Is range anxiety the biggest barrier to mass adoption for potential electric vehicle buyers, or is it the fear of the unknown? A loss of familiarity, if you will.
After all, these silent electron chewers are fundamentally very different and don’t need to conform to what we know and have become used to with regular cars. Surely an easier pathway would be to start with something you are comfortable with, and go from there? It’s working for Toyota on the hybrid front, but is it a good strategy for a full EV?
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC400 hopes so, as the first fully electric Mercedes to hit our market is in many ways an electric GLC, making a switch from fill-up to plug-in a reasonably familiar experience.
And you’ll note that both in this story and in the video, ‘familiar’ is a word I use quite often, as it is the crux of the EQC’s positioning. Points for counting the total number of references!
At 4771mm, the EQC is 103mm longer than a GLC43. It’s 16mm lower but shares the same width and wheelbase – fair enough considering they are built on the same platform in the same factory.
The nose features an enormous three-pointed star and multi-beam LED headlamps that integrate into the grille assembly. The running lamp signature includes a cool LED ‘monobrow’ that runs under the leading edge of the bonnet, too.
Despite being electric, there is still a regular-looking grille up front, which has motorised vanes to keep it closed when not needed for better aerodynamic efficiency. What sits behind it? The car has a traditional radiator to provide liquid-cooling for the electric motors, plus all the usual climate-control condensers and intakes still require airflow.
The jury is still out on whether it is an attractive car, the flowing curves and chipmunk-esque jowls offering a somewhat less muscular look than its GLC relatives. The rest of the body can look bulky due to the sloping roof line and narrower glasshouse, with the rear almost seeming saggy thanks to the much lower rear bar and diffuser.
We managed to capture the EQC with a current GLC43, which makes the design differences very apparent. You can see the lower stance of the new car, and its significant 51mm-lower ground clearance, but also the reduced height toward the back of the car. If anything it ‘dates’ the GLC, which is now five years into its first life cycle.
That said, there is no denying the EQC makes an impact. We had a number of people come and ask about the car while we were out and about – immediately identifiable as a Mercedes-Benz, but not like anything they had seen before. Familiar yet new.
The Brilliant Blue Metallic paint (a no-cost option) really suits the modern look of the car and is one of 10 choices. Fair to note, too, that our car features the stunning 21-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels ($1800 option), which only enhance the car’s futuristic and style-statement image. A box worth ticking!
Speaking of costs, the EQC400 starts from $137,900 before options and on-road costs. This places it high in the range between the AMG GLC43 and GLC63. And while it is almost exactly twice the price of a base GLC200 and over $54,000 more expensive than the hybrid GLC300e, it essentially matches the spec and performance of the ’43 while offering the cachet and efficiency of zero visits to the petrol station.
The EQC runs a pair of 150kW electric motors for a combined 300kW/760Nm output. This is more than the twin-turbo V6 of the GLC43 (287kW/520Nm), but when you consider the EQC has to cart around an extra 588kg, its ability to cover the 0–100km/h sprint in 5.1 seconds (GLC43 is 4.9sec) is pretty impressive.
And no, that wasn’t a typo. The EQC weighs in at a husky 2500kg. Ooft.
You can thank the 80kWh battery pack for much of that. The 384 lithium-ion cells tip the scales at about 500kg alone. The modular battery supports DC fast charging, and is claimed to be able to recharge from 10 to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes using high-current infrastructure.
Owners can use the Chargefox public network (Type 2 AC and CCS combo DC plugs), and there is an optional wall-charger available from Mercedes-Benz to make home-charging as convenient as possible. You’ll want this, too, as I plugged it into a standard household socket using the portable charger (supplied) and it suggested that for a 40 per cent charge, I’d need to come back in two days' time!
Depleting all those jostling electrons is a maximum range of around 430km, but in real-world urban running you’ll see somewhere between 350 and 400km. That should be good for a full re-juice once a week, which means minimal requirement on our limited public infrastructure, but it's probably best to scope out existing or planned chargers in your neighbourhood just in case.
The car shows a cool dynamic ‘range cloud’ on the navigation system, which notes how far you can currently travel on the existing state of charge. A list of public chargers is shown, but frustratingly this data isn’t up to date and may direct you to older Type 1 plugs or even deactivated installations. Welcome to Australia.
Get your head around this, though, and the rest of the EQC should be a piece of cake. When it comes to daily practicality, the new car is, dare I say, familiar.
Click the ’Benz badge or use the hands-free kicker to open the boot and the cargo area is 500L – down from the 550L space in a regular GLC, but actually up on the 395L space in the GLC300e hybrid because you still get the great underfloor storage for the good old Mercedes fruit crate, as well as somewhere to put your portable charger.
If you need more room, the seats fold down in a familiar 40:20:40 fashion to offer a total of 1460L.
Head to the back row and you’ll be hard-pressed to spot any differences over a GLC. The lack of a full-length panoramic sunroof (there’s a small one up front) makes it quite dark in the back, so we’d suggest opting for a contrasting interior trim colour.
Like a GLC it is comfortable enough, with enough knee and toe room for tall adults, but head room is pretty tight thanks to that sleek profile. You do get vents, USB-C ports, ISOFIX seat mounting points, and of course an armrest with cupholders and a storage bin. You know, just like a GLC.
There’s also the issue of the transmission tunnel. Given there are no mechanical linkages running between the front and rear axles, there is no need for this. I’d argue there’s not that much room in the middle seat to make a huge difference anyway, but it's another sign of where the EQC has evolved from a GLC, rather than being developed from a clean sheet of paper.
It’s understandable, though, given the GLC platform has existing tooling, safety design and other ‘expensive to start again’ developmental elements, and helps the EQC slot into production and the market with a lot less overhead on the balance sheet than would be required for a whole new model. We assume this will devolve over time, right Mercedes?
From the driver’s seat, the view is very much modern Mercedes-Benz luxury. The seats are supportive and adjustable, albeit with the ‘older-style' switchgear. This extends to the steering wheel, column-shift stalk and other buttons, in that they match the GLC but not the newer cars in the MB line-up, like the GLE.
Sure, it's all part of the aforementioned production efficiencies and processes, but it would have been nice to have this ‘new’ model feel like the other ‘new’ models, even if for the sake of a couple of new buttons here and there.
The dash, though, is unique. The cool copper inserts and the stepped shelf design are where the EQC sits apart from other models, including (shock!) the GLC. The materials, too, are quite special. For instance, the top-dash trim is made from recycled ocean plastics. You'll overhear that in a Toorak coffee shop in no time.
Plus, the brilliant twin 10.25-inch screens are what you’ll find across the newer Mercedes line-up. These run the now-familiar MBUX operating system that continues to feel very complicated, and at times confusing to use. I’ve said before the choices of interaction point between the touchscreen, COMAND interface on the console, buttons on each side of the steering wheel, and the now-infamous ‘Hey Mercedes’ assistant, tend to hinder, not help, the process.
Yes, you get used to it, and yes, you tend to find your comfortable ‘regular-use' items, but there is just so much detail to the system I expect you’ll never really have the chance to explore it all.
Plus, you cannot go a minute without saying ‘Mercedes’ in the cabin without car-Siri chiming in. I know you can turn it off, I just don’t know where…
The equipment levels are very high, with the option set for the EQC basically limited to trim and personalisation. Standard gadgets include the latest driver-assistance suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, AEB, blind-spot and lane-keeping assistant.
The 13-speaker Burmester stereo, wireless phone charger, sunroof, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay support and MercedesMe telemetry integration are part of the package.
The MercedesMe suite includes an app where you can remotely access the car, send directions and check on the status. It’s cool, but not new. However, you can also set up and configure your personalised driver profile, which means you can change your seat options and even lighting design, ready for your next trip.
Apparently, your profile adapts over time depending on how and where you drive, even what music you listen to. Which, for me, is mildly concerning.
Being an EV, you can naturally monitor your energy use and regeneration pattern. You can use the paddle shifters to increase/decrease the amount of friction to assist with regeneration, too, which is pretty nifty.
For regular driving, though, the EQC cannot help but feel like a very quiet GLC. The driving position and ergonomics are all very familiar. Rearward vision is a little less ‘panoramic’ thanks to the smaller back window, but otherwise the visibility and all-round driving sensation are very predictable.
The ride is firm, as expected on the big wheels, but still comfortable. There’s air suspension in the rear and conventional springs up front, which means you’ll feel the ‘up’ more than the ‘down’ of speed humps and the like. It feels very solid on the road, most likely because it is so heavy, but never seems to crash or thump. You tend to really feel that weight on a winding road, and through tighter corners – but not so much pottering around in traffic.
The thing you get used to very quickly, though, even if just running around for usual errands to the shops and to the office, is the noise – or lack of it. The silence really is the best part of an electric car. It just feels so relaxed and calm.
Performance-wise, too, there’s nothing quite like the pick-up of an EV. Stab the throttle and the EQC rapidly gathers pace. The nose lifts like a speedboat and the tranquil lounge becomes an amusement ride. It’s not the fastest thing on ’lectricity, but as noted earlier it is exceptionally brisk for something so heavy.
Although, while silently blasting past people can be fun, if you’re like me, your driving style will adapt to try and squeeze every last ounce of range from the battery. It is a different way of driving – and yet, in this familiar surrounding, not as dramatic a change as to what you might expect.
It becomes all too easy to get used to the new parts of the EQC, for not having to learn the regular bits. You know the badge, the key, the boot, the instruments, how to turn it on, go, steer and stop. I’d actually say that understanding the finer points of MBUX will take longer than coming to terms with a full-electric driveline.
The functional layout, tech and general usability of the car make it an easy stepping stone for existing GLC owners, or other SUV owners, to an electric platform.
It doesn’t make the groundbreaking, pioneering electric statement of a Tesla, but you could jump out of a GLC and into an EQC and go about your day almost instantly. And if you want your first ‘new’ car to be close to your last ‘old’ car, then the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC makes the journey an easy one.