Sometimes history-making has to take a back seat. Yes, Mercedes’ new EQC is their first electric car and a real-world example of gigantic strides made to offer the prospect of an electric future. And it’s historic in its own way; there was a sense of occasion in driving it.
But I also learned how present concerns can usurp such sentiment on occasion.
This EQC electric SUV comes from the company which claims that, in 1886, it effectively gave birth to modern motoring. That explains why I was driving a special ‘1886 Edition’.
It’s a medium-sized luxury SUV (based on the brawnier GLC) with a rounded front and burly frame that fits the current preference for more subtle, sturdy, lines.
With an electric motor for each axle and a massive 765Nm of torque (pulling power), the EQC is an all-wheel-drive (AWD) deal.
Despite its big frame, it is by no measure as roomy as it looks. Two of my back-seat passengers were by far from copiously accommodated; its 384-cell lithium-ion battery pack lies under the floor between the axles to reduce cabin intrusion. The boot was shallow too but quite lengthy.
In the car, pride of place went to how the cabin was fitted and kitted (embellished by ‘1886’ badging, upholstery stitchings, etc).
The EQC’s special, integrated, double 10.25in instrument cluster and media display is one of the great pieces of interfacing. It serves so many practical purposes and the MBUX system is an example of how well things were worked out.
Merely vocalise ‘Hey Mercedes’ and the system prompts for your request. I used it mainly for hands-free phoning but it does a lot more than that – navigation, radio, etc.
Aesthetically, the twin-screen effect looked wonderful within the sharply designed dash and central console.
My car had running boards (aluminium-like along the sides). They might look great, and a throwback to a bygone era, but I wouldn’t have them. On a wet day, or if they got dirty at all, inevitably mud and wet would tarnish the backs of legs/trousers, skirt, whatever on alighting. I had a couple of light-dust smudges. Such everyday concerns can put history in its place.
I resolved not to bother worrying about driving range for the first series of outings. I just wanted to get the feel of it, push it, see how it handled and so on. Like its rivals (Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron, Tesla X and yet-to-be-driven BMW iX3) it had searing pace. Maybe it didn’t have the dynamic feel of the Jaguar but being capable of 100kmh in 5.1 seconds made it feel sharp.
I resolved to drive it until there were 50km or so left. Depending on model, Mercedes claim a range from 375km to 471km. So for clarity, I took it with 311km left to see how estimated range compared with real-life consumption.
I didn’t drive that slowly but I worked the steering-mounted paddles to save a chunk of energy through regeneration when slowing down, for example.
Consequently I only used the brakes for a fraction of the time I would have in an ordinary car.
I covered 243.4km and there were 56km left: a total of 299.4km. So I was fairly close to the 311km projected, making the official figures largely credible. It means you can plan journeys with greater certainty. My result wasn’t bad for a mix of motorway and around-town driving, I felt.
Should you need it, however, fast-charging can boost power levels from 10pc to 80pc in 40 minutes. Home AC charging takes much longer (a Mercedes Wallbox is three times quicker).
Would I buy it?
It’s a car not without its blemishes regardless of its admirable technology.
Now the gloss of history is dimming a little with acquaintance, I think the lack of interior rear room would be a reason for caution. Sometimes history has to take a back seat in matters of such practicality.
I know those seats will probably be mostly occupied by younger, smaller passengers and I know it is a mid-size SUV. Still…
But it was a thoroughly comfortable drive and revealed an unexpected agility.
I prefer it to the Audi e-tron; it appealed to me more. Mercedes claim the Audi and Jaguar I-PACE are more expensive but the Jaguar retains great driving appeal. And I’d buy the Merc over the Tesla Model X for build quality.
So yes, I’d buy it but Jaguar’s historic offering would have me tempted, too.
Facts & Figures
Mercedes EQC 400 4MATIC: Standard 1886 Edition spec includes special badging, 20in alloys, running boards, ambient lighting, blind-spot assist, Burmester surround sound, driving assistance package, acoustic glass, parking package/360° camera, seat comfort package, 1886 upholstery.
Range from €79,450 (after €10,000 VRT/SEAI rebate/grant); 1886 edition: €95,883.