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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The silence of the Mercedes-Benz EQC

The first mass-produced all-electric vehicle from the oldest car company in the world is so quiet, you can actually hear yourself breathe

brunch Updated: Jun 02, 2019 00:08 IST
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hormazd Sorabjee
Hindustan Times
The only bits that spice up the looks of the Mercedes EQC are the stunning alloy wheels and the distinctive nose
The only bits that spice up the looks of the Mercedes EQC are the stunning alloy wheels and the distinctive nose
         

It’s the oldest car company in the world and has been at the cutting edge of automotive innovation for most part of its 130-year history, but in the electric car race, Mercedes has been uncharacteristically slow and has only just launched its first mass-produced all-electric car, the Mercedes-Benz EQC.

Rivals like Audi, BMW, Jaguar and of course Tesla, the poster boy of the electric car world, have all nosed ahead, a fact most obvious on the streets of Oslo where every other car sold is electric. I’ve never seen more Teslas in one day than I have in my entire life, and in fact in March this year the Tesla Model 3 was by far Norway’s bestselling car.

Ev, Ev fuel

This Scandinavian country is the capital of the electric car world and an eye-opener for EV skeptics (myself included). Norway has shown us that when public and private sectors work as a team, under a government totally committed to a future of electric mobility, it’s possible to create an environment where people, well, just want to buy environmentally-friendly cars.

Electric cars are cheap to buy , easy to use and easy to charge in Norway
Electric cars are cheap to buy , easy to use and easy to charge in Norway

Norway’s EV success is down to three fundamental reasons. Electric cars are cheap to buy (they are heavily subsidised), easy to use (almost everything like parking, tolls, even charging is free) and easy to charge (charging stations are everywhere). It’s a simple enough formula, but not many countries have the gumption to see it through.

The EQC isn’t a ground-breaking design, which you would expect from a car that represents the future of motoring

It was quite fitting then that Mercedes chose Norway to launch the EQC where it would feel right home. The EQC looks quite similar to the Mercedes GLC and that’s not a coincidence because it’s based on the same mid-sized SUV.

Pretty plain

The EQC isn’t a ground-breaking design, which you would expect from a car that represents the future of motoring and in fact, it looks rather plain from certain angles, especially the side profile. The only bits that spice up the looks are the stunning alloy wheels and the distinctive nose, which has very techy looking headlights and a fibre optic light strip running across the bonnet.

Space-wise this EV is not very large and similar on the inside to the GLC that is sold in India
Space-wise this EV is not very large and similar on the inside to the GLC that is sold in India

From the inside, the EQC is again very Mercedes with lots of common bits like the switchgear, and of course, the fantastic double screen display for the infotainment and all the car’s functions. Adding a bit of ‘EV-ness’ to the cabin is a blue (for electric) lighting strip and some avante garde design bits like the fluted aircon vents and grated speaker grilles. Space-wise the EQC is not very large and similar on the inside to the GLC that is sold in India.

I pick up the EQC from Oslo airport but find there’s only 30km of charge left in the 80kwH battery so my first stop is the nearest charging station. That’s quite easy to find because all the charging stations in the country are stored in the navigation system, which is very handy. Charging the EQC was a breeze. It’s fast (around 20 minutes to get an 80 per cent charge) and there are plenty of quick chargers around. With the charging out of the way, it’s now time to get down to the driving.

Quiet and quick

The EQC, powered by two electric motors, which produce a combined 408hp, is no slouch. Floor the pedal and this 2.4 ton SUV lunges forward with a strong, seamless surge of acceleration. The way the EQC gathers speed silently and without drama can land you in trouble in a country known for its punitively high speeding fines.

Masking the EQC’s speed is its astonishing level of refinement. Yes, electric cars are quiet, but this one is eerily so. The whine of the electric motors, the roar of the tyres have been painstakingly filtered out to create a cabin so hushed you can hear yourself breathe. On Norway’s well-manicured roads, sparsely-trafficked but strictly speed-regulated highways, driving something so refined as the EQC was, well, quite a non-event. A bit boring and sterile? Maybe. But the future of motoring is going to be just that. Better get used to it.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

First Published: Jun 01, 2019 23:13 IST

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