The first modern Mercedes EV isn’t revolutionary, but it’s the quietest ride this side of a $325,000+ Rolls-Royce Cullinan. It’s also full of clever gadgets and the most advanced active safety features, which means it delivers the experience you’d expect from an electric Benz, precisely.
To drive its first modern EV, the 2020 EQC 400 compact SUV, Mercedes-Benz invited the press to Oslo, arguably Europe’s greenest capital city. There, the charging infrastructure is already in place, and citizens love their Teslas just as much as they like their electric Hyundai Konas, or BMW i3s. To support this openness towards an electrified future, three years ago, the government proposed a plan to prohibit the sale of all internal combustion vehicles by 2025. You get the picture. Despite being a significant crude oil and gas exporter, this is no country for the old school.
All this means that while great for cycling and hiking, driving around Norway’s very pleasant capital is the opposite of a dream cruise. The speed limit varies from 19 mph in the city to 50 far away from it, and the Norwegians wouldn’t even consider breaking it, no matter how robust the animal fencing around their woods may seem. In fact, the only time-saving shortcut the locals use is their EVs instant torque, which allows them to rush into roundabout traffic just a split second before it would deem too ambitious. Frankly, a few hours of rolling around in a silent electric car on Norway’s roads makes it clear why the black metal scene (spearheaded by Mayhem) emerged from here in the 1980s, of all places. People craved stimulation, which continues to be a thing.
Not related to Yves Klein’s genius, the monotone silence is engineered into the EQC, because in Daimler’s book, a quiet ride equals luxury. To achieve it, Mercedes threw the book at this car. The drivetrains are isolated from the body at two levels. The two asynchronous motors sit on rubber bushings inside their subframes, which are then linked to the body via flexible mounts. The teeth inside the single-speed gearbox have been redesigned to get rid of bad vibrations. The rear motor is covered by foam, and there’s a whole lot more sound absorbing material glued to the metal all around, some of which is made of recycled fabrics. Even the inside of the fenders are layered.
The result is a vehicle with 402 horsepower and 564 lb-ft of torque, yet no more than some muted road noise inside the cabin. If you expect more of a Jetsons whine from a duo of motors which technically rev to 12,500rpm, look elsewhere.
Like this conservative approach or not, there’s a lot more good news inside the cabin, especially once you start touching things. Everything feels solidly built and of quality materials, and the electric-specific design elements manage to make the EQC look organically different. On top of the comfortable seats and the sufficiently widescreen digital interface (a 10.25 inch instrument cluster and a 10.25 inch media display), you get rose gold air vents to remind you of the motors’ copper content, and polished metallic blades wrapping around the dashboard that look like if the car was hiding a vast radiator grille under all that leather.
2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC
It’s certainly a nice car to be in. Like all Benzes these days, touch controls are intuitive and as accurate as they get, and when you say “Hey, Mercedes,” the car will even tell you how far can you drive, where your nearest charging point is, or pre-set everything for your next trip, including scheduled charging. That’s good, because as EQC Chief Engineer Michael Kelz confirmed, the range will vary wildly.
From an 80kWh battery pack that weighs 1437 lbs. (and takes just four hours to remove from the vehicle), the EQC gets somewhere between 277 and 293 miles of go on the European NEDC cycle. Based on what Mercedes has learned after going through some 200 prototypes and GLC Coupe mules in the last four years, realistically, the EQC has a 225 mile range in the summer, or as low as 160 miles in freezing winter conditions. On the plus side, Mercedes says that with a 110 kW DC fast charger, the car will get from 10 to 80 percent charge in 40 minutes. We put that to the test using the navigation’s suggested charger nearby, and while slightly optimistic with its time estimate, the system did operate at a 98 kW average. The question remains whether you have such a charger where you need one, and if so, how much will the operator charge for its usage.
But since your range can change as quickly as the weather, the EQC’s navigation will always display your estimated remaining percentage at your destination, and use live traffic data to help you save as much juice as possible, in case you need a few extra miles before you could plug in again. Basically. the powertrains, the battery and charging management, the car’s recuperation strategies, your digital assistant and the nav are having a lengthy discussion in the background in order to optimize your drive when speed is not your first priority, but avoiding huge elevation changes is. In Max Range mode, all this includes the introduction of a haptic accelerator pressure point, which will limit torque and your top speed to 62 mph. Normally, the EQC is a 112 mph crossover that will get to sixty in 4.8 seconds, even in the wet.
Other driving modes include Comfort, in which the car won’t hold back if you floor it, Sport, which becomes the same as Comfort as soon as you set regen to Auto, Eco, which is your power saving mode, and Max Range, which is the interactive Eco+ mode explained above. You can also go Individual, but at the end of the day, it’s your regeneration choices that will make the difference on the road.
Using the paddles behind the steering wheel, you can go from D Auto to D+, D, D- and D–. Auto will make the EQC try to guess what level of energy regeneration would suit you the most. It’s mostly wrong, or at least not as efficient as you can be manually. And with no shifter in sight, why wouldn’t you get involved?