Last week, we were invited to a ride along in a pre-production EQC, way up in Arvidsjaur, Sweden. That's where carmakers go testing, and where lucky customers can participate in ice challenges and drift training on frozen lakes. We got the best of both worlds, joining executives Michael Kelz and Peter Kolb for testing (and a little fun) during the EQC 400's final calibration.
They were there for a worthy cause: putting in additional work to perfect the EQC's drifting capabilities. And true enough, the EQC's asynchronous motors, which turn out a full 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque, provide such instant response that entering a drift is as easy as it gets — provided you turn off the stability control system entirely. Keeping it in that drift isn't hard either, as the EQC's delicate throttle response makes sure of that. Its Sport mode allows for considerable drift angles, while the Comfort and Eco modes stoically keep you on track even if you mash the accelerator in the clumsiest possible way.
Being such a well-sorted tool on the skidpad indicates general goodness, and the EQC definitely seems to hold the road well, even if it's not free of body roll. Mercedes-Benz specifically says it's no SUV, and its car-like ground clearance of just over 5 inches would certainly confirm that (to keep weight and cost under control, the air suspension available on various Mercedes SUV models won't be available). Still, the lightning-quick electric all-wheel-drive system works perfectly well on slippery surfaces, so those who mostly value an SUV's all-weather traction and general look should find exactly what they're expecting.
As in other electric cars, the EQC's all-wheel-drive system is the result of motors placed at each axle. The front motor is responsible for efficient low- to mid-range performance, while the rear motor delivers high-end performance. They are fed by an 80-kWh lithium-ion battery with fast charging capability. Official EPA range estimates have yet to be announced, but should be higher than 200 miles.
Straight-line performance is impressive, with a sprint from 0 to 62 mph taking just 5.1 seconds. Top speed is disappointing at a mere 112 mph as the motors are nearly maxed out at that velocity. Mercedes could have gone higher, like the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace manage, but it would have come at the expense of lower-end acceleration. Range also drops rapidly at high speeds. The upcoming EQC 300 base model will reach the same 112 mph as well.
Mercedes has toned down the cool but slightly eerie artificial sound that earlier EQC prototypes emitted and that lent it a cool, spaceship-like aura. Now passengers travel in utter silence, the result of engineers going to great lengths to isolate any noise from the motors, as well as the wind, road and tires.
The EQC is based on the GLC, and the doors and windshield are shared, as are the seats. But the dashboard is a generation ahead, sharing the MBUX tech interface, large dual screens and general design language with the new Mercedes A-Class and GLE-Class.
There are elements special to the EQC, however. Metallic strips are milled with incredible precision, the air vents feature a rose gold metallic effect, and the upper dashboard is clad with a shiny, metallic fabric. Altogether, the EQC's color and trim choices send a clear message: The electric age comes with its own aesthetics. One potential suggestion, though: The electronic instruments would look even better with futuristic bar graphics rather than the three variations of conventional dial-type gauges shared with other gas-powered Mercedes.
Outside, the Mercedes-Benz EQC looks distinct enough not to be confused with the GLC. It is slightly longer, with the extra length invested in trunk space, while elongated side windows feature an upwards kink. The lower rear fascia tries hard to mask the EQC's tallness, and it actually looks better with the optional AMG package. Final aerodynamic figures haven't been announced.
The horizontal light bar on the rear is an element that by now, unfortunately, others have thought of as well: It's on any new Porsche and all uplevel Audi models, for example. But Mercedes has come up with a unique treat for design aficionados: There is a horizontal light bar up front, too. That hasn't been seen on a production car since the early 1990s, and it's cool.
And so is getting a ride in the EQC in Arctic Sweden ... literally. However, we still need to actually get behind the wheel — preferably not on ice — and there's still a lot to find out about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 before it arrives in dealers next year. Stay tuned.