It’s pretty early in 2019 to be calling the tech trends, but we’re pretty sure of two things: there are going to be a range of folding phones on coffeeshop tables before the year is out, and there are going to be a more electric vehicles (EVs) in parking lots. Sure, we’ve had the Nissan Leaf and BMW’s quirky i3 for years, but sightings of them are pretty rare, and they’re not SUVs. Next week Jaguar launches its I-Pace electric SUV, and this week, Mercedes-Benz confirmed we’ll be able to buy its all-electric EQC before year-end. You can make your own Eskom jokes, because we’re better than that.
This week we got to go for a ride-along in one of the half-dozen EQCs Mercedes-Benz has brought into South Africa for testing, including a mix of regular road driving and a few laps of high-speed fun on a closed track. Mercedes-Benz was testing the SUV at the Gerotek Vehicle Test Facilities in Pretoria to ensure it can handle a bit of African heat and dust (most of the testing to date has taken place in northern Europe, unsurprisingly).
Scream if you want to go faster
Like all EVs, the EQC offers immediately available torque and excellent acceleration (0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds) from the get-go thanks to the 300kW of power on offer. Mercedes-Benz is promising a range of over 450km on a charge and says when the vehicle goes on sale in South Africa in the second-half of 2019 it will include a 22W wall-charger that’ll be installed at the buyer’s residence (or, presumably, their office if they’d prefer). The charging port uses the CCS2 (Combined Charging System 2) standard, so it’ll be compatible with the existing charging infrastructure in SA.
The EQC shares the same wheelbase as the GLC, but is a little longer and a little lower. Thanks to the 850kg battery in the base of the vehicle it’s incredibly stable, even when flung enthusiastically into a Gerotek corner by a German gentleman named Bastian.
During our ride, Bastian explained that the EQC is able to switch between front and rear electric motors intelligently, sticking to the front one alone when cruising, or engaging both for rapid acceleration. A range of drive modes offer variable recuperative/regenerative braking, the heaviest of which allows for one-pedal driving.
The interior is as luxurious as you’d expect from a Merc, and the infotainment and instrument dials share one, long touch display in the dashboard. There’s also a touch control panel in the centre console, and a pair of thumb-touch controls on each side of the steering wheel. Buyers will, of course, be able to choose from a wide range of interior finishes and detailing. Oh, and unusually, there are USB-C ports instead of the conventional Type-A ones.
Shhh, I’m driving here
Like the other EVs we’ve driven or ridden in, the EQC is remarkably quiet, even at high-speed on poor surfaces. Bastian told us the low cabin noise is at least in part thanks to a system of subframes in the front axle, combined with rubber mounts that create a disconnect from the chassis.
Sadly, despite our coaxing, we couldn’t get Mercedes-Benz’s representatives to commit to even a ballpark figure for the EQC, but given the similarly sized Jaguar I-Pace will start at R1.7 million, we’re not expecting the Benz to be much cheaper. The first EQC’s are expected to reach European buyers in June, so here’s hoping we see them on South African roads not long thereafter.
If you’re the sort who doesn’t need to know the price, you can head over here to register your interest in an EQC.