Mercedes-Benz flips the switch on its Tesla fighter
Mercedes-Benz, the company that pioneered the motor car, has just taken a significant step towards the future of mobility.
It was at the 2016 Paris Motor Show that Mercedes-Benz announced its technology and product brand for the electric future: EQ. EQ stands for “Electric Intelligence” and is derived from Mercedes-Benz’s brand values of “Emotion” and “Intelligence”.
Mercedes-Benz says that “EQ” is a symbol of a new era in mobility and with this brand, it intends to unveil comprehensive services for the electro mobility of today and tomorrow with relaxed and uncomplicated travel. The company is even going to hold events such as “EQ Nights”, inviting dialogue between visionaries, business people, and opinion leaders in what they will deem as their “EQ Community”.
The first Mercedes to wear the EQ badge is the EQC, a vehicle designed from the wheels up as an electric vehicle.
Another Tesla-fighter breaks its cover
The EQC is roughly the size of the GLC SUV, Mercedes-Benz’s popular all-wheel-drive crossover that is currently being sold globally. While it is true that the EQC is built around the MRA component set used for Mercedes’ regular E-Class, C-Class, and GLC models, this was done mainly so that the EQC could also be built on the same production line as the regular C-Class and GLC, requiring only one additional assembly process (the installation of the battery pack) beyond those used to build the others.
This is an important advantage as it allows Mercedes the ability to flex the EQC’s production numbers by as much as 25 per cent without leaving expensive machinery standing idle, or requiring a lot more investment in tooling and space.
Everyone has heard about Tesla’s manufacturing nightmares with the Model 3, and this is one tremendous advantage that a seasoned company such as Mercedes has in its arsenal. The company is also taking a cautious approach as they admit that they just don’t know what the initial demand for electric vehicles will be.
Our first look at the outside.
As the first model in the new EQ sub-brand, the EQC boasts its own unique interior and exterior styling. The extended roofline, low waistline, and coupé-like rear roof recess were designed to visually position the vehicle between an SUV and an SUV coupé. Roof rails were deliberately omitted to preserve the clear monolithic form, and to enhance aerodynamics.
The large black-panel front end design is a striking futuristic new look for Mercedes-Benz. The discrete blue strips on a black background were chosen to highlight the model’s membership of the new EQ family.
The inner housings and tubes of the MULTIBEAM LED headlamps are in high-gloss black, where as the MULTIBEAM lettering is also in blue. The massive grille looks different compared to other Mercedes-Benz vehicles due to the thick chrome trim bordering the outside, and seven horizontal slats on each side of the three-pointed star emblem.
Like the concept vehicle, the production EQC’s black panel front is bordered by fibre optics, providing a visual link between the daytime running lights. At night, this uninterrupted, horizontal light band signature is unique, distinctive, and futuristic. There is also an optional illuminated Mercedes-Benz star, which for the first time, has been combined with the DISTRONIC radar sensor for the first time. The star also acts as an additional position lamp when parked.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz says that it has chosen to position the license plate in the bumper to make the EQC look sportier, similar to their coupés. This also has the effect of making the star in the tailgate particularly more prominent.
A deep roof spoiler at the rear has been designed to not only help with aerodynamics, but also emphasise the width of the rear window. Multi-section rear lights have been designed with edge-light technology, similar to the front-end treatment of the EQC. A slim light bar stretches across the width of the tailgate, connecting both taillights together, similar to the Porsche Panamera.
The EQC’s designers wanted to create a memorable avant-garde electro-look inside the EQC, carrying on the theme of its futuristic exterior. It’s definitely a look that is inspired by the world of consumer electronics, and one that most buyers will find impressive.
There is even an EQ-brand specific interior colour that is unique in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio and high-grade materials such as open-pore wood, leather, and aluminium are there to convey the high Mercedes-Benz quality that owners will demand. Moreover, the interior designers have gone one step further, developing innovative new materials as well.
These include, for example, the finely woven “Sunnyvale” upholstery in indigo blue or beige, the slightly iridescent shade producing an elegant, high-tech sheen. In line with the environmentally friendly drive concept of the EQC, it is manufactured from high-quality recycled material. The side bolsters are of man-made leather and have rosé-gold coloured topstitching.
In the higher-end “Progressive Luxury” trim level, the EQC’s interior is further enhanced by elegant highlights in rose gold on the vanes of the front air vents and in the instrument panel itself. These are produced by bending millimetre-thick real leather in rose gold and sewing it into the edging.
The instrument panel shares little in common with other Mercedes models, but has clearly been designed to be driver-centric. Both the gauge cluster and infotainment system are formed by combining two 10.25” high-resolution screens behind a shared continuous glass surface.
This large, freestanding screen looks absolutely stunning. There is also a touchpad in the centre console as a further means of controlling the many vehicle functions. An optional 64 colour ambient lighting system can illuminate the instrument panel by using fibre optics coursing through the entire cockpit and across the deck with the air vents.
A dynamic, efficient, electric powertrain
The EQC has two compact electric drivetrains, one at each axle, giving the vehicle the driving characteristics of an all-wheel-drive crossover. Each motor has been configured differently in order to reduce power consumption.
The front electric motor is optimized for best possible efficiency in the low to medium load range whereas the rear motor has been configured for sportiness under full throttle. Altogether, the asynchronous motors have an impressive combined maximum output of 402hp (300 kW) and 564 lb-ft (765 Nm) of torque.
The computer also has the ability to intelligently control each wheel independently, dynamically distributing torque between the two driven axles. The EQC can even tow trailers up to 1,800 kg in weight.
Powering the motors is Mercedes’ latest-generation lithium-ion battery with 384 cells in total. The battery is located under the floor between the two axles in order to maximize cabin space and to lower the vehicle’s centre of gravity. Based on a modular design, the battery has four clusters with 72 cells each, and two modules with 48 cells each.
The driver is able to choose five different driving programs through the EQC’s Dynamic Select feature: Comfort, Eco, Max Range, Sport, and Individual. Each mode changes the EQC’s driving dynamics, power consumption, and range.
As the name suggests, on one end of the spectrum, Max Range helps the driver to achieve the maximum possible range out of the EQC. Sport, on the other hand gives the best acceleration response and a more driving dynamic character. The Individual mode allows the driver to combine different permutations and combinations for a truly bespoke electric vehicle driving experience.
Another clever feature that also deserves a honourable mention is the EQC’s Eco Assist system. Using data from the GPS navigation system, traffic sign recognition, and data from the vehicle’s intelligent safety assistants, Eco Assist will actually tell the driver when to lift off the accelerator pedal. This happens when the vehicle is approaching a change in the speed limit, or in an area where coasting can be enabled to reduce energy consumption.
Speaking of energy consumption, Mercedes says that a sophisticated operating strategy enables an electric range of more than 450 kilometres, according to the NEDC (provisional European Figure). An on-board water-cooled 7.4 kW charger handles fast AC charging duties at home or at Level 1 public charging stations.
While final specifications aren’t available yet, Mercedes says that the battery can be charged from 10 to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes, using the right 240V high speed charger. While this is not quite as quick as Tesla’s Supercharger, it is still not bad.
As the first Mercedes-Benz model under the new product and technology brand, EQ, the Mercedes-Benz EQC crossover has many trailblazing design details that are typical of the Mercedes-Benz design language. It’s a vehicle that should please current Mercedes-Benz owners and hopefully attract more to the brand as well.
Mercedes hasn’t been shy about how this is the first of many vehicles that will be direct challenges to Tesla. Production of the EQC will start in 2019 at the company’s plant in Bremen. It should arrive at dealerships in late 2019 or early 2020.