Up close and personal with the most important Mercedes of 2019
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Mercedes-Benz will have its first electric vehicle, the mid-sized EQC SUV, on sale here by the end of this year.
The family-sized SUV is a little longer than the existing Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV, and will have a 400km range. It will accelerate from a standing start to 100km/h in 5.1s.
Driven has travelled in an EQC prototype and experienced its exceptionally smooth and flat ride around a Melbourne go-kart track.
Behind the wheel was Karl Scheible, the head of testing for the new model. And because this is Mercedes’ first EV, testing has been more extensive and intensive than is usual for a new model.The vehicle he was driving was the 450th pre-production or prototype of the EQC — normally Mercedes would produce about 200 prototypes of an all-new model.
The lengthy development has resulted in the high-riding SUV sitting flat in corners with very little sway normally associated with SUVs. The EQC is virtually silent in the cabin, even under heavy acceleration.
“We have driven a lot of test kilometres in the past few years, we have done a lot of 60-80 hour working weeks, and everything has been double-checked, and it has been a very exciting time,” said Scheible.
The testing involved putting the vehicle through its paces at -35C in Sweden earlier this year, to heat-testing in California’s Death Valley. Testing for speed, reliability and comfort took place in South Africa, Spain and Germany.
Much of the developing and testing has involved the suspension set-up in the EQC. The front suspension comes from the air suspension set-up in the GLC Coupe, while it has a unique suspension system at the rear.
“The main differences are that we have no transmission in an electric car, and maximum torque at 0 km/h, so it was a big challenge to find the perfect combination between driveability and acceleration, and a compromise between sportiness and comfort, and driveability,” said Scheible.
Mercedes-Benz will not be the first of the premium brands to deliver an all-electric SUV to New Zealand, with Audi New Zealand taking orders for its E-Tron SUV, for delivery around the middle of this year, and the Jaguar I-Pace already on the market.
The managing director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, Horst von Sanden, said his company always liked to be first but with electric cars it was not first for a good reason.
“We wanted to bring to the market the most complete solution for future mobility.
“I drive a high-performance Mercedes-AMG and I enjoy it, but having been in the EQC, the torque, the acceleration and the smoothness of the ride were just mind-blowing.”
The 'range cloud' indicates actual range of the Mercedes-Benz EQC EV. Picture/Supplied.
The EQC dashboard features a version of the now-familiar impressive Mercedes digital dashboard, with the addition of a novel feature the company calls a “range cloud”.
It indicates the vehicle’s current range, overlaid on a local map. For example, when Driven was aboard, it showed the town of Ballarat was within easy reach of our central Melbourne location.
The EQC is powered by two 150kW electric motors, one over the front axle and the second over the rear axle.
Scheible said the front motor would provide sufficient power for about 80 per cent of daily use.
As the car accelerates, it draws more power from the rear battery, and the power transfer is imperceptible in the cabin.