You may not know it, but we have Mercedes-Benz to thank for the luxury crossover SUV. Launched in 1998, the M-Class (now known as GLE-Class in keeping with Mercedes’ naming structure) fused a car-based platform with SUV space and capability, taking something economy car makers had been doing for some time and making it fashionable enough for a luxury brand.
Now, even long-time car-only manufacturers like Jaguar and Alfa Romeo even have SUV models, and they’ve quickly become the brands’ best-selling nameplates in just a few years.
Aiming to be the cornerstone of a movement yet again, Mercedes-Benz revealed its all-electric 2020 EQC 400 in Stockholm, promising all the luxury features associated with the three-pointed star and a driving range to rival the likes of a certain American startup.
As I’m sure Tesla fans will be more than willing to point out, the EQC isn’t the first luxury electric crossover on the market. That honor goes to the Model X, though if we’re honest, it’s more bloated car than SUV. The Jaguar I-Pace would like to consider itself a crossover, but it’s really a slightly higher hatchback for all intents and purposes, and doesn’t command quite the premium that the Tesla does or the Mercedes certainly will. Audi is just two weeks away from revealing its production e-tron electric SUV, but that’s two weeks too late in the history book.
The EQC, on the other hand, represents (technically) the first full-fledged production Tesla competitor from a luxury marque and the nexus of a new all-electric sub-brand for Benz, and that’s a major stepping stone for the industry, though it’s not without some caveats.
On paper, a bit to be desired
In the years it took Mercedes to develop a full-fledged electric SUV from scratch, one would think it would be important to squeeze as much electric range from the battery system as possible. Clearly, there’s some room for improvement, as the EQC is initially rated to deliver “up to 200” miles of range, a mark that Tesla, Jaguar, and even Chevrolet have long since surpassed.
A dual-motor system at the front and rear yields all-wheel drive as standard and manages 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque, good for a 0-60 miles-per-hour time of 4.9 seconds, again lagging behind the blazingly-fast Model X, it’s chief competitor.
An 80-kWh modular lithium ion battery pack supplies power to both motors, and the onboard charger has a capacity of 7.4 kW for fast-charging capability, aided by a water-cooled system. For comparison, the Audi e-tron will manage 95 kWh, while the I-Pace has a 90-kWh pack. According to Mercedes, the EQC will be able to reach 80 percent charge in about 40 minutes.
As with any modern Mercedes, the EQC will feature multiple configurable driving modes, including a new “Max Range” mode that’s fairly self-explanatory. In both that mode and Eco, the car will prompt the driver to lift off the accelerator when applicable to save juice and kick in the regenerative braking system.
The SUV of the future, but a design set firmly in the present
While not far off from the concept version, the production EQC is surprisingly reserved, though certainly handsome. Those looking for a more brash and futuristic design may turn elsewhere, specifically to the Jag or Audi, but the EQC blends Mercedes’ recent sleek design language with some future-focused touches.
The front fascia features the new EQ-range grille shape which transitions upwards into the headlights, while the lower design element resembles a curly mustache on some trims, as one of our team members aptly pointed out.
A slightly sloping roofline and rising beltline gives this SUV a sleeker look similar to the Range Rover Velar, though not quite as coupe-like as the admittedly garish Mercedes GLC- and GLE-Class Coupe models or BMW X4 and X6. Out back, there’s a full-width taillight design that looks a bit too similar to the new Porsche Cayenne in my humble opinion, but overall, it’s a cohesive design that emphasizes formality over flair.
Drivers or passengers in any modern Mercedes will instantly recognize the interior, which prominently features the massively-wide dual screen display found in most other models, and several of the same switches on the doors, steering wheel, and center console. Don’t take that as a bad thing, though, as Mercedes has come up with some of the best-looking interiors of any car on sale today, and the futuristic details add up to make a more special experience.
Ambient lighting, Tron-inspired vents and trim, and an updated infotainment system and interface bring the current interior into the future and form a pleasing overall design.
“Hey Mercedes, are there any good restaurants nearby?”
The new MBUX infotainment system that debuts along with the EQC fuses robust voice command technology with a few other tricks meant to help optimize range and increase convenience.
Mercedes claims the system will respond to normal conversational language, so instead of adjusting your speech just to call your mom (which I’m sure you all do often, dear readers), you just say “Hey Mercedes, call mom.” In theory, at least.
The climate control, navigation, system settings, and more can all be controlled with your voice, which should hopefully help to curb driver distraction, though I’m sure some screaming matches with the system may arise. You can even set a pre-determined climate in the vehicle for when you enter, either via the system or a connected smartphone app.
Mercedes also packs a full suite of safety technology into the EQC, including adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, steering assist, and more, as well as a subframe specifically designed to protect both the occupants and the battery packs and shut down the high-voltage system in the event of a crash, which can be prone to rupturing and starting a fire in some other EV models.
Production begins this year, and the EQC 400 – presumably the only EQC model coming to the States – will go on sale in 2020 as a model of the same year.