supercharger network. So although the apparent 200 mile real-life range of the EQC wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it had access to a charging network such as that of Tesla, unfortunately the reality is that the UK’s rapid charging network, especially at motorway service stations, can’t be relied upon 100% at the moment.
So despite the EQC being a very impressive car overall, in the UK at least, its range really needs to be better, and so the Mercedes-Benz EQC just misses out on top marks and gains a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.