Norway, home of the trolls, has recently come under the scrutiny of the automotive world: It is touted as a model of electrification. The country’s oil fortune, coupled with an aversion to low taxes and a penchant for social engineering, has allowed it it to finance a massive push for EVs. Proving the banality that people will grab any subsidy they can, the visitor is exposed to a swath of electrics once leaving Oslo’s Gadermoen airport.
This reality, combined with strictly enforced speed limits, makes Norway a perfect location to launch a new premium EV. And that’s where Mercedes-EQ held its driving event for the new EQC 400 this month. It’s a battery-electric crossover SUV, loosely based on the Mercedes-Benz GLC, that directly competes with the Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi e-tron. Here’s what we took away from the drive.
1. The ECQ looks great
Just like the Audi e-tron and unlike the Jaguar I-Pace, the EQC features somewhat conventional proportions. But you won’t mistake it for anything else: The lines are ultra-smooth, there is a horizontal light strip not just in the rear but also in the front, and the roofline is somewhat coupe-like.We love the fact there is an AMG package beyond the standard body kit: It makes the front look even more futuristic, and it adds structure to the posterior. Wheels sizes stretch from 19 to 21 inches. The interior is assembled from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin, complete with the still-fresh MBUX user interface, but what sets it apart are the ultra-modern colour and trim options. We love the soft, shiny fabrics and the metal decor.
2. The EQC doesn’t have sporting aspirations
The horsepower rating of the EQC 400 brings a grin odf anticipation to the face of the enthusiast: 408 horsepower, that’s exactly as much as the gargantuan 6.0-liter, 48-valve V-12 made in the early 1990s. Accelerating in a straight line, this EV charges to 100 kph in a mere 5.1 seconds. What’s more, it does so with minimal fuss: The engine control is so sophisticated that there is virtually no wheelspin. And we like the instantaneous responsiveness; a quick passing manoeuvre is just a step on the accelerator away, obviously requiring no downshifts or turbo spool-up. On the other hand, the experience becomes more pedestrian beyond 140 kph or so, and the EQC’s terminal velocity is a mere 180 kph. Forget about V-12 power: That’s not even four-cylinder territory, every other Mercedes-Benz – except for the GLC F-Cell, which is powered by electric motors as well – is faster. What’s more, the EQC is a heavy vehicle: Even though we are happy with turn-in and roadholding, there is considerable body roll.
3. The EQC is really comfortable
While no sports car, the EQC is a supremely comfortable. Its suspension is on the softer side, and the vehicle is extremely quiet and vibration-free. There is ample space on all seats, and the luggage space rivals that of conventionally powered SUVs. The aural isolation is the best we’ve experienced in an electric so far, and that includes Audi and Tesla. Another comfort feature is the option to let the EQC coast virtually forever, in stark contrast to the somewhat hectic recuperation mode (but you can select that as well, by means of the wheel-mounted paddles). We enjoyed the slightly gimmicky “Energizing Comfort” functionality, which emits spa music, blows air and perfume into the cabin and provides a gentle massage. Go for the top-level stereo system and enjoy the wafting.
4. The EQC is brimming with technology
In the quest for maximum range and technological leadership, Daimler’s engineers have devised a multitude of telematics and assistance systems. When it comes to efficient driving, their full potential is realised in “Max Range” mode, with the recuperation set in “D Auto” mode. Then the EQC will automatically guide you to the best available charging stations, adjust to topography and speed limits and nudge you with an intelligent accelerator that provides haptic feedback. The MBUX system, by the way, can be operated by voice input, the touch-sensitive center screen, steering wheel buttons, a console-mounted touch pad, and gesture control. More than enough, right? Well, actually not: We wish Daimler would have kept the push-and-turn button of yore. We want it back.
5. The EQC is a good deal
Okay, at prices ranging in the EUR 70-80K’s, the EQC is not exactly cheap. But in its competitive set, it probably represents the best deal. Of course, it’s a close pack: The Audi e-tron offers an air suspension for a little more money, and the Jaguar I-Pace might be the sportiest of the bunch, with the added benefit of proportions that take greater advantage of its pure EV platform. And then there’s Tesla: Get one if you must, but be advised that it is a risky acquisition, given its grave service and reliability issues and its unsafe autopilot.
In fact, the best thing about the premium electrics from Europe might be that you don’t need to get a Tesla anymore if you fancy an EV. We’ll be checking sales figures in coming months to find out whether the trolls in Norway agree.