The EQC is surprisingly handsome and agile when out on the road. Pic: SUPPLIED
The EQC is surprisingly handsome and agile when out on the road. Pic: SUPPLIED

 It has been four months since the Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 made its debut at the Paris Motor Show. This is where Mercedes-Benz confirmed is intentions to bring the company’s first all-electric Mercedes-Benz product to SA.

Then, I was only allowed to sit in it. Fast forward to last week, still before the official SA launch, and I’m experiencing a passenger ride in a near-production ready prototype on local soil.

Five-point-one seconds to 100km/h, a top speed of 180km/h and about  450km of pure electric driving range is assured.  It will realise all these numbers by using a new-generation, 384-cell lithium ion battery pack situated between the two axles. Peak voltage is 408V and a capacity of 210Ah for an energy content of 80kWh driving a pair of asynchronous motors with a system total output of 300kW and 765Nm.

The team has been in the country for a few weeks hot-weather testing the pair of mules. The prototypes are so near production that we may very well have experienced the final versions save for some specifics which my test driver wasn’t shy to share. “The glasses of the windows have changed for leaner units than before,” he said.

This largely has much to do with decreasing wind noise.

Hot-weather testing is intriguing. Beyond the typical monitoring of the retention and expelling of heat, which according to the testers has long been completed along with gravel-road driving, the tester’s specific targets for this round were primarily that of monitoring the effects of the Pretoria heat on the panels that make up the luxurious cabin.

“Excess heat has a knack of affecting quality which then results in rattles and noises,”  said  one tester.

Manufacturers should be concerned about noise pollution inside the eerily silent electric vehicle. Analysis also extends to how heat affects the car’s gesture controls.

The EQC is being readied for manufacture at the company’s Bremen plant in Germany, alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLC and C-Class. They also say they already have other plants ready to reinforce electric car production all over the world.

Cabin looks sensational and it’s spacious and very quiet Pic: SUPPLIED
Cabin looks sensational and it’s spacious and very quiet Pic: SUPPLIED

Each of the pair of axles has an electric drive module, thus drive is to all wheels or any combination of the front or rear wheels. It is primarily front wheel driven under normal driving conditions, the rear axle swiftly coming to the party for extra traction to improve handling or forward acceleration. Full RWD was recognised on Gerotek’s dynamic handling track during a moment of understeer.

In general, the EQC seems like a classic Mercedes-Benz in driving nature, comfort, luxury and tech. The immediacy of delivering that 300kW and 750Nm is sensational to say the least. It gathers its skirts and disappears out of sight. And it’s filled to the brim with tech, from five driving modes and an extensive range of regenerative braking options including throttle settings between conventional operation or one-pedal driving, the latest generation MBUX, heated seats front and rear, plus much more.

The handling too is top drawer with minimal body roll in corners. Even though the testers went around the track numerous times with little concern about range depletion, I don’t expect eventual owners of the EQC will constantly be driving it on the ragged edge. I’m confident that with the EQC Mercedes-Benz has done much to allay range-anxiety fears considering that at least one car displayed over 100km of driving range left after the road drives and plenty of intense laps.

Still to be sorted is road sign recognition software specific to SA. The local date for the introduction of the EQC here has been shifted to around the second half of 2019 from the initial declaration of March.

One of the testers interprets computer readings into plain English for BDMN’s Phuti Mpyane Pic: SUPPLIED
One of the testers interprets computer readings into plain English for BDMN’s Phuti Mpyane Pic: SUPPLIED