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Will the EQC put your old luxe car out to pasture?

S Muralidhar | Updated on December 03, 2020 Published on December 03, 2020

Merc’s first EV tries to package the best the brand has to offer. Yet, it is meant only for the seriously green luxury buyer

The electric mobility revolution is already upon us, and frankly, it has even started showing in the number of EVs that are seen on our streets. All those green number plates are getting the attention they deserve. I’ve driven quite a few electrics and yet can’t say that I’ve fully warmed up to the concept of an electric motor feeding power to a car’s wheels. However, they don’t behave very differently to their smoking counterparts. And once they get going, EVs can be fun, especially on the track with all that torque being available from the moment you touch the throttle.

Mercedes-Benz’s first electric is the EQC; I’d say it is a modest, cautious start for a brand that is late to the party globally. The luxury compact crossover is built on the same platform as the fossil fuel GLC, and shares a lot of the latter’s body structure. Merc designers and engineers have ensured that while the EQC’s design and build conveys progress and modernity, it still continues to embody the traditional focuses that are key to retaining customers in the luxury business and that are quintessentially Mercedes.

Design

I was chauffeured in the EQC last year, and one of my first impressions was that the design of the cabin was more recognisably Mercedes than the exterior design. On the outside, it looks like a squat crossover, despite the floorboards and the large, special alloy wheels. The smooth, curvaceous, almost clay-model concept-like finish to the exterior design is a departure from the design language of Merc’s fossil fuel counterparts. But it is there for a reason, and a significant one at that — aerodynamics.

The EQC’s co-efficient of drag is a low 0.27, indicative of the measures that are needed to capture every thimble of operational efficiency possible to stretch that ‘KwH’. That is also the reason why the bonnet grille, despite its familiar slatted design, is not the conventional construction; it is only the battery pack that needs cooling.

 

The design features at the front and the rear of the EQC adopt minimalist principles. LED tubes for the DRLs and brake lights connect the headlamps and the tail-lamps enhancing the sense of width. Features like the lamp housings and grille sit clean and flush with the body panels. Bright blue highlights in the headlamps, alloy wheels and the EQC badge in the new ‘EQ’ font are unique to this first EV from the three-pointed star. Body lines also mimic the GLCs, including the chrome lined DLO that cuts deep into the C-pillar.

Cabin

The EQC’s cabin is much more familiar, in design and in the materials used, than the exterior. The knobs, switches and controls are the very same that you’d find in the regular fuel counterparts; so all of them fall easily to hand having been placed in the exact same spots too. There are differences in the way Merc designers have chosen a more modern mix of materials and finishes to still try and create a new style with the EQC. The dashboard is slightly more upright than I expected, but it is curved and angled to keep it driver-oriented.

In my test mule, the interior trim theme is a pleasing combination of beige leather, grey stitched panels and a glossy black centre console panel. The classic three-spoke steering wheel with its multiple controls is another Merc standard that can be found in almost all the models. The other carry-over is the rectangular, unified screen that combines the digital instrument cluster and the touchscreen infotainment centre. First seen in the S-Class, this elongated widescreen cockpit elevates the cabin of the EQC also.

The cabin gets all the luxury kit you’d expect. The MMI touchpad needs practice to get used to S Muralidhar   -  S Muralidhar

 

The cabin also features the use of renewable materials, fluted design panels and discreet ambient lighting. The aircon vents sport a rose-gold finish and there is dark grey double stitched leather trim on all the frequently used sections like the armrest and door handles. The space inside the EQC’s cabin is very similar to the GLC, the wheelbase is identical for both. The boot offers 500litres of luggage space. The EQC also gets the new Mercedes Me Connect features. Using an app, owners can remotely check battery status, available range, geo-fencing, remote closing of windows, sunroof etc.

The EQC’s cabin is a revelation in its ability to blot out the world outside. With a double-glazed window glass, high levels of insulation and the absence of a conventional fuel powertrain, I did expect the cabin to be quiet. But, this cabin was almost as quiet as an anechoic chamber. On clean blacktop tarmac, the EQC’s cabin is so bereft of any noise that it felt like it was gliding noiselessly. Even traffic noise is suppressed significantly. Only when I floored the throttle and touched three-digit speeds, did the high-pitched whine of the motors seep into the cabin.

Performance

The EQC feels like a monolith at city speeds. Weighing in at over 2.5 tonnes, with just the battery contributing over 650 kg, this is no welterweight despite its compact SUV status. There is no evident sign of light-weighting, possibly also because of the platform being shared with the old fossil fuel sibling. Future EQ dedicated platforms could help bring in some weight savings. But, the messaging is also that the EQC is not a compromise in any way, including its handling and dynamics. Its poise at high speeds and consistent road manners even while being thrown into corners is proof.

 

 

The motive power for the EQC comes from an 80KwH lithium-ion battery pack that has been built into the floor between the front and rear seats. Two asynchronous motors on each axle feed a combined 408hp of power to the wheels. Peak torque, all of which is available on standby is 760Nm. Top speed is restricted to 180kmph and it can go from zero to 100kmph in 5.1 seconds.

It is still a little disorienting to not hear any engine noise that I can proportionately associate with progress at the wheel. The EQC is not quick off the block like a Porsche Taycan can be. Yet, in sports mode and with a heavy right foot, I would get pinned back to the seat, as the EQC leaped forward. Other driving modes to choose from include Eco, Comfort and Individual. Its rated driving range is 450 km, but my test mule seemed to indicate a range of about 380 km at full charge. This could be the more real-world number given how much of our city roads can be slow stop and go traffic.

In addition to programmed brake energy recuperation, there are paddles behind the steering wheel that the driver can use to change the level of brake regen - from coasting to high recuperation for recharging the battery. The ride quality in the EQC is a Merc-typical balance between being rigid enough for fast corners and pliant enough for keeping the ride comfortable while driving through ‘potholed’ roads.

Bottom line

In keeping with the EQC’s younger target audience, Mercedes has loaded it up with more connected tech. There are also features like 3D maps and the MBUX voice command interface. Together these be used for navigating to the nearest battery charging station or even to the nearest Covid test centre. To set the potential buyer’s mind at ease, Mercedes is also offering an eight-year/ 1,60,000km battery cover, and five-year unlimited km on-road assistance.

Being an import, the EQC is expensive for a vehicle in its size class. At about ₹1 crore, the EV premium is quite substantial. So, this is meant for the truly eco-friendly luxury car buyer. For its part, Mercedes-Benz India is offering a comprehensive package including the AC wall box charger and service packages.

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Published on December 03, 2020
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