EQC SUV first drive review: Silent thunder as Mercedes goes all electric
The ravenous roar of an AMG, the gritty glamour of a V8 or even a V12 biturbo engine and the likes have set hearts fluttering across the world as Mercedes cars have gone from pillar to post and beyond stamping their performance credentials across the world. A company founded back in 1886 by Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach and Emil Jellinek, Mercedes has come a long, long way in establishing and staying at the pinnacle of automotive excellence. And yet, a brave new world beckons, one that demands electric energy - quite literally, to ensure that more than a century-worth of engineering enigma is turned over and foraged for action on a new path.
Say hello then to the EQC, the first all-electric Mercedes-Benz that is finally ready to charge up the luxury car market in India after making waves of tectonic proportions in the global arena.
I recently got an invite to get behind the wheels of the EQC and take it out on a spin across Delhi and Gurugram, all the way to the test tracks of International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT) in Manesar - and back. Not that this was my first experience inside an EV but I was extremely curious to find out just how a luxury car maker with experience of reaching excellence of traditional automotive engineering for nearly 100 years would fare in what is quite a level playing field.
Also check these Cars
Indeed, the advent of electric mobility has negated the years of automotive experience that giants in the industry may have garnered. It is a level playing field indeed but expect Mercedes to start off from the luxurious place of prominence. The EQC is just that - a typical Mercedes with the genes of all its SUV cousins but with the brand new electric heart of an 80 kWh battery which weighs in at 652 kilos and boasts of 384 individual cells. It isn't the largest but having been extensively tested across the world - from freezing fields to scorching deserts and proving its worth against water and dust, Mercedes says it has managed to perfect the reliability as well as performance aspects of the twin motors. And there may not be much reason to believe otherwise.
Does that also lend a touch of Merc-power to the EQC?
Tesla cars are supposed to be the gold standard of electric vehicles. Unfortunately, I am yet to drive one and so, a comparison may be some time away. That said, the EQC is every bit the electric vehicle one would expect from a company of Mercedes' high stature. Whisper silent is still too loud a way to describe an EQC on the move and its sheer refinement is what truly stands out. Heck, I had to check thrice if the car is actually in ready to drive mode once I had activated the push button. And there's no shame in admitting it.
No shame. Much amazement.
There are two electric motors with a lithium-ion battery that form the basis of the EQC and power is sent to all four wheels. That is good enough for the EV to jump from stationary to 100 kmph in about 5 seconds and for a car as heavy as this - 2.5 tonnes, I was told - the EQC is feather-lite on its feet. It may not be the Usain Bolt of the EV world but it is not even trying to be. Instead, it seeks to offer a reliably comfortable drive without compromising on performance capabilities and so, will keep even the enthusiastic drivers extremely interested each time it is rolled out.
There are multiple drive modes in the EQC - much like in all its siblings, and while one can engage the Sport mode to extract peak performance, it is the Comfort mode that is likely to remain the firm favourite on daily commutes.
And then there is the big question about whether the EQC can last the distance. It is fast on sprints but can it run the marathon? Mercedes says the EV can run around 450 kilometres on a single charge. As part of this review, I drove the car for exactly 147 kilometres and at the finish line by late evening, it still showed remaining charge of 58%. Considering there were several zero to 100 kmph tests on a controlled race track, AC on near full blast and sudden acceleration moves, the claim most likely holds weight.
Then there are multiple regenerative braking options as well which are controlled by the paddle shifters on either side of the steering. The intensity of regenerative braking will determine how much energy is sent back to the battery for it to recharge itself. So, the stronger the regenerative braking, the more power is sent and the more range you can extract from the EQC. Just that at its strongest, well, the auto braking is just too unsettling and it will either take a whole lot of getting accustomed to or will be ignored entirely.
I would put my money on the latter.
Aside from this, the EQC offers a solid drive experience with a nicely weighted steering - even though the feedback could have been a tad more, precise cornering abilities and a suspension set up that rolls over potholes with relative ease. Body roll even on sharp turns is an absolute minimum but on the flip side, the underbelly - more often than not - will scratch against speed breakers even at relatively lower speeds because the ground clearance is not much to admire and the weight of the car, perhaps, makes it sit lower.
When a scraping thud comes from under a Mercedes, any Mercedes, on any speed breakers, it can hurt the heart, much like a breakup - I can vouch (ouch) for that.
Overall, the EQC should be good for the occasional highway runs till the charging infrastructure improves in the country but makes more than enough sense to be considered to be taken out for daily office commutes with perhaps a once-a-week charge schedule. That Mercedes will install a wall charge unit at a preferred location means that the EQC battery can be juiced up from zero to full in around 10 hours while access to a DC charger will sharply bring down that time to just 90 minutes. A regular home socket can also be used to power up the EQC but it will take around 21 hours.
Driving the EQC is a whole new and refreshing experience but the car has much on offer to the passenger(s) as well.
Being a Mercedes, one would step inside the EQC with a whole lot of expectations and the EV delivers on most counts. The interiors are as premium as they can be inside a Mercedes and that's a whole lot. The soft-touch plastics, the high-quality stitching, the premium upholstery and seat bolstering all make the vehicle an absolute delight to be in.
There are familiar elements here that are a throwback to SUV cousins like the GLC and GLE. The metal control knobs for instance, or the track pad to control the large 12.3-inch dual infotainment screen or even the steering mounted touch-sensitive controls - these are carried forward into the EQC. Yet, elements like vertically-oriented AC vents, guitar string-like inlays on the either of the two front doors, and new ambient lighting helps the vehicle get its own premium unique stamp.
The EQC also benefits from an updated MBUX system while creature comforts include ENERGIZING comfort control which can be set to modes such as vitality, refresh etc for customized music and temperature control.
The best part for me inside the cabin of the EQC is the massage functionality available on the front two seats. These include pulse and wave, and while both are hardly overbearing in any way, are effective enough to add a bit more comfort on long drives. These seats also support heating functionality and you can precisely adjust the among of lumber support using controls on the main screen console.
Rear passengers may not complain much either because the knee-room, shoulder room and even the head room (despite the slightly swooping roofline) is adequate even if not outright generous. The EQC offers adequate space for a family of four and has 500 litres of boot space.
Safety is the number 1 priority, says Mercedes and so, the EQC comes with seven airbags and a whole wide range active and passive driver assistance systems.
SUVs from Mercedes are bold, butch and often a little boisterous. Over nearly a century of designing cars that turn heads and grab eyeballs straight from the socket, Mercedes vehicles have evolved tremendously. As such, the EQC's design appears to dial down the wow factor for a cleaner profile that perhaps seeks to underline its clean drive philosophy.
Is it macho? No. Is it athletic? Not really. Is it boisterous? Most certainly not. And yet, there are subtle hints of all of these in a sophisticated design package that still makes the EQC grab the spotlight.
The large thick grille in black, the MATRIX LED head lights - which are standard by the way, the understated character lines on the bonnet - all come together to make for a smart front face which is not screaming its electric heart out for attention.
The EV stands on 20-inch alloy wheels and has a coupe-ish side profile courtesy the swooping roofline around the C-pillar.
The rear profile is once again clean and crisp with a three-part light system seamlessly flowing in to give it a bit of a futuristic design philosophy.
Overall, the EQC isn't the most overbearing or dominating in its visual appeal. And yet, it is the clean and purposeful elements on the outside - complete with a dash of blue hues on the head lights and alloys - that give it a cultivated visual character.
Mercedes EQC seeks to play the twin roles of being a Mercedes and being an EV, and plays it with confident panache. It is a strong rival to the likes of Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and perhaps even the Tesla Model X, and has the potential of making these rivals sit up and take note on some counts.
In India and on Indian road conditions, it is a brave foray from Mercedes to snatch what could possibly be the early movers' advantage considering other luxury car makers are yet to drive in their all-electric offerings here.
Mature drive capabilities with an ample dash of sporty performance if and when required, a plush cabin with adequate space and a refined visual profile make the EQC a formidable player in the still nascent EV space in India. With an eight-year warranty on the battery and a range of around 450 kilometres, the car seeks to also calm range-related anxieties to a large extent.
As for price anxieties, well, Mercedes is yet to reveal the figures. Considering EVs do command a premium price tag and this here is a premium EV from a luxury car maker, I won't be surprised at all if one would have to break bank to own one. That said, a far lower running cost as well as cheaper maintenance fees would back up the one-time investment - whatever it may be, whenever revealed.