If you’re looking to transport the family in comfort, the Mercedes-Benz EQB is one of the most convincing electrified options on the market.
Compared to just a few years ago electric car sales are flourishing in Australia and there are many more options available, but electric seven-seaters are still few and far between. Enter the Mercedes-Benz EQB: a relatively compact SUV that comes with the choice of two different electric drivetrains, premium equipment, a sub-six-figure starting price, and the option for third-row seating.
The Mercedes EQ electric model range mirrors the naming convention of the traditional combustion engine models; the EQE is the equivalent of the GLE, and thus the EQB is an electrified echo of the GLB. Albeit with some changes, and they’re good ones.
From the outside, visual similarities are clear to see. Like the GLB, its EQ sibling has more than a whiff of baby G-Wagon to its styling, with a high roofline and a boxy silhouette. There are some subtle styling differences – such as the smoother front grille and full-width rear light bar – that set the two cars apart and mark the EQB out as an EV. They help cut aerodynamic drag and boost range, but more on that in a moment. The parallels don’t stop there either – the quality inside is very good; the EQB uses a familiar dual-screen infotainment set-up, and the steering wheel is almost indistinguishable from that in the AMG G 63.
In Australia, there are two EQB variants – the 250 and the 350 4Matic. The main difference is the 350’s twin-motor setup which has more power than the 250 with its single electric motor. Both use the same 66.5kWh battery giving the 250 a touch more range – 371km vs 360km. However, the 250 has an ace up its sleeve, which is it can be optioned with seven seats over the standard five for $2900.
Access isn’t the easiest for an adult but the sliding second row does help – and the sixth and seventh pews should only be reserved as occasional seats for adults anyway, as they are much better used for kids on the school run or going to sports on the weekend. That said, the third row is good enough for headroom and legroom (albeit a bit tight) that there’d be no real complaints if an adult does have to sit in the very back for a stint.
Space in the middle row is fine though and we found there’s plenty of headroom, even in the 350 with its two-part glass roof. With the rear seats folded away into the floor, you have 495 litres of boot capacity to play with. If you fold both rows down, there’s a maximum 1710 litres, so practicality is catered for as well. Furthermore, even the rearmost row gets ISOFIX anchor points for child seats.
There are two powertrains on offer. The first is the EQB 250, which delivers 140kW and 385Nm from an electric motor. It means the 0-100km/h sprint takes 9.2 seconds, while stepping up to the EQB 350 4Matic drops this time to 6.2 seconds thanks to its increased power output of 215kW and 520Nm.
We sampled both versions on our test drive and think that the cheaper EQB 250 offers enough performance for everyday driving, with the instant torque delivery helping whisk this boxy SUV along at a perfectly decent pace. It’s also the only model that can have seven seats, so just as well.
The 350 4Matic certainly feels a step up in terms of performance, and in the very wet conditions we drove for half a day the all-wheel drive of the 350 is terrific. Traction control is well-behaved without an obtrusive power cut when getting along quickly and grip’s very secure around corners. The three-second gulf in the 0-100km/h sprint certainly feels believable.
DC rapid charging at up to 100kW means the EQB has the same capability as the EQA, so an 80 per cent top-up takes 30 minutes. Using the 11kW on-board charger, a recharge at home will take five hours and 45 minutes – so it’s an overnight affair. Another alternative is topping up at the various charging stations located at places such as shopping centres for an hour or two, which as we understand should soon be easier with complimentary charging for Mercedes-Benz EV buyers.
The car’s regenerative braking system can be used to pump energy back into the battery when slowing down, too. In its highest setting (changed via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles) there’s a good degree of retardation, meaning you can drive around mostly using only the accelerator, although the normal auto setting is well-balanced between natural feel and applying some regenerative braking.
On the move the EQB is refined and swift, rolling along smoothly, while the extra mass of the battery means the chassis moves in a softly controlled way rather than with rigid, short movements. It encourages a calm and relaxed driving style, which is perfectly in keeping with the EQB’s ethos. This was also despite the large 20-inch alloy wheels on all test vehicles we drove – most heavy EVs on big rims display a little more harshness on bumps.
Refinement, on the whole, is very good, though as with any electric car, some sounds you might not normally notice are more apparent than they might be in a petrol car… and then some are never heard, such as the roar of an engine.
Although the EQB has pretty strong acceleration the car’s relatively high kerb weight – added to by the weight of that battery (more than 400kg extra), which is still relatively high off the ground, even if it is sandwiched in the car’s floor – means the EQB isn’t the most dynamic machine to drive. However, it offers good traction in both models, although the 350 4Matic’s all-wheel-drive system offers plenty of reassuring grip.
The tech underneath is reflected by the interior, which with its pair of bright, sharp digital displays. They help to give the EQB’s cabin a premium look that’s backed up by the choice of materials inside.
The infotainment system is familiar from other Mercedes models, and it works well, offering plenty of features and good connectivity, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touchpad is relatively responsive, but you can also use the screen itself to navigate around the menus or input data; it’s nice to have the choice.
Overall, the electric drive really suits the EQB. It’s smooth and refined – and surprisingly swift in the 350 4Matic. True, it might not be capacious when it comes to space in the rear, but seven-seat capability is still a huge bonus in this comparatively compact form factor for an EV. While a little more range would be nice to have, this is ultimately one of Merc’s most convincing electric cars to date.
|Price:||$87,800 (250), $106,700 (350 4Matic)|
|Batt./motor:||66.5kWh/e-motor (250) 2x e-motor (350 4Matic)|
|Power/torque:||140kW/385Nm (250), 215kW/520Nm (350 4Matic)|
|0-100km/h:||9.2 seconds (250), 6.2 seconds (350 4Matic)|
|Range (WLTP):||371km (250), 360km (350 4Matic)|
|Charging:||100kW DC (0-80% 30min)|