Declan Colley


Mercedes spark into life in electric segment

The Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic is the first mass-produced electric car from the German manufacturer, writes Declan Colley

Mercedes spark into life in electric segment

In a week when an electric car, the Kia e-Soul, was voted as the Irish Car of the Year for 2020, the breadth of the revolution in electric cars is only still really hitting home for Irish consumers. But amongst all the blather and hype, has anyone noticed that electric motoring is damned expensive?

Since the whole ‘save-the-world-and-buy-an electric-car’ movement started gaining momentum and with it some serious sales volume, it has become quite evident that manufacturers are quite keen on cashing in on the phenomenon and doing what they do best — making moolah.

A glance at some of the figures being asked for electric vehicles — even despite Vat rebates and SEAI grants — is quite the eye-opener. The aforementioned e-Soul costs well over €37,000, as does the Nissan Leaf and both these cars are little more than five-seat,five-door family runarounds.

Hell, even the supermini-sized Renault Zoe can cost up to €30k and yet the brilliant new Renault Clio, which was only launched in Ireland this week and is packed with kit and technology, can be purchased from the modest sum of €16,990. Is that quare or wha’?

At the premium end of the market, where Audi, Jaguar, and Tesla have been leading the electric charge thus far with such as the e-Tron, the i-Pace, and the Model X , prices are far from bargain basement and this week we get to test the latest machine to join this particular segment, the Mercedes EQC and the version we drove costs in excess of €105,000. Crikey.

As the original of the species when it comes to the automobile, Mercedes has massive history as a technical innovator, and is still revered by many as the best in the business, and is also right now the best-selling premium brand globally. But it has been a little late to the e-mobility table, and the EQC is the first mass-produced electric it has launched. Of course, it will be the first of many.

Despite Mercedes’ tardiness in making electric vehicles available to the masses (well, the rich masses anyway), what they have come up with is inimitably Mercedes — classy, high-end, and dear.

In fairness, the EQC is laden with tech and has a suite of driving characteristics that make it a far more interesting steer than your average anodyne electric. And worth bearing in mind,too, is that it is a Mercedes and, for many people, that simple fact will make it appealing no matter how cautious they might be about switching to electric motoring.

That said, if this Mercedes might not be as wildly innovative as some of its rivals, it is really good to drive, terribly nice to live with and, most importantly in the electric realm, has a very workable range of over 400 km, which makes it a runner for a substantial number of drivers.

Focusing on the drivetrain, the EQC has asynchronous electric motors on each axle which provide the 4Matic 4WD system, although the way the design works means that it actually transmits most of the impressive 408bhp to the front wheels a lot of the time, although power is shuffled back and forth front-to-rear depending on traction needs.

Indeed, when you put the hammer down the car feels like a rear-drive and this sporty characteristic is also built-in in order to satisfy the needs — perceived or otherwise — of those drivers for whom a rear-drive feel is a must, even in a 4WD machine.

Aside from the 408 brake, there’s a whopping 760 Nm of torque and the combination of these provides for a very smart 5.1 second 0-100kph capability and a top speed of 180kph. The former is particularly impressive in that the EQC weighs in with a kerb weight of nearly 2,500kg (nearly two-and-a-half tonnes in old money), which is hardly Twiggy territory.

And, of that total weight, nearly one-quarter of it is taken up by the batteries, which are sited low down in the chassis between the axles, but more of my opinion on that in a moment.

Driving around town is effortless and so too on main road or highway conditions where graceful, easy progress is characterised by an almost complete absence of noise and vibration and the refinement at hand here is obvious. Seamless acceleration also keeps the fun factor at the higher end of the dial.

On lesser country roads, however, I did find the car’s tendency to wallow more than it should a little disconcerting and I felt that maybe all the weight was having an undesirable effect on the handling and ride. The car is built on the same platform as the E-Class and the GLC, which is a very good thing, but neither of those cars or their many variants are asked to lug around the same amount of bulk as the EQC and it shows.

There will be smaller and less weighty electrics coming down the line from Mercedes in due course and one would have to suspect that these may well appeal to those demanding a more sporty driving experience. The emphasis here is definitely less inclined towards sportiness rather than civility, refinement and passenger comfort.

While the range itself is very workable, the EQC offers drivers various options when it comes to its regenerative prowess. You can utilise the right shift paddle on the steering wheel to choose which mode you want and if so desired can make this a one-pedal operation. But there are a total of five levels of regenerative braking, so it is easy to find the one which suits your driving needs.

Unless you are a complete buffoon, it will also be hard to run out of juice in this Mercedes.

The driver’s display clearly illustrates your real time energy usage and remaining range at all times.

But if you are starting to fret, there is the option of switching to the Max Range setting option, allowing the car to tell you when you are wasting precious power.

One little disappointment was the boot space, which is not as commodious as that in the GLC. I didn’t like the optional running boards either, as you have climb over them getting in and out.

I was not entirely sure what we were going to get with the EQC, but it ended up being a lot better than I anticipated — good to drive and live with.

I suppose I was a little misguided in second-guessing that the car would be anything else — especially coming from the stable it does — but you never know in these days of rapidly evolving technologies and power sources.

It is not the greatest car Mercedes has ever built — and it is certainly not the cheapest either — but it is certainly an indicator that the Stuttgart giant is not fooling around with this electric car business and it would appear to be a good indicator that the company will only get better and better with this format.

Colley's Verdict


    The Cost: From €85,450 to €105,882 in ‘Edition 1886’ as tested.
    The Engine: There is none.
    The Specification: Good standard spec, but the ‘Edition 1886’ adds €16,432 to the bottom line.
    The Overall Verdict: An impressive first stab at mass-produced electric cars.

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