2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC Put to the Test in EV Land

Strong points
  • Refined, quiet cabin
  • Awesome MBUX system
  • Explosive acceleration
Weak points
  • A bit less agile than the I-PACE
  • Much more expensive than the GLC
  • Voice assistant has a learning curve
Full report

After developing its EV expertise with the SLS AMG Electric Drive and the smart fortwo electric drive over the past decade, Mercedes-Benz is now ready to play the mass production game with the introduction of the EQC, the first official member of its new EQ family. When it arrives in early 2020, this compact SUV will compete against the Jaguar I-PACE, Audi e-tron and Tesla Model X.

We headed to Norway, a paradise for electric vehicles, to put the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC to the test. In this short time, we ran across more Teslas, Volkswagen e-Golfs and BMW i3s than we normally see in Canada during the whole year. More on that later.

Similar to the GLC

In terms of size, the EQC is very similar to the GLC, which is actually why they both end with the same letter. They are also built at the same plant along with the C-Class. While the EQC gets a unique platform, the resemblance is striking. It does stand out with blue accents on the wheels and headlight clusters, plus a massive three-pointed star that lights up at night across the front grille. No one will ever wonder which brand the EQC comes from.

Photo: Sylvain Raymond

Models equipped with the AMG package sport a different-looking front fascia with particularly well-executed air intakes. Most buyers will undoubtedly go this way. Speaking of AMG, we received confirmation that a high-performance EQC is in the works; it’s just a matter of finding out when we will see it.

Inside, the cabin boasts impeccable fit and finish. Mercedes-Benz really knows how to draw attention and elevate prestige with fantastic colour and material combinations. A highlight is definitely the MBUX infotainment system consisting of two wide displays positioned side by side atop the dashboard. It’s a fully digital interface that drivers can customize to their liking. And thanks to the voice-controlled assistant, you can say “Hey, Mercedes” and the vehicle will obey your commands.

Two Motors, 564 Lb-ft of Torque

For now, a single variant is offered, namely the EQC 400 featuring two compact electric motors (one for each axle). This setup not only optimizes weight distribution, but also creates an AWD system. The front motor is a lot more active during low-speed driving in order to reduce energy consumption, while the rear motor kicks in to support more aggressive acceleration and deliver maximum traction.

Mated to an 80-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the EQC powertrain generates a total of 402 horsepower and, more importantly, 564 pound-feet of instant torque. Range is estimated at 450 kilometres based on the optimistic WLTP protocol. In North America, the EQC should be closer to 350 kilometres—on par with most rivals except the Model X, which supplies 400-525 kilometres of range (and costs more than $100,000).

Smooth, Quiet Ride

On the road, the 564 pound-feet of torque will pin you to your seat as soon as you depress the throttle, no matter what speed you’re traveling at. The first few seconds are brutal; after that, things settle down nicely and acceleration is more linear.

On several occasions during our test drive, a gentle tap on the gas pedal was enough to easily merge onto the highway or pass slower traffic. This is much more satisfying than the EQC’s ability to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. Whereas the Jaguar I-PACE offers a more car-like driving experience, the EQC feels like a typical compact SUV.

From the driver’s seat, the ride is amazingly smooth and quiet. It’s not just the lack of noise from under the hood; engineers went to great lengths to shield the vehicle from the outside chaos as well. They added a number of components to absorb vibrations and the result is pretty darn convincing.

One quick note about the paddles behind the steering wheel: They’re not designed for shifting gears manually, but rather controlling the regenerative braking system. The latter incorporates several modes, with the most aggressive requiring a delicate touch, because the second you release the throttle, the EQC slows down abruptly and your passengers will let you know if you’re not paying attention. The auto mode does an excellent job of adjusting the intensity of the regenerative system based on your driving style and input from the GPS and other vehicle functions.

Interesting Talk at the Charging Station

At some point along the way, we had to stop at a charging station. The folks at Mercedes-Benz really wanted us to experience the process of plugging the EQC to fill up on electrons. As fate would have it, one Jaguar I-PACE owner arrived at the same time.

The discussion quickly turned to the popularity of EVs in Norway and his reasons for going electric. He told us that all new zero-emission vehicles sold in the country are tax-free, regardless of pricing, while internal combustion vehicles carry hefty penalties—tens of thousands of dollars in the case of full-size models with large displacements.

Without these incentives, he said, he probably would not have purchased an I-PACE. Like many people, this owner has discovered the benefits of EVs, particularly the lower maintenance costs, and he’s never going back to conventionally powered automobiles.

In about 20 minutes, we regained enough range to continue our trip. Thanks to the 7.4-kW on-board charger, a full charge takes approximately 11 hours using a Level 2 station, but just 40 minutes with a 400V fast-charging station.

The EQC also makes it easier to manage long-distance commutes. After entering your current location and destination in the GPS, the system will plan your route accordingly based on the battery status and charging locations along the way. It will tell you how long you need to charge the vehicle and how much you’ll have left once you arrive. This is perfect for eliminating range anxiety!

Pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 has yet to be announced, but we’ve been told it will be in line with the competition, meaning around $90,000.

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