Manufacturers are racing to churn out new electric vehicles in order to meet the growing demand as well as increasingly stringent emissions regulations. They want to build them atop dedicated EV platforms, but it seems the massive shift towards battery-powered vehicles has caught some of the established names off guard and so their first production EVs are actually still based on the architecture that underpins their conventional fuel-burning cars.
This is the case with the Mercedes-Benz EQC which under its skin is quite similar to the GLC that has been around for years. And you may think this makes it less special or an unattractive halfway house, but let me tell you straight away that if you have that assumption, you ought to reconsider it.
Sure, the EQC is not perfect, but it’s probably the most luxurious experience you can have in an EV right now and it actually does plenty of things very well, even if it’s not a bespoke ground-up EV. Go for a well-specced example, like the one I tested, equipped with the 1886 Edition pack, and it will make you feel really special to travel in it. Do also remember that this is Mercedes’ first modern mass market EV and that makes the model even more praiseworthy.
When designing the EQC, Mercedes appears to have been torn between making it a more conventional looking SUV and a coupe-like or fastback-style one, so it went straight down the middle. As a result, the EQC’s roofline is more coupe-like than the regular GLC’s yet more traditional than the GLC Coupe’s.
It therefore won’t get you noticed the same way the rakish GLC Coupe does, but there are touches (aside from the shape of the roof) tat set it apart. Firstly, its front fascia is unique to the EQC and quite different looking to that of the GLC.
The Mercedes grille and logo dominate the front, but probably its focal point is the horizontal light bar that links the two headlight clusters. It is one of this vehicle’s most distinctive design features and it really attracts a lot of look.
My tester didn’t have the AMG Line pack, so it had the less aggressive front bumper, with faux vents on the sides (they are real vents on the AMG Line). The headlights also come with blue accents to drive home the point that this is indeed an electric vehicle.
From the side, it looks very GLC-esque, although if you park it next to an actual GLC, you will notice that the roof is lower and it falls more towards the rear. Moving to the rear fascia, it is dominated by a continuous light bar that lends it a very unique aesthetic, similar to that of the most recent Porsche Cayenne.
There’s nothing especially dramatic about the rear end design, although it has to be mentioned that Mercedes inexplicably chose to put fake exhaust-like chrome ornaments on the unpainted part of the bumper. They don’t look especially good and I’m sure they could have found a better and cleverer way to make the lower bumper interesting.
The interior is special, though. Sure, the lower part of the door panels and the center stack are shared with the GLC, but the top part is different. The dashboard has a very unique design, with the twin-screens placed in a cool recess that’s surrounded by unique slatted ornaments that go all the way around.
The same style of ornament is present on the top part of the dash and it continues onto the top part of the doors for a rather nice wrap-around effect. My tester had the optional two-tone interior that gets three styles of synthetic leather: the top of the doors are clad in a blue material that is halfway between suede and regular leather, while the outside of the seats gets actual (faux) blue leather and the interior actual black suede.
Final touch worth mentioning here are the rose gold-finished air vent slats that look good, but once you touch them, you discover they’re actually just (not very expensive feeling) plastic.
The EQC can’t be equipped with air suspension on all four corners or adaptive dampers. However, it does come as standard with rear air suspension and if you didn’t know this for a fact, driving around in it you’d probably think it did actually have all-around air springs.
Probably the part of the EQC driving experience that impressed me most was its blend of smoothness and ride comfort. Since it doesn’t have an ICE engine, there is no vibration whatsoever coming into the cabin, and combined with its remarkable ride comfort, sharp but very smooth steering and well-judged seats, it is probably one of the most relaxing EVs to drive on the market.
It’s ridiculously smooth, especially given it has steel springs up front. Part of this has to be due to the fact that it’s quite a heavy SUV, tipping the scales at nearly 2.5 tons, so it doesn’t so much glide over bumps as it pummels them into submission.
Another point that needs to be made here has to do with quietness. Thanks to the double-glazed side windows and impressively well done soundproofing, it is the most hushed and most refined EV currently on the market, at any price point.
Tech & Connectivity
The EQC has Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment which is one of the best on the market. It also comes with a fully digital, configurable gauge cluster that has impressive fidelity and sharpness and it can be set up to display a wide range of different screens for media, navigation, efficiency and others.
It also comes with voice commands, which work very well most of the time. My tester also had the upgraded driver assistance pack that includes adaptive cruise control which also steers to keep the car in lane and even automatic lane changing - when cruise control is enabled, you simply indicate in the direction you want the lane change to occur, and if the car detects no fast-approaching vehicles, it will do it for you very reliably.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are optionally available too, but unless you want third party apps, such as Waze, displayed on the main infotainment screen, the car’s infotainment is more than good enough. Other noteworthy features are the excellent LED matrix headlights, the regenerative braking which can be set to an Auto setting that then varies the intensity based on what’s happening in front of the car - if it senses no obstacles, the vehicle will coast more, while if there is something in your path, regen will be stronger.
This feature also works when you apply the brakes too - they are sharper when the car detects something ahead. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it does behave in a predictable manner (nine out of ten times, anyway), so you eventually learn to trust it.
Performance & Handling
Despite the fact that it’s based on the rear-wheel drive-biased GLC, the EQC is actually front-wheel drive most of the time. It does have a rear motor too, but under normal driving conditions, only the the front wheels are actually powered, and the only time you really feel this is when launching hard in lower grip conditions - it takes a fraction of a second for the rear motor the get power and as a result, the front wheels will actually chirp under power.
According to Mercedes, the EQC400 has a combined power output of 408 horsepower and 765 Nm (564 pound-feet) of torque, enough to send it from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.1 seconds; top speed is limited to 180 km/h (112 mph). Acceleration off the line and up to highway speeds is really strong, but it’s not as brutal as what you may have experienced in a Tesla - it’s as if Mercedes has tuned the powertrain to deliver the power ever so slightly more gradually in order to preserve some comfort, even under hard acceleration.
Euro NCAP awarded the EQC its full five-star safety rating when it was tested last year. It got an impressive 96 percent safety score for adult occupants, 90 percent for children, 75 percent for pedestrian safety and 75 percent in the Safety Assist category.
The latter looks at all the new active safety features, such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and speed limit warnings; the EQC has all of these and they work very well. The only safety features it’s missing (that are not even available as options) are an active hood that pops up in the event of a crash and a knee airbag for the front passenger.
Efficiency, Range & Charging
For Europe, Mercedes provides a WLTP range of 417 km (259 miles), and an average electricity consumption of 21.0 kWh/100km (3.0 miles/kWh). When I picked the car up with 99 percent state of charge in its 80 kWh battery pack, the range meter said it could do 308 km (191 miles).
By my calculations, I was almost able to do 290 km (180 miles) on one charge, but my average electricity draw came nowhere near the claimed number. I actually averaged just over 32 kWh/100km (1.9 miles/kWh), but this can definitely be improved upon, because I didn’t drive it economically - my goal was to get an accurate reading for someone who wants to occasionally enjoy the vehicle’s power and torque figures.
Over the weekend that I had the car, I charged it twice, always via a 50 kW quick charger, but it never managed to actually charge any higher than 44 kW. This may have been due to the fact that outside temperatures were very high (34°C or 93°F), as well as the fact that I never actually set the charger as a destination on the sat-nav.
Mercedes says that if you do this, the vehicle will begin readying the batteries (either heat them up or cool them down to optimum temperature) for peak charging capability. However, at the same time it’s worth noting that its peak charging rate is actually 110 kW and I came nowhere near that, but at the same time, I didn’t find a charger powerful enough to try it out.
In Romania, where I tested the vehicle, the EQC400 starts at €76,190 ($85,550), but my well-equipped tester was €89,987 ($100,977). What drove the price up over the base model was the 1886 Edition pack, the keyless entry and keyless start, the EQ pack, the Thermotronic climate control system, the opening glass sunroof, the augmented reality feature for the navigation and the stowage space pack.
The High-tech silver paint job and two-tone leather interior were no-cost options, as were the 20-inch 10-spoke wheels.
Gallery: 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC