The new Elektro: Mercedes-Benz EQC
Can the GLC-based all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQC win your heart?
It’s still questionable whether going all-electric is going to solve the existing environment-related issues without giving rise to new ones. But this is the most exciting the electric-car space has looked in the last few years. There’s been a continued push to make electric cars as green and clean as possible, and now, with conventional carmakers actively widening their line-ups (to a point where they have a detailed roadmap to electric-only ready), the sudden rise in the number of electric cars can’t be missed. Mercedes-Benz has dabbled with electric cars in the past, but commercially, its electric innings in India begin with the EQC, a GLC-based fully electric crossover. We took one to some twisty roads nestled among the hills, to find out if this newfound craze for leccy has something in store for car enthusiasts.
At around 100km from the packed-to-the-brim city of Mumbai is Lonavala, a small hill station extremely popular with city dwellers. Due to its topography, it presents a change in climate (due to the altitude) and driving conditions. The latter because the roads do get narrower in the hills, and there are moderately steep curves which make less powerful vehicles drop to the first gear. The area is peppered with BnBs and resorts for those who want to take a break from the normal. Our agenda wasn’t to stop there, but just to maximise whatever time we had with the EQC by driving and driving alone. No stops for the local delicacy like the almond and chocolate fudge or even Lonavala’s famous ‘chikki’ — the latter, as many readers would be aware, is essentially an assortment of roasted nuts bonded together by jaggery or sugar syrup. For those unaware of it, think Cadbury’s Picnic but without chocolate; that explanation might not do justice to how rich and flavoursome it is, but it’s a fairly uncomplicated snack.
The EQC is also pretty much an uncomplicated piece of machinery — to the driver, at least. It’s powered by two electric motors, one at each axle, effectively making it all-wheel drive. The approach to driving is similar to any other modern Merc, and that’s going to make most adopters feel at home, especially if they’re coming from another Mercedes-Benz car. The cabin itself feels fairly plush but the use of a variety of materials is interesting. In this Edition 1886, the dashboard has a fine microfiber finish, which somehow makes it more cohesive with the rest of the car. The Mercedes-Benz India press loaner has a nicely specced blue interior, which is surely going to appeal to those who’ve loved Merc’s ubiquitous blue-coloured upholstery of the past. The large screen sat atop the dashboard is made to appear as if it’s extended to work as the instrument panel. It’s now common on modern Mercedes cars, and it doesn’t look out of place here, either. The grille on the door pads and the rose-gold vents don’t actually look as OTT as they sound.
Mercedes-Benz India claims that the onboard 80 kWh battery can lend the EQC a WLTP range of up to about 480km (300 miles). Considering that the distance we had to cover was nearly half of that, it wouldn’t be a problem. But then it occurred to me that the drive from Bombay to Lonavala is a mix of motorway driving, traversing through some narrow lanes, and a fair bit of uphill climb. And that is bound to hit the overall range. Without letting range anxiety creep in, we begin our journey. The one thing that the EQC does rather amazingly is pootle, almost nonchalantly, as if there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the world around. It rides well, soaking in bumps without making a fuss, and it doesn’t lack in overall stability, either. On the motorway to Lonavala, there are a few wide bends, and the EQC has no problems in carrying respectable speed into the corners. No drama there, but the biggest point in favour of electric vehicles is that, despite the extra weight of the battery (the EQC weighs in at 2.5 tonnes; kerb weight), the instant torque delivery makes life very easy. Overtaking everyone from slow-moving lorries to weekend travellers gawking at the Merc EQC is a breeze.
Like other modern cars, it also gets paddle shifters, but since there are no gears to operate, these let you change the way the EQC drives. In addition to driving modes, which I’ll get to in a bit, the paddles can control how much recuperation happens. This opens up the possibility of reducing the range anxiety by using more regen. Pull the right paddle, and the vehicle will begin to coast (D+), whereas the left one can be pulled once for mild regeneration (D-) and twice for strong regeneration (D – -). The latter is great for one-pedal driving — as soon as you lift the right foot off the accelerator, it’d appear that the car begins to apply brakes. It’s as if someone has taken away the flywheel from an internal-combustion engine.
Climbing up, the instant torque makes a world of difference — it eats up gradients effortlessly. The light steering means there’s not much effort required from the driver, either. And on longer, wider corners, as long as you have the exit in sight, placing the electric SUV exactly where you want isn’t an issue at all. Having said that, it’s still a heavy car, and the weight can be felt under braking — it’s not exactly unnerving, but at the same time, it does remind you that there’s a 650+ kilo battery sat underneath. Which gives rise to another downside — its low ground clearance. The Merc rides well, it has a fair bit of comfort to offer, and it won’t mind traversing a section of bad roads occasionally. But the moment you introduce a pothole or a speed hump, not only do you have to slow down, at times you might have to cross it diagonally, too, to save the undersides from getting scraped.
On the bright side, the Dynamic mode does its best to make up for the lack of go-anywhere ability. With a maximum of 397hp and 760 Nm, the EQC is claimed to exhibit 0-62 mph in just over 5 seconds. It’d be foolish to run a test on public roads, but the Dynamic mode transforms the car’s power delivery. That’s all the more evident when you’d just spent the last few hours trying to extract as much mileage without letting the battery bar drop. Even at part throttle inputs, the EQC exhibits an undying willingness to jump from one turn to another. There’s a nice ‘Max Power’ bar, to keep an eye on how well the EQC performs.
It might be based on the Merc GLC, but there are enough differences that set it apart from its conventionally powered sibling. The frontal design is unlikely to be to everyone’s taste, but it doesn’t look too far from what the car actually is — a step forwards from internal combustion engines but not belonging to a future so distant that deems it irrelevant. The sloping roof does eat up some room from the inside, but it has a silhouette very different to both the regular GLC crossover and the GLC Coupé. The Edition 1886 comes with some extra branded goodies and badges. These wheels look decent, but in my opinion, the multi-spoke ones on the AMG Line (not available in India) look much cooler. The horizontal LED strips running across the front and the rear fascias go well with the rest of the design.
Driving to Lonavala and back made me appreciate two things in particular: firstly, the EQC, if driven judiciously, can be used as an everyday car without having to worry too much about the range. Even if you’re in a market like India where the density of public charging points isn’t encouraging at all. Secondly, if this is the future, it doesn’t feel as dystopian as my social media feed might make me believe.
Okay, it’s true that devoid of engine noise, it’s hard to enjoy the performance an EV offers. And the relevance of hyper-performance electric cars on public roads is questionable. But vehicles like the EQC bring along a ray of hope — that the future won’t be dull and range anxiety will soon be a thing from the past. This new normal doesn’t seem as bad as I thought it would.
The Mercedes-Benz EQC is available at Rs 99.5 lakh (ex-showroom).