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Mercedes-Benz unveils EQC SUV, the electric future for a storied brand

This isn't just the first major production EV from Mercedes-Benz, it's the beginning of a new era of transportation for the company.

2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC
Daimler AG

We've been hearing for years that the future is electric. Today, that future is looking closer than ever, with Mercedes-Benz taking the wraps off its first major foray into the world of full-electric cars, following on experiments like the Mercedes-AMG SLS Electric Drive. It's called the Mercedes-Benz EQC, and it's just the first of what's being built up as an entire new brand: EQ.

We've seen EQ applied to the Smart side of things already, but with EQC, it finds a home in the nomenclature of Benz's first full-production EV. EQC is a crossover SUV, offering all-wheel drive provided by a pair of electric motors. One sits at the front and a second at the rear, similar to the layout seen on other AWD EVs such as the Tesla Model X.

Interestingly, though, Mercedes says that each of the two motors serve different purposes. The front is said to be "optimized for best possible efficiency," enabling greater range, while the motor at the rear "adds sportiness." It's unclear whether this is provided by differences in gearing between the two motors or indeed different motor construction. Regardless, the result is healthy numbers: 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque.

However, when talking about EVs there's another number that must be considered: range. Here, Mercedes-Benz initially quoted a range of "around 200 miles" from its 80 kilowatt-hour pack. However, that figure was later said to be "incorrect and should not have been included." The European rating for the EQC is 450 kilometers, which is approximately 280 miles. However, the European NEDC rating is notoriously optimistic compared to the US, EPA rating. For reference, Jaguar's I-Pace SUV is NEDC-rated for 470 kilometers, or 292 miles, but in the US is officially rated for 240. 

So the range may be similar to I-Pace, but the design of the EQC is vastly different. It's far cleaner than Tesla's Model X and decidedly less funky than the Jag. The sides and rear of the SUV are clean and simple, while the nose is distinctly different than that seen on other, current Mercedes-Benz SUVs. It is, however, a clear continuation of the design language seen on many of the previous EQ concepts, including the Generation EQ concept from the 2016 Paris Auto Show.

Robert Lesnik, exterior designer for EQC, said the nose styling is as it is "because the car needs a face." He said the EQC would look "unnatural" without some kind of grille, even though one isn't strictly needed for cooling. This, then, becomes the latest of many faces in the current Mercedes lineup, joining the Maybach, Panamericana, luxury and sport grilles.

2019 Mercedes-Benz EQC

The EQC's dashboard is familiar, but littered with new details like circuitboard-inspired copper vents.

Daimler AG

On the interior is an evolution of the dashboard layout seen on the latest iterations of the S-Class, E-Class and A-Class, with a wide, sweeping series of displays that dominate the dashboard. Copper-colored vents were inspired by circuit boards, while the fins on the outer edges of the dash ape those used to cool amplifiers. Rather than a traditional leather pattern, the materials are stamped to look like modern sportswear, while various seating options will offer a selection of natural, synthetic and recycled materials.

In terms of overall size, the EQC is 4.7 meters long, which makes it just a hair longer than the GLC. Its profile, meanwhile, is meant to split the difference between the GLC's tall, SUV shape and the GLE's notchback. This, exterior designer Lesnik said, gives the practicality of an SUV plus the aerodynamic advantage of a lower roofline.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC still has a fair bit of time left in the oven, not coming to market in the US until 2020, which may mean hitting the road road after the Audi E-Tron and Porsche Taycan. Whether an early release is the key to long-range success remains to be seen, but it's safe to say that the EV landscape is finally getting interesting.

Update, 5:51 p.m. Eastern, Sept. 5: Revised with updated manufacturer range.

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