But since its $137,900 list price bisects the petrol-fired $109,000 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and $161,000 GLC 63S performance crossovers, it's safe to say Benz also wants to convert some existing owners who just want the top-level SUV of this size.
It’s the first member of the brand's ‘EQ’ sub-brand, which will soon be bookended by the small EQA fully electric compact SUV) and EQS electric limousine. By 2023 there'll be seven Mercedes-badged EVs sold here.
Where some electric cars are based on standalone EV-only platforms and sport radical designs, the EQC does neither. It looks striking but conventional, and is made in the same German plant as the GLC with which it shares about 15 per cent of its mechanical parts.
One feels that Mercedes-Benz has tried its best not to make its first serious production EV too confronting, too out there. This manufacturing tactic also makes production quicker and more flexible, pending steady supply of precious batteries from its subsidiary provider
Above shared steering and suspension bits, the EQC has entirely new body panels and acoustic glass, and that swooping profile, smoothed-out roofline, and trick grille reduces the drag coefficient to a slippery 0.28 to help eke out more mileage from each charge.
The EQC's platform houses an 80kWh (useable) battery pack in the floor powering asynchronous electric motors on each axle, making combined outputs of 300kW and 760Nm. The front motor handles average driving and the rear engages when you want more go.
Mercedes claims consumption against ADR testing of 21.4kWh per 100km, which equates to an ADR driving range of 434km between charges. However, the more accurate WLTP test claims a range of 353km, which is more in line with what we saw in terms of energy use (between 26kWh and 28kWh per 100km) on our launch drive.
It's important to note that this figure is inferior to the claims of all three rivals listed in the introductory paragraph. Using WLTP for reference, Jaguar claims 470km, Audi 436km, and Tesla between 375km and 505km depending on which version of the Model X you purchase.
Mercedes counters this argument by noting the average weekly driving distances of Australia's car buyers - particularly those in metropolitan areas - are covered by the range.
It also gives you access to growing ultra-rapid charging network provider Chargefox, and can sell you a 7.4kW single-phase/22kW three-phase wallbox for $1250 before installation for the default approach of home charging.
There's truth to the argument that many prospective buyers will have a second car in the garage for long trips, and will use the EQC for the school run, and occasional trips to the beach house. I drove a 250km winding loop from Melbourne, ending in the seaside town of Torquay, as proof-positive of this claim.
If you can find a 110kW-capable DC (CCS/Type 2) charger you'll add 220km of range in 30 minutes, while a more common 50kW DC charger will add 100km in the same interval. The 7.4kW home charger unit that most buyers are expected to rely on will add 30km of range per hour, making overnight slow-charging a solution.
On a side note, the Mercedes Me Connect phone app lets you monitor the charging remotely, set an off-peak-ready timer, and manage the pre-entry climate control when you’re connected to mains.
As with most electric cars, the first thing you notice when driving is the instant, stepless response from the high-torque single-speed motors.
The 650kg battery pack means the EQC weighs a hefty 2420kg, but despite being such a porker it'll still dash to 100km/h from standstill in 5.1 seconds. That's only two-tenths off the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 performance SUV's claim.
Even by EV standards it's quiet. Mercedes has fitted a ton of sound-deadening material and double-glazed glass, and on most road surfaces there's very little obvious tyre roar or wind noise. It feels as hushed as an S-Class, though I don't have decibel readings on the same surfaces to prove it.
Interestingly the EQC's suspension comprises basic passive dampers, and an unorthodox suspension setup comprising steel springs up front and levelling air suspension at the rear.
Our test car had huge ($1800) 21-inch wheels on slim-sidewall tyres, and its propensity to hit road joins and potholes in a loud and crashy manner undermined an otherwise wafting experience. Maybe air in lieu of springs up front would help!
While the bulk is tethered by the low-mounted battery, the big Benz is happiest on highways or around town. Push hard into corners and the handling does degrade, with body roll evident.
Around town, you can play with the brake-energy recuperation system that saves battery charge, and enjoy the high driving position and light, non-resistant steering. Below 30km/h the EQC also emits some computer-generated noises to alert pedestrians to its looming presence. Unless they're wearing ear pods.
One cool element of the EQC that's worth flagging is the heavy use of recycled materials like plastic dredged out of the ocean. Around 100 components including insulation, the motor cover, wheel arch materials, cargo area lining, and the neoprene-like dash top surface, are all made in such a way.
The interior is a grab-bag of Mercedes bits, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The lower fascia, steering wheel and split centre console is pure GLC, while the twin-10.25-inch-screen display running the vaunted MBUX infotainment system controlled by touch or Siri-like voice commands ('Hey Mercedes, heat my seats please') is right out of an A-Class.
You have an endless procession of display modes to cycle through, and some particularly cool features like a large head-up display, energy usage monitors, and the option of Mercedes' ingenious augmented reality satellite navigation, which overlays a moving blue directional arrow over a live forward camera feed onto the screen.
The dash is a unique shape, as are the adjustable lighted pipes and the cold steel inserts in the doors. The copper-coloured sections are apparently inspired by electrical wiring, and the air vents by circuit boards.
In terms of practicality, the EQC is similar to the similarly-dimensioned (100mm shorter) GLC. Unlike some EVs that use their flat platforms to maximise cabin space, then EQC’s second seating row is snug because of the low roof, slim windows, and average knee room despite a neatly scalloped seat-back, though two 180cm adults will be fine.
The 500L boot is 10 per cent smaller than the GLC’s because of the lack of under-floor storage, and since motor components live up front under a plastic cover, there’s no ‘frunk’ or front boot like you get in a Tesla.
One certainly can't argue with the list of standard equipment, because not much is missing.
You get cool stuff like multibeam LED headlights, a sliding sunroof (albeit smaller than the twin-pane GLC's), 20-inch AMG wheels, a 590W and 13-speaker Burmester audio system, wireless phone charging, a head-up display, leather seats with heating, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, DAB+, sat-nav, proximity key, and electric seat and steering column adjustments.
The EQC also aced crash tests, hitting near-record NCAP impact scores. Standard fare includes nine airbags, a high-resolution 360-degree camera, auto parking software, active cruise control with GPS-based speed adjustments, evasive steering assist, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure assist that steers you between road lines.
It's worth noting that while Mercedes' steering assist systems are usually excellent, the EQC's system on the bumpy Princess Freeway saw the car ping-pong slightly from painted line to painted line.
One benefit of mechanically simpler EVs is servicing costs, which are low. Intervals are annual or 25,000km, and all Mercedes metro dealers have trained technicians. Regional techs are being trained. For $1350 you can pre-pay for the first three visits.
The battery comes with an industry-standard eight-year/160,000km warranty, while the rest of the car gets the usual three-year warranty.
As you can read here, Mercedes-Benz is also going to sell the EQC electric car in Australia in a new way — one that reduces the role of conventional dealerships but claims to address buyer concerns.
In essence you’ll buy your EQC direct from Mercedes-Benz, not the franchise dealer who actually delivers it and offers you a test drive. These dealers will instead focus on marketing, handing-off, and servicing the cars rather than actually selling their own paid-for floor stock.
One of the reasons why the EQC is an ideal candidate for this program is the lack of supply. Battery production is a big problem across the auto world, and Mercedes Australia's inventory is lower than it desired. If you order one from the factory itself, you'll be waiting many, many months.
So, that's a first local drive of the Mercedes-Benz EQC. It's no revolutionary, and its driving range, occasional ride imperfections, and its so-so packaging hold its rating back.
Nevertheless its particular brand of quiet, high-tech, imposing luxury will impress many prospective buyers, and its presence gets the Australian public closer to the breadth of EV choices we should have.