With AMG levels of power and a driving range of 450 kilometres, the new all-electric EQC400 strikes at Tesla, the Jaguar i-Pace and the Audi e-tron.
The all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQC has been unveiled today at a special event in Sweden, two years after it first appeared as a concept at the Paris motor show.
As expected, and certainly as hinted by a flood of spy photos and official teaser images, the EQC has more than a little GLC about its styling. Nonetheless, the brand is talking up what it calls 'electro-look' styling, with a significant number of design elements specific to the EQ brand.
Front and rear styling is of course unique to the EQC, setting this new EV apart from regular Mercedes-Benz models through slim lighting at both ends, with a black panel connecting the headlights beneath the unique grille design – a "particularly striking feature", Benz calls it.
The glasshouse also reveals a distinctly different look as it tapers towards a point at the D-pillar, and Mercedes is referring to the overall shape as a "crossover SUV", designed to fit neatly between a regular SUV and something like the GLC/GLE Coupe models.
Inside, there's a louvred edge to the instrument panel intended to "resemble the cooling ribs of a hi-fi amplifier". Retro electro. Rose-gold accents also feature throughout, paired to the glowing blue lighting and the usual silver and gloss black highlights.
The EQC400 is shown here in both its standard trim and a sportier AMG pack, although the latter offers no additional power or performance enhancements. Handily, it's already specified with plenty of power.
The look is otherwise familiar and immediately recognisable. It is clear Mercedes has worked to maintain a sense of tri-star authenticity in the design of its first EQ model, at once declaring its forward-looking intent, while also ensuring existing customers will see the EQC as a natural step from their current and more conventional Mercedes.
Showcased first in EQC400 form, the new electric SUV will offer AMG levels of power and acceleration. Official numbers are 300kW and a big 765Nm of torque, delivered through an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor setup that sees a power unit positioned at each axle.
Energy for the EQC400 is provided by an 80kWh battery pack, and fast DC charging will be included as standard.
Despite weighing in at a hefty 2425 kilograms, Mercedes-Benz is claiming a sharp 0-100km/h time of 5.1 seconds. Perhaps more importantly, the EQC also claims an NEDC-cycle driving range of "more than" 450 kilometres off one charge. (WLTP figures are still to come.) Braked towing capacity is rated at 1800kg.
The EQC rides on a 2873mm wheelbase, measuring 4761mm in overall length and 1884mm in width. By comparison, its more conventional cousin the GLC boasts an identical wheelbase, but is shorter in length (4656mm) and marginally wider (1890mm).
Why an identical wheelbase? The EQC is built on Merc's new EVA platform - dedicated to electric vehicles - but core elements of its architecture are taken from the MRA system that underpins the GLC. This is largely so the EQC can be built on the same production line as other Mercedes-Benz models, but the company says a whopping 85 per cent of the new electric SUV's components and design is new.
How does the EQC's performance compare to the competition?
Audi's upcoming e-tron (which launches on September 17) claims 320kW, 800Nm and a 4.6-second sprint, along with a 500km driving range. Of course, the e-tron also benefits from a larger 95kWh battery – which, as Tesla has shown with its battery upgrades over time, makes quite a difference.
And, given the EQC sports a '400' badge on its tailgate, it may be only a matter of time before we see more powerful '450' or '500' variants.
The $119,000 Jaguar I-Pace, on sale here from October, will draw power from a 90kWh battery pack, with outputs listed at 294kW and 696Nm. Driving range, this time measured under the newer and tougher WLTP standard, is listed at 480km.
Then there's the Tesla Model X. In $126,900 75D form, it claims 417km of driving range and a 5.2-second sprint to 100km/h, while the $151,300 100D improves those numbers to 565km and 4.9 seconds.
Charging the EQC can be done through regular AC mains power at home, working with an onboard 7.4kW charger, but the Mercedes-Benz Wallbox will triple that. Moving to a dedicated DC charger, accommodating outputs up to 110kW, will see the EQC charged from 10 to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes.
The EQC will use a CCS2 plug type in Europe, the US and Australia, aligning with the FCAI-proposed standard for our market.
Owners in Europe will be best served in the short term, with the new Ionity charging network (powered, ironically, by Australian company Tritium) rolling out around 400 'quick stations' along the main traffic arteries criss-crossing Europe. Ionity is a joint venture between BMW Group, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group.
For now, the number of public DC fast-charging points in Australia is fairly small, although some organisations – such as the NRMA and the recently funded Fast Cities Initiative – are rolling out networks either now or in the near future, depending on the project. Outputs for those stations will range from 50kW to 350kW.
And, while details are still to be confirmed, some car makers are understood to be in discussion on a charging partnership. Likewise, the Tesla Owners Club of Australia has been working to roll out its own national network, open to all EV owners and now spanning much of the country.
For now, and largely because the Australian launch of the I-Pace is so close, Jaguar is the only brand to have confirmed a Tesla-rivalling charging network of its own, with a $4 million investment going towards 150 dealer-based stations installed by JET Charge, but even those will only be 25kW units.
The EQC will offer five selectable driving modes, some of them familiar. There's Comfort mode, for the most conventional driving experience; Eco, for a more efficiency-focused drive; Max Range, for eking the greatest distance out of the EQC; Sport, for a more performance-focused drive; and Individual, for specific adjustment of various parameters.
Borrowing tech established with the Smart brand and earlier electric Mercs, the EQC also features paddles behind the steering wheel – not for shifting gears (it has none), but for adjusting the level of braking recuperation. Tapping the left paddle reduces the level of recuperation for a more comfortable braking and deceleration experience, while tapping the right will increase the recuperation of braking energy.
Go all the way to the right, and one-pedal driving becomes possible, with the level of recuperation bringing the car to a stop without needing to depress the brake pedal.
The Eco Assist system is also inventive, using systems such as traffic sign recognition, navigation, and the vehicle's forward-facing cameras to advise the driver when it is appropriate to come off the accelerator – whether for recuperation or coasting. Speed limits, navigation route profile and map data, and distance from vehicles ahead can all factor into the system's driver assistance.
MBUX and Mercedes me
The EQC will be among the first models to launch with the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, following its debut with the new-generation A-Class hatch.
As shown with the small A-Class, MBUX brings a new-look interface, a host of smart new functions like augmented reality navigation, and an AI-powered "Hey Mercedes" voice recognition system that has proven an impressively capable 'rival' to the Siri and Google Assistant platforms now found in just about every new phone on the planet.
In its EQC application, MBUX will offer unique EQ functions and features, introduced with an EQ tile in the main menu. Features within that category include charging current, departure time, energy flow and a consumption histogram.
Again unique to the EQC, the navigation screen will display charging stations and, if an internet connection is present, details around availability and opening times of those stations.
As with most EVs, the navigation system will also intelligently optimise route planning based on electric driving range and current power consumption, and a journey can also be planned out and synced through the 'Mercedes me' app before leaving home.
Using either MBUX or Mercedes me, owners will be able to pre-set climate control ahead of entry, having the vehicle cooled or heated as needed. This is best done when plugged in, though, with the energy needs covered by the charging current.
The company is also working to streamline payment at public charge points, with the Mercedes me app designed to take the place of multiple charging subscriptions – at least, with participating vendors.
Safe as houses, solid as a brick sh...
With the EQC, Mercedes-Benz talks at length of the new model's active and passive safety systems.
Among these are a host of functions like autonomous emergency braking and Pre-Safe occupant protection systems, along with features like 'tailback control', designed to automatically and gradually reduce speed far in advance when the system detects that it is approaching an unexpected block of slow traffic or congestion. As traffic dissolves, the system will accelerate again to the set speed.
The EQC weighs in at nearly 2500kg, thanks partly to the roughly 600kg battery pack, but also to the advanced subframes and crash structure that surround the battery pack and electrical systems, along with a shield to save the battery from being pierced in a collision.
In the event of an accident, activation of protective systems like the belt tensioner and airbag will trigger an automatic emergency call, while a breakdown will initiate a service call.
Countdown to launch
Production will begin in the middle of 2019, built alongside regular Mercedes models – and the upcoming hydrogen-fuelled GLC F-Cell – at the company's plant in Bremen, Germany. Its battery will be produced by Daimler subsidiary Accumotive in Kamenz, near Dresden.
The company says that, by 2022, it will have established a CO2-neutral energy supply for its production facilities.
Depending on the location, its current factories either purchase electrical power or generate their own through gas cogeneration plants, but the next few years will see the company move all of its outsourced power needs to renewable sources like wind and hydroelectric.
"With the EQC, the first fully electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz, we are flipping the switch," says Daimler and Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche.
"Electric drive is a major component in the mobility of the future. We are therefore investing more than ten billion euros in the expansion of our EQ model portfolio, and more than one billion euros in global battery production."
Timing and specifications for Australian buyers are still to be confirmed. But Mercedes-Benz Australia communications manager Jerry Stamoulis tells us that, like most of its models, a local launch should follow the mid-2019 European launch fairly quickly. We'd expect to see the EQC here before the end of the year.
As for pricing, a starting point between $100,000 to $150,000 is expected. By comparison, the turbo V8-powered AMG GLC63 goes for around $165,000 new, while the larger GLE63 drops at just shy of $190,000.
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