Mercedes-Benz has in recent weeks been conducting a final batch of hot-weather tests on its all-new EQC electric SUV in South Africa. Just prior to the vehicles returning home, we were afforded an opportunity to experience this important new machine.
Built on the same platform as the Mercedes-Benz GLC (and in the same factory) and due to go on sale in South Africa later this year, the EQC is the first all-electric vehicle from the three-pointed star to go into mass production. The Bremen manufacturing facility will start churning out these high-end EVs soon, but not before a final batch of hot weather tests were conducted in South Africa. With the tests completed, Mercedes-Benz invited a few local journalists to experience the new machine at the Gerotek facility in Gauteng. Sadly, we were not allowed to drive the prototype vehicles, but nevertheless, the enthusiastic German engineers were not holding back around the tight dynamic handling course at Gerotek... so we were left with a pretty good idea of what these cars are capable of...
- INTERESTING FACT: Close to 200 EQC prototypes and pre-production vehicles have been tested during the past 3 winters and 3 summers all over the world...
The vehicles had recently also been tested in Sweden (in icy cold conditions), and in South Africa had to endure not only gruelling heat, but also tow testing (1.8 tonnes), fine dust sealing evaluations and even runs where the batteries were run until completely drained. Given the upbeat moods of all the German technicians in attendance, one can only assume that the testing was a success and the final step in a 4-year long journey to get the first of the EQ cars ready for production.
Under the hood
The EQC 400 is powered by 2 motors, combining to push out 300 kW and 765 Nm. There's one motor on the front axle and a second at the rear, making it an all-wheel-drive vehicle. I asked the technician to remove the plastic cover under the bonnet, and it certainly does look different under there! see image below.
Under the bonnet of the EQC 400 (plastic cover removed). Orange means high voltage.
The battery has an energy content of 80 kWh and there are five driving modes, which result in different performance and ranges. The Mercedes-Benz EQC features a water-cooled onboard charger (OBC) with a capacity of 7.4 kW, making it suitable for AC charging at home or at public charging stations. If you opt for the later, you can go from 10%-80% in just 40 minutes. The battery comprises 384 cells and is located in the vehicle floor between the two axles.
Cabin is modern, but not frighteningly so... Some interesting trim materials too, including a neoprene facia wrap.
Mercedes-Benz SA will only later be announcing its infrastructure-boosting plans for South Africa, but an off-the-record chat certainly created positive expectations. Petroleum company Shell, of course, recently also announced that it would be adding electric charging stations to some of its forecourts, and I hear that recent discussions with the government about EV infrastructure have also been more positive.
On the road & track
Being based on the same platform as the GLC, the EQC is similarly sized and packaged inside (with a massive boot!). Mercedes-Benz has been careful not to create too futuristic a cabin, as such a move could chase away consumers. Instead, it looks very much like a "normal" Mercedes-Benz inside, albeit one with all the latest toys, including the top-of-the-range MBUX control system. In fact, one of the engineers said that the EQC could have been on the market sooner, but Mercedes-Benz wanted it to have all the latest tech that it was developing for the mainstream, new-generation products, too. Oh, and interestingly the EQC features only USB-C ports inside...
An observation that's worth making is that the build quality seems superior to the GLC's, and that's possibly down to material selection. There is a solidity and "weightiness" to the trim of the EQC which leaves a lasting impression of quality, and some properly interesting choices too... including a neoprene facia cover that actually looks and feels far smarter than you'd ever expect.
Out on the road the EQC is a silent cruiser and though I couldn't drive it myself, it was clear that throttle response is, uhm... electric! Top speed is limited to 180kph, and the EQC 400 can blitz to 100kph in 4.9 sec. Like most EVs, it's possible to drive the EQC almost entirely using only the throttle pedal, and this car further offers the option of adjusting the severity of the regeneration action when lifting off the throttle.
It's a heavy car (2.5 tonnes), and it comes as no surprise then that it deals with road imperfections so well. Even more impressively, it hides its bulk brilliantly on the tight track at Gerotek, picking up speed deceptively fast and the low centre of gravity helping it stay stable in the corners. Ultimately I suspect it's not as agile as the new Jaguar I-Pace (launched in SA this week), but only a proper drive will confirm that suspicion.
Mercedes-Benz is not yet ready to comment on local pricing, but has confirmed that the EQC will be launched locally before year-end.