We drove the Mercedes EQA: a compact SUV with e-powered excellence…

Mercedes steps boldly into the all-electric vehicle world, and now enters the mainstream compact SUV segment with its EQA. Here the competition is fiercer, but then the oldest car manufacturer in the world has some solid arguments up its sleeve: the state-of-the art MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) infotainment system we find throughout the range is also present in this EQA, and the lavish interior, quality of used materials and workmanship is one of the very best in the electric car field, certainly in its segment.

Add to this the very pleasant styling with a touch of futurism so typical for the EQ range, and the excellent insulation and silence of the electric motor which results in very refined progress, and you have in a nutshell all the reasons why this EQA merits our (and your) attention here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

A solid base…

The EQA runs on the platform of the GLA, an obvious choice as its SUV body can provide easy accommodation for the batteries, which are floor mounted and sitting within a specially developed frame made out of extruded sections. The cabin space is therefore largely similar as the GLA, with the rear passengers having a somewhat raised floor, which doesn’t impair legroom and seating comfort though. The boot space has been reduced somewhat to 340 L instead of 435 L with the GLA, but then the three rear seat backs can be folded individually, which makes the EQA quite versatile.

Meticulous attention has been given to insulating the drivetrain from the body, resulting in absolutely noise and vibration free progress, one of the most silent and refined we have come across in the all-electric car field, which makes this EQA truly stand out in its class. More in detail about this later.

Adequate performance and range…

The EQA starts its life as the EQA 250 with 140 kW available at the front wheels. The manufacturer quotes a combined electrical consumption of 15.7 kWh/100 km and a range according to NEDC of 486 kilometers. In real life this boils down to a practical range of some 340 kilometers, as we experienced during our test. Performance is more than adequate we would say, with a 0 to 100 km/h sprint absolved in 8,9 seconds. Let’s not forget that the EQA (mostly due to its batteries, having an energy content of 66.5 kWh) puts a hefty 2040 kg on the scale. Top speed is sensibly limited to 160 km/h.

The conclusion is obvious: the EQA in its present form is meant to be a comfortable and refined cruiser, rather than a high-performance car.

We said in its present form, as like any self-respecting German manufacturer, Mercedes plans more powerful versions of the EQA in the future, including a 200 kW four-wheel drive version, with a second electric motor driving the rear wheels.

Mercedes also works on further improving efficiency and range, with the answer not being in using ever-larger batteries, but rather in systematic improvement in the efficiency of all vehicle components.

Clever e-planning of your trip…

Of course, Mercedes has all the electronic intelligence and wizardry on board to make range anxiety on longer trips a thing of the past. The navigation with “Electric Intelligence” as they call it, calculates the route that will get you to your destination fastest, taking into account charging times. On the basis of continuous range simulations, the system makes allowance for any necessary charging stops as well as a host of other factors, such as the topography and the weather. It is also able to react dynamically to changes, for instance in the traffic situation or personal driving style.

The charging point density in suburban Antwerp (i.e. Wilrijk) leaves much to be desired, with the nearest charging point for your servant being some 7-800 meters away, and being mostly occupied.

Mercedes has launched “me Charge”. This allows customers convenient use of the charging stations of various providers, even when travelling abroad. By registering just once, you can benefit from an integrated payment function with a simple billing process.

If Navigation with Electric Intelligence is activated, the battery may also be pre-heated or cooled while driving in order to ensure that it is within the ideal temperature window for a rapid charging station. One has thought of everything(!).

Efficient driving modes

Behind the steering wheel, one finds back the usual paddles, which here have a different function however: The driver can select the recuperation function manually using these paddles. The paddle on the left increases the level of recuperation, the paddle on the right reduces it.

Of course you can monitor the setting in the instrument cluster. The following recuperation stages are available: DAuto (recuperation via ECO Assist to suit the particular situation) D+ (coasting), D (low recuperation), D- (medium recuperation) and D- -(high recuperation). New with the EQA is that, if the function DAuto is selected, this mode remains the default setting when the car is restarted.

Clever: ECO assist

ECO Assist coaches the driver with messages when the accelerator can be released, for instance because a speed limit is approaching, and with functions such as gliding and specific control of recuperation. For this purpose, navigation data, traffic sign recognition and information from the intelligent safety assistants (radar and stereo camera) are linked and processed.

ECO Assist continuously generates coasting simulations in the background: depending on the state of charge of the battery and the traffic situation, it computes whether the vehicle should ideally be allowed to coast (or “glide”) with the lowest possible driving resistance with the driver’s foot off the pedals, or whether it should be decelerated so that the battery can be efficiently charged (recuperation).

All in all, these system will add to the efficiency, but it is good to know that when driving short urban errands, more energy is used by heating/ventilating the car than by the electric motor actually moving it…

A proper heat pump…

Therefore the EQA has a heat pump as standard. This reuses the waste heat from the electric drive system. Clever! 

Predictable handling…and attention to utmost safety.

Our test car was equipped with the AMG line package, and also included beautiful multi-spake 20 inch alloys. It also came with the driving assistance package, of which more here later. But it is good to know that the AQA has standard on board the Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Brake Assist. In many situations the purpose of the latter is to prevent a collision by autonomous braking, or to mitigate its consequences. The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds and even to prevent collisions, depending on the situation.

The EQA gives good feedback of the road surface, but will not invite you with razor-sharp steering to throw it around corners. Driven with verve on winding roads it will keep its course admirably, albeit with some body roll. But the EQA is above all comfortable, with however the typical rather firm suspension setup which we encounter also in the other passenger cars and SUV’s from the brand.

Let it be known too that an Adaptive Damping System is available as an option. This enables the driver to choose the preferred damping characteristics. A valve in each of the four shock absorbers is electronically actuated to control the oil flow. The damping characteristics are changed by regulation of the oil flow. The Comfort programme comes into its own especially when travelling at low speeds, for example on a cobblestone road.

Mercedes is also well known for its electronic driving aid systems, which it has been pioneering for decades now.

The Driving Assistance package we mentioned above in our test car has the lot, from Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steer Assist, down to PRE-SAFE® PLUS, which can detect a potential rear impact. It will firmly apply the brakes of the stationary vehicle, minimizing the risk of whiplash injuries by reducing the forward jolt caused by an impact from the rear… need we say more?

It is this painstaking attention to utmost safety which makes a Mercedes really stand out, ranging from the solid and crash tested body construction and platform, to the electronic driving aids which protect you in many ways.

Silence and refinement…

In order to reduce road and tyre noise, the engineers introduced a compact, shear-resistant integral mount which has significantly increased the introductory rigidity at the guide bearing of the front axle. The subframe of the multi-link rear axle is furthermore elastically isolated by rubber bushings.

The front subframe connection is integrated into the C-ring structure and therefore has the necessary rigidity for isolation. A cross-member is integrated into the multifunction recess to increase the introductory rigidity of the rear subframe connection.

There is more: The single-speed transmission that forms an integral part of the electric powertrain at the front axle (eATS) operates particularly smoothly thanks to the improved microgeometry of the gearing. Indeed, we did not hear a thing…

Futuristic electrified styling

The EQA drives you into the future, and it shows it clearly. Already the rounded front grille with a car wide led illumination between the headlights give it an unmistakable character and light signature. The same is repeated at the rear, where also a light bar is running over the whole width of the EQA. In the cabin, you can choose an atmosphere lighting out of not less than 64 colours, so sitting in a Mercedes is more than ever a moving experience. The EQA is the first model from Mercedes-EQ range whose aerodynamic development has been undertaken entirely digitally. The ensuing measurements undertaken in the wind tunnel revealed a Cd value of 0.28, thereby confirming the high quality of the numerical simulation.

Conclusion

This EQA is a true Mercedes, inside and out, through and through. Excellent workmanship, with an admirable finish seen and felt in the cabin, and also a build quality of its sleek SUV body being beyond reproach. Add to this, as we said, the uncanny silence and absolute mechanical refinement of the drivetrain, putting this EQA together with its bigger brothers at the top of what an E-powered car can offer nowadays. All very solid arguments to take a closer look at this car.

Last but not least this EQA is rather affordable, which has us truly convinced that the EQA has all what it takes to carve a sizeable niche in its segment. And for those who want a but more panache, it is good to know that powerful 4WD versions are soon to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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