Is that a problem, I wonder, in a market in which design may be about to become a vitally important selling point? It might be; or maybe it’s just our present perspective talking. Either way, if people look at the EQC and fail to recognize it as a Mercedes until it’s close enough to see the star on the grille, as I fear they might, you wonder if it will really fulfill its potential. We'll see.
How does the EQC stack up to its electric rivals?
The EQC is, in prospect, a mid-sized SUV that’s actually about 100mm longer than a Mercedes GLC, although still only a five-seater. With slightly different electric motors mounted on each axle, the car has electronically torque-vectored four-wheel drive. The front motor has a less tightly wound stator for better operating efficiency, the rear one a more tightly wound one for greater torque. When cruising, the EQC is driven almost exclusively by the front motor.
Dig deeply into the accelerator, however, and the car’s driving impetus shifts instantly towards the rear axle, with up to a combined 402bhp and 564lb ft on tap. That’s a good portion more peak torque than is offered by either the Jaguar i-Pace or the Audi E-tron, although the former is still quicker-accelerating than the Mercedes according to manufacturer claims.
It’s in direct comparison with those two key rivals that so much about this car will be judged. The EQC splits the difference between them on both overall length and price. With an 80kWh battery, it has the least usable battery capacity of the three – and yet it beats the bigger, heavier Audi on WLTP-test-verified battery range (259 miles plays 249).
On the inside, the car is a lot easier to recognize as a modern Mercedes than from without. The EQC’s cabin has the twin widescreen digital displays and button-crowded steering wheel spokes of so many modern Benzes, but mixes some fresh design details, some new ambient lighting features, some EV-specific display modes and new-groove materials into the cabin mix. Our test car had slotted speaker grilles and natty looking stylized air vents, both of which I liked, as well as a particularly soft and attractive synthetic dashboard whose appearance I can only risk underselling by describing as if it had been made out of recycled wetsuits.
Occupant space up front feels pretty typical for a mid-sized SUV; in the rear you’re just a little more aware of being squeezed in between a raised cabin floor (under which the drive battery sits) and a roofline that’s lowish by class standards. With 500 litres of storage space, the boot is biggish but not exceptionally so.
How does the EQC perform on the road?
The car’s driving experience has no shortage of features to distinguish it from a combustion-engined SUV, and, if you've read about or driven EVs before, you won’t need me to itemize most of them. But if there’s one to lift it above that of the E-tron, iPace or Tesla Model X, it’s refinement.
Aren’t all EV supposed to be silent-running? Well, no – it turns out they’re not. I don’t think I’ve ever driven an electric car – or any car, come to think of it – as quiet as the EQC. Attentive aerodynamic body design helps to tune out wind intrusion at speed, or course, but road noise is very well isolated here too, and the car’s ride is very comfortable indeed at both low speeds and high.
Throttle response is typically great, although perhaps not at Tesla’s almost synaptic level; drivability is excellent; and outright performance is very strong, though a Jaguar i-Pace might just feel a touch stronger under big pedal applications. The car’s handling, meanwhile, is neat, secure, contained and predictable, although it doesn’t stand out from the SUV pack for its sense of precision or incisiveness.