What is it?
Why I would buy it- Feature loaded and unique looks
Why I would avoid it- Sparse charging infrastructure, second row space, and ground clearance
The electric space in the Indian car market is now alive and kicking, and everyone is bringing their best wares to the table. While the budget end has seen a few launches, the luxury segment has remained relatively quiet- until now. Opening the innings for the premium space is the Mercedes-Benz with its EQC SUV. First unveiled as the concept EQ in 2016, it debuted on the Indian shores at the 2020 Auto Expo, and is the first of many to come from the three-pointed star.
What's the exterior design like?
If you are a fan of the current Mercedes design language, the EQC will be right up your alley as its styling has been derived from the GLC SUV. It has the same dimensions and overall design but with enough EQ bits to help it stand out. The three-pointed star stands proudly in the middle of the face, while above it is an optic fibre running from end-to-end which connects both the full LED headlamps, and hence adds a nice futuristic touch to the face.
In profile, it’s a Mercedes through and through, with the sloping roofline, large shiny wheels, and that EQC badge above the front wheel arches to let everyone know that you are driving something really special.
The rear gets a large LED light bar connecting both tail lamps and a chrome strip on the bumper, to add that little extra premium touch to the overall appearance. In all, the EQC is a bit understated but still a handsome car, and since it is something unique in the current car market, it will stand out in the crowd.
How is it on the inside?
Keeping the Mercedes essence alive seems to be the key here, as the cabin for the EQC is a familiar space with many of the elements from the regular GLC carried over. This is a very important thing in improving the acceptance of EVs into main stream motoring. Everything falls easily to hand and the sporty seats have been positioned a little high, giving you a good view all around.
The centre console and climate control interface are similar to the standard car but in place of the circular vents you now get rectangular units. The highlight of the dashboard, of course, are the dual screens where the right one serves as the instrument cluster and left being the infotainment system. It runs Mercedes’ latest MBUX interface with all the connectivity options, navigation and the ability to control it via touchscreen, touch pad, steering buttons, and even a voice assistant rather aptly named “Hey Mercedes”.
Other than this you get all the usual luxuries like seat memory function for the front seats, multi-zone climate control, leather upholstery, massage function in the seats for the front occupants, cruise control with lane assist, blind spot monitor, and 64 colour ambient lighting. The safety suite is pretty comprehensive with seven airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control, pre-safe technology, ESP, active brake assist, hill hold, and hill-descent control.
While the EQC has impressed in the first row, the same cannot be said for the second row due to its high floor. Ingress and egress are not easy, and it’s a space best suited for two, thanks to the high transmission tunnel and rear AC vents. However, the bench seat in itself is large with good support and in this special Edition 1886 EQC, trimmed out in a nice shade of blue (keeping in tune with the electric theme). You do get a massive boot with a parcel tray and the ability to fold down the rear seats for a lot of additional storage space.
Apart from the high floor, another oddity we found is that every USB port in the car is Type-C only. While this may not be an issue for the future due to the speed at which Type-C is gaining acceptance, at present it would need you to buy either an adaptor or a separate cable with Type-C connectivity at both ends.
How does it drive?
This EQC 400 is powered by two electric motors, one on each axle, and together producing 400bhp and 760Nm of torque. There’s a 80kWH battery pack and a single-speed gearbox sending power to the wheels and you also get the Mercedes 4MATIC AWD system. Mercedes claims an NEDC range of 450km.
Off the line, the EQC is quick and a surprising one, considering it weighs 2.5 tonnes. Gaining speed is effortless, in fact it's something that you should keep an eye on with the quiet nature of your driving experience.
The EQC's powertrain is a first glimpse into the future of the 'new normal' with regard to an involved driving experience. As standard, you get four driving modes which alter the response of the throttle and steering. These comprise Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Individual.
The “new normal” is that the paddle shifters behind the steering now control how much regeneration you get from the powertrain. There are five settings D Auto, D, D+, D-, and D--. At one end D Auto is when you want to just drive and control nothing else, while in the highest setting, D--, the regeneration is almost to the point of intrusive, something you don’t want on the highways but is very useful in the city driving conditions.
The EQC is underpinned by McPherson struts in front and an air suspension at the rear. The primary aim in terms of ride quality, as is the case with most of the cars in the Mercedes range is comfort, something the EQC does very well.
The ride is on the softer side and absorbs most bumps and imperfections without much of a struggle. It's the sharper potholes and speed breakers where you get noticeable body movement. You also have to contend with the low ground clearance resulting in scraping over the large speed breakers, if you are not careful.
Given the EQC's weight, size and soft suspension set up, it's a car you drive in comfort and at a relaxed pace. Going around two turns lock to lock, the steering is electrically assisted. In eco or comfort mode, the steering feels light and easy, but it does weigh up in the sport mode. At city speeds, it's easy to use and responds nicely.
But don't expect a sporty feel from a car this heavy. It's best to drive it in a sedate, relaxed manner, going point to point (comfort is key right?). This being an electric car, it's all very quiet and refined inside. The motors hum in the background when you are driving around, and the NVH insulation is very effective in reducing the sounds of the outside world to something just above a distant chatter.
What about charging?
All cars sold in India will be offered with an AC wall charging unit that can be fitted at a location of the buyer’s preference. It's a 7.4kwh capacity and takes 10 hours for a full charge.The fastest form of charging is via a 50 kWh DC fast charger that takes the battery from 10-100 per cent in 90 minutes. The German automaker has said that it will install DC fast chargers at all its major dealerships. In the event of an emergency, Mercedes has also provided a 3.4kWh wall socket plug which will take 21 hours for a full charge.
Should I buy one?
Is the EQC worthy of the Mercedes-Benz badge? We certainly think so. It's comfortable, relatively fast and feature loaded, both in terms of comfort and technology. Yes, it does have its flaws like the low rear seat comfort and poor ground clearance, and then there’s the most obvious one- charging infrastructure. This is not something that’s the fault of the car but will always stand out like an elephant (in the room) when you consider buying an EV in India at present.
Where does it fit in?
The Mercedes-Benz EQC will be a rival for the likes of the Jaguar i-PACE and Audi E-TRON, both electric SUVs and slated to come to India sometime in 2021.
Photography: Kapil Angane