Tech’splaining: Mercedes-Benz EQC Electric SUV

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The Mercedes-Benz EQC is an electric-powered SUV that represents not only a bold new model for the German automaker, but an entirely new sub-brand of electric vehicles. The “EQ” in the EQC name will be applied to more than 10 different electric vehicles by 2022, according to Mercedes, and these will range from luxury sedans and crossovers, to sports cars and vans.

But, in a stroke of marketing genius, Mercedes is introducing the world to its vision of electric driving by packaging everything into an SUV. With sales of sport-utility vehicles skyrocketing both here and around the world, combining the latest in electric propulsion into a hugely popular type of vehicle allows Mercedes to tap into a customer base that might never have considered an electric vehicle.

A subtler kind of electric SUV

Mercedes has forgone any of the outlandish styling other manufacturers have deemed necessary for electrified vehicles and built a rather handsome SUV.

If you’re familiar with the gasoline-powered Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV, then the overall shape and design of the EQC will be familiar. The two ride on an identical 113.1-inch wheelbase, though the EQC is approximately four inches longer. From the outside, the EQC doesn’t have any superfluous details or quirky design features that shout “hey, I’m driving an electric car!”

If you need to make a big entrance everywhere you go, this isn’t the electric SUV for you.

The headlights are accentuated with LED lighting, and sit flush with a polished black plastic panel that cradles the smooth front grille. An LED light bar extends across the upper half of the front grille, to help give the EQC a signature appearance, especially when driving at night.

Unlike some of Mercedes’ latest heavily-sculpted cars and SUVs, the sides of the EQC are smooth and refreshingly restrained. A tapering tail and full-length rear tail lamps add a mildly sporty look to the design, however. The 19-inch alloy wheels with blue-highlighted center spokes, used on pre-production models of the EQC, add some extra fun to the exterior, too. We’re hopeful they make production when sales start here in the U.S., beginning in early-2020.

Lots of power, all-wheel drive, zero emissions 

The overall shape and volume of the powertrain looks remarkably similar to a gas-powered SUV.

Powering the Mercedes EQC is an 80 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, coupled to a pair of electric motors located at the front and rear of the SUV. The total combined output of this powertrain is an impressive 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque. According to Mercedes, this is enough to propel the EQC from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

That’s quick, but it’s not the quickest. For the ultimate in electric SUV bragging rights, a Tesla Model X in Performance trim, fitted with the optional Ludicrous Mode powertrain upgrade, needs only 2.8 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph. Then again, the price of this mighty Model X creeps upward of $120,000.

In normal driving, the EQC sends power only to the front wheels. Yet, if the driver punches the gas pedal, for example, power and torque will be instantly rerouted to the rear wheels as well. As in the rest of the Mercedes range, different drive modes can be selected to adjust the throttle response, steering feel, and suspension settings. In the EQC, these include: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Max Range, and Individual.

Interestingly, the steering wheel-mounted paddles in the EQC aren’t there to shift between gears. They allow the driver to adjust how much regenerative braking he or she might desire during any given drive. When lifting off the gas pedal, the EQC will convert these decelerative forces into energy that’s then fed back into the battery pack.

Driving range, a classy cabin, and safety

Like the exterior, the EQC interior is very familiar as well. Two large screens give the driver plenty of information without any gimmicks.

For the moment, the great unknown remains how far the EQC will travel between charges. Mercedes has not mentioned a specific driving range figure for the U.S. version of the EQC. Based on early estimates and the range of its nearest competitors, an educated guess pegs the EQC’s range between 250-280 miles per charge.

An onboard 7 kW charger allows for standard fast-charge capability, which means an EQC running on about 10-percent battery could plug in and, within 40 minutes, charge itself back up to 80-percent capacity. Plugging into a Level 2 charger (240 volts) would likely require a full workday’s worth of recharge time to get to that same range.

Mercedes has also installed intelligent navigation into the EQC, to allow the car to plan the most efficient drive route and work its way around traffic jams, if needed. It can also rapidly direct you to the nearest fast-charge station, if range is running especially low.

Inside and facing the driver are two large flat-panel touch screens that measure 10.2 inches across. It’s a clean and very minimalistic dash layout that’s used in many of the brand’s high-end sedans and SUVs. In the EQC, the handsome cabin is accentuated by rose gold accents in the air vents, along with 64 choices of ambient lighting.

To gauge cabin room and cargo capacity, we’ve used the Mercedes GLC as a reference point. We’ve already mentioned both SUVs ride on a 113.1-inch wheelbase, so rear legroom for EQC occupants should equal the ample rear stretch-out space offered in the GLC. With its second-row seats upright, cargo room in the GLC stands at 19.4 cubic feet. Considering the EQC is slightly longer, but has a sleeker roofline, that figure should be about the same in the electric SUV.

While exact U.S. specifications are still being determined, standard and available safety items in the EQC will include features like automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, driver drowsiness monitor, surround-view camera, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. The EQC will also feature semi-autonomous driving assist, to allow for limited self-drive capability.

While Mercedes-Benz hasn’t announced pricing for the EQC, expect it to fall somewhere right around $70,000. That would place it squarely against EV rivals like the Jaguar I-Pace ($70,495), Tesla Model X ($78,950), and 2019 Audi e-tron ($74,800), the latter of which goes on sale this spring.

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