Mercedes-Benz, the first motor car maker, flags off race for luxury EVs

All Merc cars are silent on the inside and have insulated cabins. This one is no different despite being battery-powered
Mercedes Benz, the company that made the first-ever motor car known to man, has made a habit of venturing into unexplored categories. The car manufacturer begins by launching a cutting-edge product and then expands into the segment thus created.

It did so when it launched the V-Class to create the luxury camper-van segment; and when it came out with a new generation of entry-level cars for millennials in the MFA platform range; and again when it brought in AMG performance vehicles to India.

Sticking with its first-mover-advantage philosophy, it has now come out with the first all-electric SUV, the EQC – thereby creating a category of luxury electric vehicles (EVs). In the classic manufacturing sense, ECQ stands for “environment quality control” but in this case it comes to mean “electric intelligence”.

Launched a few weeks ago, Merc’s electric SUV is among the other such luxury EVs that are on their way. Audi, for instance, has announced plans to launch its own plug-and-drive SUV, the e-Tron, early next year; and the Jaguar I-Pace will likely launch after that. There's also buzz around the Volvo XC40 Recharge EV entering the market. But the Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 is the first electric set of wheels that is close to being a usable everyday luxury commuter vehicle.

 

From the outside, the EQC looks like any other Merc SUV such as the fossil fuel-powered GLC, which it shares design cues with. If at all there is a difference, it is in the "electric" touches on the exterior. The grill and logo, which is set against an all-black panel, and the rims of its wheels come with Blue EQ detailing that is also found on the headlamps.  

On the inside, it's clear that the engineers at Stuttgart have re-thought it all. The seating is plush; the aircon vents with copper accents are sleek and minimal; and the dashboard uncluttered and relatively simple. The infotainment screen is a large digital panel that extends all the way to include the tachymeter, which, like many premium cars today, is all digital. Blue light accents near the door handles and control knobs make it evident that this car is all about electricity. There's also a wireless cellphone charger, which eliminates the need for sockets and wires.

All Merc cars are silent on the inside and have insulated cabins that shut out the din of the world outside. This does not change even when the car is driven fast because of the soundless nature of battery-powered autos.


There is one area of concern, though.

The battery, which is fitted underneath the car, is large and heavy, weighing around 600 kg. Though it is suitably protected with sheet covers, this does reduce ground clearance and one has to be extra cautious when driving over bumps.


Because it's a CBU (completely built unit) import and attracts the highest rate of duty at 40 per cent (in addition to other taxes), the EQC will not be a high-volume generator in the short term. For the same money (or even less), enthusiasts can acquire a Porsche or a BMW M sports car, both of which rank higher on pure sporting performance.

But what the EQC has done is that it has triggered the reality of the race for EVs in premium car categories – something that its mandatory green licence plate doesn’t let you forget.

 
Coming to charging: The car comes with a wall charger that can be plugged into sockets in one's home or office. So it doesn't matter if the charging infrastructure is ready or not. The EQC has a claimed drive range of over 400 km on full charge, which is substantial for every day driving for about a week even if it delivers 300 km under strenuous driving conditions on traffic-packed roads.


Does the arrival of the EQC herald the departure of the traditional gasoline car? There's a strong chance that Mercedes-Benz will bring in its EQA and EQS models into the country in the future and that will be the tipping point. The competition will be watching – and while petrol or diesel won’t vanish, the electric luxury car race has only just begun.



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