We drove the Mercedes EQC 400 4-Matic: your wonderful electric star.

Electrification is amongst us, and the oldest manufacturer in the world has the panache and experience to come up with a truly stunning vehicle. The EQC 400. An impressive Mercedes in every aspect. Aimed at the higher market segments, and rightly so. It creates first of all an upmarket image for fully electric vehicles, and it targets a well to do clientele which has invariably charging points at home and at the office or workplace, making them less dependent on the public charging infrastructure, which is still seen to be (very) deficient in some EU countries.

A prudent strategy adopted also by other premium car manufacturers, like Audi for instance with their e-tron.

After driving a few days – a full battery charge – with this superb car with the star, we can say that this car sets indeed the standards for what electric driving can be… Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

An impressive SUV…

Taking the body and chassis of a large SUV as the basis for their first upmarket EV is a wise choice. The impressive weight and size of the battery system is carried by a chassis which can cope with it, and as it is placed in the vehicle floor, the low centre of gravity does not impair handling and driving characteristics at all.  

The developers of the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle under the new product and technology brand “EQ” decided on a completely newly developed drive system with, as they call it, intelligent control. Both the electric powertrains (eATS) and the battery were tailor-made for the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Tractive power is provided by an asynchronous motor at each axle. The asynchronous motors generate a combined output of 300 kW and a maximum combined torque of 760 Nm. The electric motor, a fixed-ratio transmission with a differential, the cooling system and the power electronics are integrated into compact units. They are mounted at the front and rear axles. Intelligent control allows dynamic torque distribution between the two driven axles.

The front electric motor is configured for best possible efficiency in the low to medium load range, while the rear one is geared on sheer power.

Batteries are produced in-house…

The heart of the Mercedes-Benz EQC is of course the lithium-ion battery sitting in the vehicle floor. With an energy content of 80 kWh (NEDC) , it employs a sophisticated operating strategy to supply the vehicle with power, enabling an electric range of 445 – 471 km (NEDC).

Superb performance, but range anxiety made us cruise somewhat slower at times …

The latest-generation lithium-ion battery consists of 384 cells and is located between the two axles. The battery system is modular in design, consisting of two modules with 48 cells each and four with 72 cells each. The high-voltage battery has a maximum voltage of 405 V and a nominal capacity of 230 Ah.

The entire battery system is liquid-cooled. At low temperatures a battery heater ensures performance and efficiency, especially while charging. The battery is an integral part of the crash concept for the vehicle as a whole. As said above, its low, central location also has a positive effect on the handling characteristics of the EQC. The battery is this time produced in Germany, by the wholly-owned Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUMOTIVE in Kamenz/Saxony.

Recuperation is the word

Of course, much attention has been given to energy recuperation while driving, with both motors also acting as generators. The driver has a major influence on recuperation.

He/she is also able to influence the recuperation level using so-called paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddle on the left increases the level of recuperation, the paddle on the right reduces it. The following stages are available:

•             D Auto (recuperation via ECO Assist to suit the situation)

•             D + (coasting)

•             D (low recuperation)

•             D – (medium recuperation)

•             D – – (high recuperation) This mode makes one-pedal driving possible, because in most situations the recuperative deceleration is enough not to require operation of the brake pedal.

With the paddles you can set your preferred recuperation mode…

Mercedes insists on “predictive driving for economy”, and therefore navigation data, traffic sign recognition and information from the intelligent safety assistants (radar and stereo camera) are networked.

Indeed, The so-called “ECO Assist assistance system” prompts the driver when it is appropriate to come off the accelerator, e.g. because the vehicle is approaching a speed limit, and helps further with functions such as coasting and specific control of recuperation.

In combination with EQC-optimised navigation, active range monitoring ensures that the driver reaches the destination even if a charging stop is missed. The driver receives additional support in the “Max Range” driving mode, which was specially developed for the Mercedes-Benz EQC. In this mode, a haptic accelerator pressure point invites the driver to keep to the economic optimal speed, so that the next charging point or the destination can be reached.

In Belgian Hasselt, a 600-car parking house had NO charging point(s)!

We must admit that all this worked beautifully during our test, and as due to time pressure circumstances, we were at a loss to find charging points during our test (a 600- car “Q Park” parking house in the centre of Belgian city Hasselt did not have any charging points), forcing us to drive home using this “Max Range” driving mode, and this was very convincing indeed.

As standard the EQC is equipped with 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. The charging time required for a full charge depends on the available infrastructure and the country-specific vehicle equipment. Depending on the SoC (state of charge) the EQC can be charged with a maximum output of up to 110 kW at an appropriate charging station. In around 40 minutes, the battery can be charged from 10 – 80 percent.

Driving home from Hasselt got us well acquainted with lorry traffic…

Of course, The EQC can be charged at a domestic power socket, but with the

Mercedes-Benz Wallbox Home, all battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by Mercedes-Benz can be charged much faster than from a domestic socket.

Superb smoothness and performance

Driving the EQC 400 is a gripping experience. The whole progress is absolutely “zen” thanks to the silent motors, and especially in stop and go traffic electric progress is superbly restful. This we already experience with our own Lexus 200 CT, where stop and go is always on electric power, and only a subtle hum is heard from time to time when the engine is (re)charging the batteries. Here everything remains silent, and only range anxiety can disturb your driving pleasure.

The EQC is also an excellent companion off-road…

Pushing the accelerator pedal will unleash all the 300 kW, which catapults the remarkably light (2,495 kg) EQC in merely 5,1 seconds to 100 km/h. 760 Nm of torque guarantees impressive responsiveness at all times. Of course, this Mercedes is also an excellent cruiser, well at home on the Autobahnen, where top speed is limited to 180 km/h.

It should also be noted that you can pull a trailer load of maximum 1.800 kg, and this up to a gradient of 12 %.

Handling, with 652 kg of batteries mounted in the floor, is the same as we experienced in the Mercedes SUV family, and was found beyond reproach.

Power consumption according to NEDC is 20.8 – 19.7 kWh/100 km, which is reasonable indeed.

Mercedes comfort and sophistication

The Mercedes is of course offering abundant creature comfort, and all the latest top notch infotainment, connectivity and driving aids we came to enjoy in their capable top range SUV’s.

We were spoilt by the large screens, the various ways to use them, the intelligent array of knobs on the steering wheel, translating the knowhow of Mercedes to the driver in a very intuitive manner.

Conclusion

A superb electric vehicle? Indeed it is. Provided it is a large SUV you want with all its practical aspects. It will take you expertly in the world of electric driving, and will give you tons of driving pleasure. It is versatile in charging, and provided you can enjoy a good (charging) infrastructure, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider one. We were totally convinced!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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