We ride in the all-electric Mercedes EQ two years ahead of launch

First shown as a concept at the 2016 Paris motor show, the Mercedes-Benz EQ C will be the company’s first dedicated large-production electric SUV when it goes on sale in the UK in 2019.

This rival to the Audi E-tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X is part of the company’s plan to have 10 battery-powered fully-electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models on sale by 2025.

We’ve managed to secure a ride in the concept – and discovered a very different offering to the company’s only electric car so far, the B-Class Electric Drive.

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For a start, it looks ‘ordinary’ and a natural extension to the current Mercedes range rather than the often quirky alternatively-powered creations produced by other manufacturers. Plenty of attention has been paid to aerodynamic efficiency: windscreen wipers are hidden under a bonnet flap, digital cameras replace exterior mirrors, traditional door handles are replaced by a touch-sensitive opening functions in the B-pillars, and the wheels have a drag-optimised design.

Size-wise, the EQ concept is between the GLC and GLE. It sits on a new steel and aluminium platform and has four seats, but the final version is likely to have five. Details on the driveline are still sketchy but we do know that it has two electric motors, one for each axle, developing over 400bhp in total. That compares to the 362bhp of the twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé.

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All of the drive can be sent to the front or rear wheels via an ‘electronic propshaft’ connecting the two motors, giving the car full 4WD capability. It runs mainly in FWD around town, switching to 4WD at higher speeds.

The big lithium ion battery will probably take the EQ C over the 2000kg mark, but Mercedes engineers reckon it will still have GLC 43-level acceleration, which would mean a 0-62mph time of under five seconds. The potential full charge range is claimed to be over 310 miles.

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The cabin design is arresting. The low dash and prominent instrument/infotainment display has an E-Class look about it, but there’s just one 24in screen instead of the E-Class's two separate 12in screens. Traditional graphics have been abandoned in favour of eye-catching high-def 3D visuals. Commands are issued through a touch-sensitive pad between the front seats or via smaller touchpads on the steering wheel.

If the EQ concept looks the part standing still, it’s just as impressive in motion. Despite the heavily raked windscreen, there’s a real feeling of airiness and space. The flat floor feels a bit odd, provoking a knees-up sitting posture, but production cars are expected to have more scalloped footwells. The silence of the driveline nicely complements the calmness of the cabin design. 

Prodding the aluminium throttle pedal releases the usual healthy squirt of electric acceleration (and the usual motor whine). The ride of the 22in-wheeled concept car on its untuned suspension is predictably knobbly, but the production car will be specced with the latest three-plunger Air Body Control suspension that graces the latest S-Class, so that should be nicely sorted by 2019.

This concept is only a preview, but on the assumption that Mercedes will be able to build on the design and engineering that’s already in place, this electric-powered SUV will be worth waiting for. It has a superb interior and a user interface that bodes well for all of Mercedes’ upcoming electric models.

Tony Middlehurst is a writer for AutoCar.

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