India still barely has any electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Multi-storied apartments — even those in upscale housing societies — do not have any charging points for EVs, and you’d be lucky to find any charging options at all on major highways and expressways. That hasn’t stopped Mercedes-Benz from launching the all-new EQC 400 4MATIC in India. The most notable thing about the EQC is, perhaps, its engine. Or, rather the fact that it doesn’t have one. Instead, you get two asynchronous electric motors (one each for the front and rear axles), fed by an 80kWh lithium-ion battery. The electric motors have a total output of 300kW (408bhp) and 765Nm of torque. Impressive, right? Maybe doing away with that internal-combustion engine wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
‘With the EQC, the first fully electric SUV from Mercedes-Benz, we are flipping the switch. Electric drive is a major component in the mobility of the future. We are therefore investing more than €10 billion in the expansion of our EQ model portfolio, and more than one billion euros in global battery production,’ said Dieter Zetsche when the EQC was unveiled, back in 2018. Zetsche, who was Chairman of Daimler AG and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars at that time, was fully committed to electric power, and is said to have pushed the development of EVs in a big way at Mercedes-Benz.
Now, electric or not, the EQC drives like a modern Mercedes-Benz automobile should; you don’t need to cut it any slack just because it doesn’t have an IC engine. With its kerb weight of 2,425 kilos (about 500kg heavier than the regular GLC, which it’s based on), the EQC certainly is no lightweight. And yet, its twin electric motors are capable of pushing it from zero to 100kph in 5.1 seconds, and on to an electronically limited top speed of 180kph. The range is even more impressive — drive the EQC sensibly, and you’ll get a range of up to 450km with a full charge. And speaking of a full charge, the EQC can be charged via a regular household electric socket, though going from zero to full takes a bit more than 20 hours. Want faster? It will cost you, but Mercedes can install a 7.4kW ‘wallbox’ charger in your house, which will reduce charging time to a much more acceptable 10 hours. To reduce power consumption — an important factor for EVs — the front and rear electric drivetrains are configured differently. The electric motor at front is optimised for low-speed efficiency, while the motor at the back takes care of higher load conditions; for example, when you want to accelerate hard or pull an overtaking manoeuvre. Governed by the car’s on-board computers, the two electric motors work in tandem to give you the best possible range, dynamic performance, and efficiency. Plus, the driver can choose between five driving modes (comfort, eco, max range, sport and one that’s individually customisable), each of which is optimised for a different set of requirements.
In addition to high levels of performance, Mercedes-Benz has also worked hard on reducing or eliminating noise and vibration. The twin electric motors are isolated via rubber mounts at the point where the electric powerpack connects to the subframe, and also where the subframe connects to the body. This, along with other regular noise insulation measures that are undertaken on Mercedes cars, ensures that the EQC’s interiors remain very quiet, even when the vehicle is being driven hard. While the EQC is based on the Mercedes GLC, it has its own visual identity. With a massive black grille up front, along with redesigned headlamps and a fibre-optic light-bar running across the top of the front grille, connecting the headlamps on either side, the EQC has a unique face. The LEDstrip tail lamps at the back are a snazzy design flourish, and lend a very modern, contemporary feel to the vehicle. The EQC rides on 20-inch alloy wheels, which feature understated blue accents that are exclusive to the EQC. Inside, it’s luxury the way Mercedes does best; generously-proportioned seats, high quality materials, impeccable fit and finish and, of course, the inevitable 10.25-inch colour touchscreen for infotainment and fully digital instrument console. It’s the little things that make the EQC’s cabin a bit special. The silk-like Sunnyvale fabric over the dashboard, copper-finished AC vents, and the denim blue leather wrap over the doors, for example. There are some niggles, though. At the back, the middle seat passenger has to contend with a high transmission tunnel. This, in an electric vehicle? Why? (The GLC legacy, no doubt, but we wish Mercedes had done something about it.)
The one area where the EQC isn’t able to match its IC-engined competition, is ride and handling. With 650 kilos of li-ion battery slung down low between its front and rear wheels, the EQC’s suspension has to work extra-hard to cope, and it shows. Despite all the cutting-edge electronics helping it out, the EQC can display some understeer during hard cornering. The ride, too, can be a bit jittery and never feels fully settled, especially on broken terrain. Plus, you need to be careful while going over tall speed bumps, to avoid scraping the battery pack. SUV or not, the EQC isn’t exactly meant for going flat out over very bad roads, and you can probably forget about off-road driving if you want your EQC to last. EQC is a competent, luxurious SUV that will easily handle all the city and highway use you can throw at it, though roughroading is best avoided. For those who live in apartments, charging could be a challenge in terms of finding a suitably located charging point. Getting a Mercedes ‘wallbox’ charger installed might only be an option for those who live in an independent row house (as opposed to an apartment) and without one of those, 20+ hours for a full charge may be an issue for some.
Still, we have to remember this is early days for electric mobility in India, and early adopters must be ready to face some challenges. At an estimated ex-showroom price of Rs 1 crore, the EQC certainly won’t be cheap. In fact, all things considered, it probably won’t be very good value for money. That said, green is the new cool. And if you’re committed to reducing your carbon footprint and want to show that you really, truly care for the planet, you might think about putting the EQC on your shopping list.