September 2018 will be remembered as the month when Mercedes and Audi officially unveiled their all-electric production cars, with the Mercedes EQ event in Stockholm taking place two weeks before the Audi e-tron debut in San Francisco.
It is no surprise that the first Mercedes EQ and Audi e-tron models are SUVs, since this is the fastest growing market segment worldwide. It is also a segment up to now ignored by Tesla, who otherwise stole a march on potential rivals in the prestige electric car segment.
Mercedes-Benz calls the debut of their EQC model “flipping the switch”, and with the first all-electric car production model from its EQ sub-brand the world’s oldest car manufacturer has signaled that it is leading the charge into the future.
In a sense it could not be any other way since Daimler re-invests more of its profits into R&D than any other automobile manufacturer. Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG Chairman and CEO of Mercedes-Benz told us that 10 billion euros has been allocated to their EQ programme, with a further one billion euros directed at global battery production. These are big numbers beyond the scope of any industry rival.
Daimler’s overall marketing strategy is crystal clear. The Mercedes-Benz brand covers the mainstream cars, Mercedes-Maybach is for extreme luxury, and Mercedes-AMG is synonymous with high performance. The new EQ sub-brand is the fourth leg that signifies ‘Electric Intelligence’ and comes with its own unique styling motifs that announce the three-pointed star’s all-electric presence.
Good looks certainly help to sell cars, and the ‘modern luxury’ theme that Gorden Wagener’s design team has rolled out across the Mercedes range in recent years has proven to be a great sales motivator. Coupled to outstanding quality and cutting edge technology, it has undoubtedly helped the steady increase of Mercedes sales around the world.
“Progressive luxury is the term we use for the EQ range, and while it is important that these electric models should have their own unique identity, they also have to be instantly recognisable as a Mercedes,” says Gorden.
It is very important that hybrid and electric cars should retain a familiar look and feel to their combustion engine cousins to make the mental transition easier for drivers. Mercedes has been careful to retain their current design aesthetic while codifying its electric power mission statement through distinctive visual features like the black front panel and the optical fibres that act as a visual link to the torch like daytime running lamps.
Built on a new line at Mercedes’ Bremen factory the EQC 400 4Matic has more than a few visual styling cues that identify it as a relative of the GLC. But it also has a tougher, more robust aura thanks to the bigger, sleeker front grille, rising swage line on its lower flanks, and prominent rear haunches under more steeply raked D-pillars.
Additional length, both visual and literal, is added by the functional rooftop spoiler, and when you turn the corner the full width taillight strip that is lit up at night accentuates the width of the vehicle, as does the chrome trim above the rear diffuser insert.
The alloy wheel fitment ranges from 19 to 21-inch diameter, the larger sizes filling out the double-lipped arches more effectively. In all the EQC looks longer, sleeker, and more purposeful than the GLC, and is one of the most attractive looking SUVs on sale today.
If you are making the transition from a current Mercedes model the EQC’s cabin holds many familiar elements. At the core of its driver interface is the MBUX infotainment system with widescreen display. Helpfully, a bespoke EQ tile on the display groups all the EQ specific features together in one place, while an EQ specific voice control helps in the cars operation.
The main differences between MBUX in the A-Class and the EQC is the software that incorporates specific EQ display functions like range, charge status and energy flow. Other bespoke functions are EQ optimised navigation, driving modes, charging current and departure time. The options list includes a head-up display, and music fans can tick the box for the Burmester high-end audio system.
As expected the show cars had the highest level of interior trim for a truly up market experience. This starts with two-tone leather on the seats and door panels, and a leather covered dashboard with contrasting stitching. Boot capacity is 500 litres.
The EQC 400 4Matic develops a healthy 408hp (300kW) and 765Nm of torque from two asynchronous electric motors that endow it with permanent all-wheel-drive.