You could call the EQC Mer-cedes-Benz’s transition car as the illustrious brand shifts to an all-electric future.

That is because the EQC is largely the electric version of the existing GLC SUV. Upcoming models on the other hand will be built as electric vehicles from the ground up, a Mercedes-Benz representative told me. That should mean lighter, roomier and longer-range vehicles.

The EQC is Mercedes-Benz’s first model under the new label EQ, embodying the design idiom of what the company calls ‘progressive luxury’.

Over the next 24 months, the company plans to launch the EQE, EQA, EQB and the all-electric variant of the flagship S-Class, the EQS.

Market forces
The era of the electric vehicle is truly here, led by customer demand, widespread environmental concerns and various governments that are now pushing forward an electric-first agenda within the auto sector.

In China, the government wants ‘new-energy vehicles’ to make up at least 15 per cent of the market by 2025, and twice that figure a decade later. By 2035, the UK says it will ban the sales of ICE cars. Ahead of everyone is Norway, where full EVs comprise around 60 per cent of sales each month and will permit the sale of only full-electric cars by 2025.

A study by Allied Market Research states that the electric segment will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.7 per cent from 2019 through to 2026, clearly demonstrating that the market is ripe for EVs.

The sleek digital screens exist side-by-side with a plethora of physical buttons, both on the cluster and the steering wheel.
Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4MATIC; designo selenite grey magno; AMG Line; ARTICO man-made leather / DINAMICA microfiber black;ombined electric energy consumption: 20.8 – 19.7 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km*

Design
The EQC silhouette resembles its spirit animal the GLC, albeit with more curves and a sportier facade. The unit I tested had a matte grey finish.

At the front is a large black-panel surface enclosing the headlamps and grille. At the top of the black panel is an optical fibre that creates an almost uninterrupted horizontal light band at night.

Inside, the EQC is undeniably, luxuriously, Mercedes-Benz. The only difference is that the interiors are built with sustainability in mind. The automaker says that it has 99 components within the car which are manufactured 100 per cent sustainably. The seat cover “Sunnyvale” developed for the new EQC is made of recycled plastic and renewable raw materials such as hemp, kenaf, wool, cotton, wood and natural rubber.

Two 10.25-inch screens upfront serve as the instrument cluster and the infotainment system running along halfway across the dashboard. The screens will display the range, charge status and energy flow. The car also includes a heads-up display which once you get used to it, is a marvel.

You can control the MBUX interface through gestures – and the system is configured to determine the difference in hand gestures being made by the driver and the front passenger.

Voice control is my go-to mode of interaction. Saying “Hey Mercedes navigate to Bluewaters” sets you on your way to some of the most Instagrammable backdrops in the city, or so I’m told. I found the system very responsive – even my heavy accent was little bother to the well-refined system. It is also compatible with Arabic. The 3D mapping system is superb – better than what your smartphone mapping app can deliver.

The car diverges from the minimalist interior ethos advanced by Tesla and followed by other EV manufacturers. The sleek digital screens exist side-by-side with a plethora of physical buttons, both on the cluster and the steering wheel.

Extra touches include a ribbed edge of the instrument panel, which resembles the cooling ribs of a hi-fi amplifier. A high-gloss cassette housing flat air vents with key-shaped, rosé-gold-coloured louvres round up the high-end mien.

One thing that strikes you is just how quiet the car is. Mercedes-Benz engineers have further reduced the noise levels of the typical EV with several measures. In the EQC, the power packs are isolated by rubber mounts to reduce vibrations, supplemented with insulation measures.

A high-gloss cassette housing flat air vents with key-shaped, rosé-gold-coloured louvres round up the high-end mien.

Charging
Electric car models will live and die on the strength of their batteries and range anxiety is a real source of mental distress for EV owners. The only relief from this unease is either more powerful batteries or more charging options.

The new EQC charges up to 80 per cent in just 40 minutes and has a range of around 320km. Mercedes says it will ship a “Wall- box” which it says is up to three times faster than a domestic power socket for charging at home, or you can opt for the much faster public charging points.

The lithium-ion battery has an energy content of 80kWh. The EQC comes with five driving programmes, each with different characteristics: comfort, eco, max, range, sport and an individually adaptable option. The average driver on eco-mode should be able to get roughly 450km between charges.

The eco assist function helps keep the charge by prompting drivers to lift their foot off the pedal to conserve energy, and the haptic accelerator prevents them from unduly revving or flooring it which drains the juice quicker.

Thanks to EQ-optimised navigation, Mercedes-Benz owners can easily find charging stations on their route, and ‘Mercedes me Charge’ gives them convenient access to the charging stations of numerous providers, also beyond national borders in certain markets. In this case, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simpler accounting.

There are two electric motors connected to the lithium-ion battery which create 408hp of power and sends it to all four wheels. At full throttle, the SUV can leap from 0-60mph in around 4.8 seconds.

The high-voltage battery is mounted beneath the vehicle floor. The energy storage unit is surrounded by a stable frame that can absorb energy for safety purposes. Under the hood, Mercedes has kept the ICE engine “block” look although mostly for appearance sake. This will be removed in upcoming models to create more trunk space.

Autonomy
Like all other major manufacturers, Mercedes is advancing its autonomous driving capabilities. The EQC is at level 2 of the five-stage path to full autonomy. Various driver assists come into play to protect the car’s occupants including active lane-keeping (which vibrates the steering wheel to warn drivers that they are veering off their lane) and blind-spot assist. It even has cameras to scan for speed signs and adjust the speed of the car automatically. Beeps warn you when you are tailgating or driving too fast. The EQC is a statement by Mercedes-Benz as it eyes an all-electric future, although brands such as Tesla have had an early start. However, the combination of legendary luxury, brand recognition and engineering prowess should put the German brand on the EV fast lane.





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