Robert Llewellyn has made taking home movies of electric cars into a global business. He now has the most popular YouTube channel of anyone with four “L’s” in his last name (probably). His latest video features the all-new Mercedes EQC 400 4Matic, the first all-electric four-wheel-drive SUV from Mercedes-Benz.
The description of the video on YouTube says it all: “For this Fully Charged car review, Robert Llewellyn gets in a Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4matic (a zero tailpipe emission SUV) full of doubt. Five minutes later he’s in love.”
That sums it up precisely. Before the test drive is done, Llewellyn is positively gushing about the build quality, the fit and finish, and the overall awesomeness of the EQC. It may not have the efficiency, the range, the acceleration, or the top speed of a Tesla Model X, but by golly it looks and feels like a proper Mercedes and that’s enough for him.
Let’s start with the stats. The EQC has an 80 kWh battery that fits under the floor and the rear seat. It features two synchronous electric motors. The front motor does most of the work during steady-state cruising to improve efficiency. The rear motor is the more powerful of the two and kicks in when the driver tromps on the go pedal or when the car needs to employ all-wheel-drive mode when the going gets slippery.
Range in the WLTP test cycle is 259 miles. (EPA range will be at least somewhat less.) With 300 kW of total power and 765 Newton-meters of torque available, the EQC scoots to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 180 km/h.
Efficiency is an important metric for electric vehicles. Tesla is the world leader when it comes to traveling the furthest down the road on a given number of electrons. The EQC consumes between 22.3 and 25 kWh of juice for every 100 kilometers it travels — not awful, but not great either, and about the same as the Jaguar I-PACE. In a road test last year conducted on Germany’s autobahn by NextMove, the Model X was significantly more efficient, using just 17.5 kWh per 100 kilometers at normal highway speeds.
At first glance, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between the EQC and a conventional Mercedes SUV. It has that same “Get out of my way!” massive grille that Mercedes drivers love. It is almost as if Mercedes stylists went out of their way to make the car conform to the Mercedes design idiom rather than rethink what an electric car should look like.
The grille is a huge part of the marketing campaign behind every automobile. Companies spend gazillions of hours honing the “design language” of their cars. Mitsubishi wasted 3 long years fussing over the front end treatment of its Outlander PHEV for American customers, trying to get it just right. By the time they brought the car to the US, the plug-in hybrid market had cooled considerably.
People don’t buy automobiles for what they do. They buy them for how they make them feel. A car is a projection of personal power, something the people at Mercedes understand very well. Frankly, I think the front end treatment of the EQC looks ridiculous on an electric car, but old habits die hard. And if your product doesn’t quite measure up to the competition, maybe a strong dose of machismo will get you over in the marketplace until a new electric car design paradigm emerges.
Inside, the EQC is pure Mercedes. If the exterior looks like a conventional car, drivers will find little different inside. No giant touch screen à la Tesla. No over-the-air updates either, so far as we know. Just acres of premium trimmings designed to cosset the tender tushies of those who will be privileged enough to waft along inside an EQC.
Llewellyn claims the EQC is the quietest electric car he has ever experienced, with nary a whisper of what the mechanical components below are doing, even under hard acceleration.
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The EQC is the first all-electric SUV from Mercedes, which means it will be an important vehicle. If it sells well, that will confirm the EV revolution is really under way. If it doesn’t, that will confirm the oft heard complaint from automakers that no one wants to buy electric cars.
Mercedes has hedged its bets with the EQC. It’s pretty much an all new electric car but shares 16% of its parts with other models produced by the company. The two-tiered battery suggests the chassis borrows from the existing parts bin and is not a dedicated electric-car-only design like the upcoming MEB platform from Volkswagen.
The performance specs are okay. The styling is utterly mainstream. In the end, people will buy it because it has the Mercedes three-pointed star on the front and rear. For many, that will be enough. Little things like an unmatched quiet inside and comfy seats will provide the explanation.