From £64,9259
Mercedes’ brisk, spacious, tidy-handling electric SUV has everything it needs to do well on UK roads, barring perhaps quite enough design appeal

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz ECQ 2019 review - hero front

Mercedes’ first proper electric car hits a competitive mark dynamically and might exceed rivals for comfort and refinement. Big appeal for the eco-conscious and tech-savvy; maybe a touch less for the interested driver

What is it?

Mercedes’ first all-electric passenger car, just landed in Britain. The EQC 400 is a mid-sized, five-seater SUV with four-wheel drive and more than 400 horsepower. It’ll accelerate considerably more quickly than most hot hatchbacks, offers generous room for five occupants and their luggage, and also plenty of the usual Mercedes-brand luxury-car refinements and desirability.

Which sounds like the sort of prospect that many would be ready to spend £70,000 on, doesn’t it? That the car is all-electric and runs entirely free of tailpipe emissions should, of course, still be its main selling point.

Adapted from the model platform used by the GLC SUV, the EQC can’t quite be called a ‘ground-up’ dedicated EV design, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got the right kind of mechanical make-up. It’s powered by an 85kWh lithium ion battery pack carried under the cabin floor (just where it would be in a Tesla) and 80kWh of that total capacity is made ‘usable’ by the car’s control electronics. The rival Audi E-tron, by comparison, has 95kWh of total battery capacity, but only lets you access 83.6kWh of it – and the Jaguar I-Pace’s drive battery only lets you tap into very marginally more.

The EQC is driven by a separate electric motor and planetary gearbox per axle, which combined produce up to 402bhp and 561lb ft of torque, the latter being a fair chunk more instant pulling power than either the Audi E-tron Quattro or the Jaguar I-Pace make.

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In terms of size, it splits the difference between the relatively compact Jaguar and the bigger Audi almost exactly; and on kerb weight – the enduring problem associated with big drive batteries that all electric cars must strain against – it’s marginally lighter than the Audi but a good 300kg heavier than the Jaguar. Some of that weight penalty can be pinned on Mercedes’ decision to adapt an existing platform here rather than design a new one – which is precisely what Audi did, too.

If getting the maximum usable battery range for your money is your primary concern as an early adopting EV owner, meanwhile, the EQC matches the Audi exactly for claimed electric range (up to 259 miles depending on optional specification) but narrowly loses out to both the Jaguar (up to 292 miles) and Tesla’s longest-range Model X (314 miles) on the latest WLTP-certified lab test numbers. That it’s priced from just above £65,000 (before any purchase incentive) makes it a shade cheaper than both the Audi and Tesla, however.

What's it like?

Having driven it abroad and now spent some time with it in the UK, I’m still not convinced that the EQC has the alternative design allure that is becoming associated with emergent luxury EVs. There’s a slightly contrived, affected look about the car – like it’s been made outwardly different from its GLC-badged relation on a superficial level, and mostly for the sake of difference. That you end up wondering whether it looks like a Mercedes at all is perhaps the biggest failing, but given that this is the first of many EQ-branded models – and we’ll only get used to their design cues over time – now probably isn’t the best time to judge.

The EQC’s interior more successfully strikes that balance between new and interesting and also recognisably infused with Mercedes-brand familiarity. It’s usefully roomy in both rows, with more than enough space for two bigger adults or three kids across the second row. As we’re used to from Mercedes, there’s a particularly rich and lavish appearance to the dashboard materials used – and plenty of innovative tactile finishes and design motifs about them, too.

There is, perhaps, a marginally lesser feeling of integrity and solidity about some of the fittings than you might find in an Audi; just the odd ever-so-slightly wobbly moulding, and a few trims that creak when you press them. It doesn’t detract much from the aura of alternative, high-tech luxury that the car conjures, though.

The car’s driving position is slightly lower than in some SUVs, but still presents a good compromise of convenient accessibility and all-round visibility. Just as in other current Mercedes models, the car’s instrumentation and infotainment consoles are presented in one near-seamless sweep of digital display real estate, and you can engage with them via control consoles on the steering wheel, via touchscreen input, via voice control, or via a fingertip input console on the transmission tunnel.

As regards managing the driving experience, meanwhile, there’s Mercedes’ usual drive mode selector that allows you a choice of five programs (from ‘Sport’ to ‘Maximum Range’), and there’s also a pair of paddles on the back of the steering wheel with which you can adapt how strongly the car ‘regenerates’ battery charge on a lifted throttle through a further five settings.

When we tested the EQC in Oslo earlier this year, refinement struck us as what might be the car’s greatest dynamic quality. On UK roads it makes a marginally less refined impression, but still puts in a good showing for on-board comfort and calm, and demonstrates a few other strengths we hadn’t fully appreciated earlier.

It takes a while to negotiate the complexity bound up in the car’s various drive modes and regen settings, and to find the ones that work best for you. You can allow the car to adapt and change its own battery regeneration settings automatically, using data from its radar cruise control and navigation systems. This tester preferred managing it manually, though, as if changing down through the gearbox on a manual gearbox while slowing for a junction or roundabout; and also using Comfort or Sport driving mode, which made for a less intrusive feel from the car’s ‘haptic’ accelerator pedal.

Experiment with the car’s more sophisticated, semi-autonomous driving modes and you’ll find drivability suffers a bit, as it becomes unclear exactly which situations you’re expected to rely on the car to manage for itself and which you should overrule the systems and handle for yourself. Err on the side of caution, though – relying on the autonomous technology only for what it’s good at (busy motorways, basically) – and you’ll get on with it just fine.

In fact, getting really stuck into the EQC’s driving experience offers plenty of reward. In Sport mode, the car feels quick and responsive even for an electric car, thrusting its way up from town speeds very assertively indeed. It may not quite be a match for a Jaguar I-Pace or a Tesla Model 3 on driver appeal, but it should beat an Audi E-tron Quattro (an imminent group test should put that question to bed with some certainty); and, in this tester’s opinion, would beat any diesel- or lesser petrol-engined SUV on that score.

Steering is more filtered-feeling than keen drivers might like, but it’s medium-direct and means you can negotiate tighter bends and junctions quite easily. Body control errs on the soft and permissive side over more testing surfaces, but it makes for a comfortable low-speed ride while also keeping higher-speed handling fairly precise-feeling. The torque-vectored electronic four-wheel-drive system finds instant traction and stability even in slippery conditions. So the EQC can certainly oblige with plenty of instant pace, and no small amount of driver engagement, when prompted.

Mercedes’ official WLTP range claim for the car should also be easy to reproduce in the real world, and without trying too hard. Our first full charge in the car was good for 180 miles on the trip, with 35 left in reserve – and that for a trip that included plenty of quicker-paced, more energy-intensive test miles. At a UK-typical 50-70mph cruising speed, the magic 3.0 mpkWh efficiency target necessary to put 240 miles between charges comes up quite readily. 

Should I buy one?

Anyone ready to take the plunge with a luxury EV should certainly give the EQC some serious thought. It’s perhaps missing one outstanding selling point compared with its nearest rivals: it isn’t stunning to look at, isn’t exactly stunning to drive either, and nor is it quite the most luxurious, practical or usable car in its developing niche.

But there’s a completeness and breadth about its roster of qualities that is almost as convincing as that one knockout punch might have been, even allowing for how much is left to chance by that derivative styling. Whatever you’re looking for from electric motoring – be that excitement, refinement, relaxation, cutting-edge technological sophistication or just a car that you can really use, and that’s a fully formed alternative to the combustion-engined one you might have spent the money on – the EQC has got you covered.

Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus specification

Where Milton Keynes, UK Price £74,530 On sale Now Engine One AC synchronous electric motor per axle Battery Lithium ion, 80kWh usable capacity Power 402bhp Torque 561lb ft Gearbox One per axle, planetary, single speed Kerb weight 2495kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 5.1sec Range 232-259 miles CO2 tbc Rivals Audi E-tron 55 Quattro, Tesla Model X Long Range

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Comments
15

21 August 2019

It will probably be a second or third car for some filthy rich family.....

Steam cars are due a revival.

21 August 2019

AMG line? What's so AMG about this car?

22 August 2019

Hi

abkq wrote:

AMG line? What's so AMG about this car?

the AMG badge has been completely debased by Mercedes, and irritating to anyone who thinks luxury means non-sport

21 August 2019

4.5 stars suggests this car is near perfect.

As Merc's first attempt at a production passenger EV in the UK I find that very hard to swallow, especially since it is based on a fossil-fuel platform.  As your report says it does nothing brilliantly.

It costs more than twice as much as a Kia e-Niro but does little significantly better: it's quiet, carries five people and most of their stuff over a comparable (or slightly lower) range.  It is significantly more accelerative than the Kia, but not more so than it's peers of a similar price.  It has no killer USP like Tesla's dedicated Supercharger network.

I don't deny it is a good car, but I can't believe you think it deserves 4.5 stars...

 

21 August 2019

4.5 stars suggests this car is near perfect.

As Merc's first attempt at a production passenger EV in the UK I find that very hard to swallow, especially since it is based on a fossil-fuel platform.  As your report says it does nothing brilliantly.

It costs more than twice as much as a Kia e-Niro but does little significantly better: it's quiet, carries five people and most of their stuff over a comparable (or slightly lower) range.  It is significantly more accelerative than the Kia, but not more so than it's peers of a similar price.  It has no killer USP like Tesla's dedicated Supercharger network.

I don't deny it is a good car, but I can't believe you think it deserves 4.5 stars...

 

21 August 2019
Tom Chet wrote:

4.5 stars suggests this car is near perfect.

As Merc's first attempt at a production passenger EV in the UK I find that very hard to swallow, especially since it is based on a fossil-fuel platform.  As your report says it does nothing brilliantly.

It costs more than twice as much as a Kia e-Niro but does little significantly better: it's quiet, carries five people and most of their stuff over a comparable (or slightly lower) range.  It is significantly more accelerative than the Kia, but not more so than it's peers of a similar price.  It has no killer USP like Tesla's dedicated Supercharger network.

I don't deny it is a good car, but I can't believe you think it deserves 4.5 stars...

 

Really? Sitting in a Kia feels similar to sitting in a Benz?  You honestly don’t notice a lift?  

RWD

22 August 2019

You're right.  The interior of the EQC is much nicer than the Kia's and is one of the things that is 'significantly better', but it costs £40k more.  

I am more convinced that the Kia is a 4.5 star car than the EQC.  Considering the price they are charging and its competition, I don't think that the EQC is a remarkable car which is what a 4.5 star rating implies.

22 August 2019
TottenhamDave wrote:

Really? Sitting in a Kia feels similar to sitting in a Benz?  You honestly don’t notice a lift?  

You're right.  The interior of the EQC is much nicer than the Kia's and is one of the things that is 'significantly better', but it costs £40k more.  

I am more convinced that the Kia is a 4.5 star car than the EQC.  Considering the price they are charging and its competition, I don't think that the EQC is a remarkable car which is what a 4.5 star rating implies.

Sorry - I really haven't got the hang of the formatting and inability to edit in this forum.

21 August 2019

Oh Boy...spend 70K for a GLC twin that has less range and less capability...MB how about build an EV that actually does not compete with itself?

21 August 2019

Why do our German cousins insist on replacing instrument clusters with what looks like a double-height iPhone nailed to the fascia as an afterthought?

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