For a little while, it seemed like the company that invented the automobile had missed the most significant evolution of it since Karl Friedrich Benz received a patent for his Motorwagen back in 1886. Now the firm with the star is trying to play catch-up with the likes of Tesla and Jaguar by launching its first-ever fully electric SUV, the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Company boss Dieter Zetsche calls it the “dawn of a new era” for the marque, but does the vehicle have what it takes to achieve electric glory?
Representing the first model to be launched under Mercedes’s EQ brand, the EQC400 4Matic has a lot riding on its muscular shoulders. Powered by an in-house-manufactured 80kWh lithium-ion battery that sends juice to two asynchronous motors at the front and rear axles, this latest SUV from Stuttgart mobilizes 408hp and 765Nm, and goes from zero to 100km/h in a respectable 5.1 seconds, with top speed being electronically limited to 180km/h.
Perhaps most important for potential buyers of this EV is the range, which Mercedes gives as 450km. Strangely, it says this distance is provisional, indicating that company boffins may still be trying to squeeze more electrons out of the 650kg battery. The European NEDC standard is known to be a little on the optimistic side, which means the true range may well be less than the quoted figure. So we will have to wait for the first real-life tests to find out how far this all-wheel-drive machine can actually go before needing to recharge.
The 4.7m-long, five-seater SUV didn’t go too wild where the design is concerned, which should be welcome news to fans of the brand who are a little on the conservative side. The front has kept a huge grille that proudly carries the badge and instantly tells onlookers that this is a Mercedes, while the rest of the vehicle shows off the brand’s latest design language in a slightly softer and sleeker tone, which the firm’s marketing people refer to as “avant-garde electric look.”
The cabin, which now features “pre-climatization” to make sure you never have to step into a hot car ever again, offers the usual mix of luxury and technology that you would expect from a Mercedes, while the cockpit is dominated by the company’s clever new MBUX user interface and entertainment system. Two 10-inch displays handle everything from displaying the instrument cluster to anticipating what the user would like to do next, thanks to artificial intelligence being included in the system. Settings can be changed via the touch interface or through Linguatronic voice control.
This being a Merc, it of course also has all the latest safety systems, and the list of features just seems to grow. It now even includes a feature that will automatically move the car toward the side of the road if it recognizes a tailback, with the aim being to create the rescue lane that drivers have to form by law if there’s a traffic jam on the autobahn. If such a feature will really work in the real world remains to be seen, but other features like active brake assist and a further developed adaptive cruise control are welcome additions for any driver.
No price has been released for the EQC400, and all we know is that this first electric Chedeng for the masses will be built in Bremen, Germany, from 2019 onward, meaning we likely won’t see one on our roads before 2020 or even later. A lot is riding on this car for the brand that, over a hundred years ago, changed the way we travel forever. Only time will tell if the latecomer can really take on existing players and cope with the growing number of automakers churning out EVs in places like China. The competition is fierce, and it will take something rather special if the TriStar wants to maintain its place in the automotive sky.