After a slow start, Mercedes is ramping up its assault on the battery-car market with the launch of the new EQB sport-utility vehicle at the Shanghai Auto Show.
Available with up to seven seats, the EQB debuts barely a week after the automaker unveiled its all-electric flagship, the EQS, the latter to serve as the battery-powered alternative to the classic Mercedes-Benz S-Class that also has been redesigned this year. The year began with the rollout of the EQA, bringing to three the number of battery-electric vehicles the German automaker has debuted in less than four months, with still more products to come.
“With the all new EQB we have created an iconic electric SUV that takes the heritage of our boxy off-road vehicles and transforms this into the future,” said Gorden Wagener, chief design officer of Daimler Group — who spoke to TheDetroitBureau this past week in an exclusive Q&A. “We combine the significant boxy silhouette with futuristic elements such as the black-panel front to create the extraordinary look of the vehicle.”
Lot’s in common with the familiar Mercedes GLB
At 184 inches in length, 72 inches in width and 66 inches in height, and with a wheelbase of 66 inches, the Mercedes EQB’s dimensions are nearly identical to those of the conventional GLB crossover. But, like the rest of the new Mercedes EQ family, the new model mounts batteries, motors and other key electrical components below the load floor in a skateboard-like platform.
The design is not nearly as radical as that of the new EQS sedan, with its breakout “one-bow” styling. The EQB could be confused, at a casual glance, with the more familiar GLB, starting with the traditional two-box SUV silhouette.
But a closer inspection reveals a number of distinctive details, starting up front with a large black grille with the Mercedes tri-star that is there primarily for appearance sake. As with other BEVs, there is little need for airflow under the hood without an internal combustion engine. Smaller air intakes below the bumper provide cooling air for the battery pack, brakes and electronics.
Another distinctive touch is the fiber-optic lighting strip that runs just below the hood cutline, linking the EQB’s LED headlights and daytime running lights.
Plenty of room
The interior is likely also to feel familiar to current EQB owners, starting with the large, twin videoscreens, one replacing a conventional gauge cluster, the other serving the infotainment unit. That system can be operated by voice, a console-mounted touchpad, controls on the steering wheel or by using the MBUX operating system. The Alexa-like voice assistant recognizes plain language commands and can also perform tasks like checking the weather.
The new model also integrates what Mercedes calls “Navigation with Electric Intelligence” which, it says, “contributes to the effortless handling of the EQB in everyday life. It calculates the fastest route to the destination, taking into account maximum charging power and the duration of possible charging stops. In addition, the Navigation with Electric Intelligence ensures that the high-voltage battery is brought to an optimal charging temperature before a planned charging stop, as needed.”
The new Mercedes EQB comes standard in a five-passenger configuration. But it also can be ordered with a third row adding room for two more. The center row can tilt and slide fore and aft by as much as 5.5 inches.
A staggered global rollout
The automaker plans to offer the EQB in a number of different markets and a variety of different configurations. It will reach showrooms first in China, not surprisingly, a country that has laid out an aggressive plan for growing its electrified vehicle market. The initial Chinese version, said Mercedes in a statement, will be “a fully equipped top-of-the-range model with AMG Line and an output of 288 horsepower.”
Europe will get the EQB later this year and, said Mercedes, “customers will have the choice between several models with front-wheel and all-wheel drive and various power levels, some rated at over 268 hp.”
The U.S. introduction is scheduled for 2022, but the automaker is being vague about the details of what will be offered in that market. It is considered likely that American buyers will have at least one of the higher-output drive systems with all-wheel drive available as an option, if not a standard feature.
Mercedes noted that the European battery pack will be a relatively modest 66.5 kilowatt-hours, only a fraction larger than what Chevrolet offers in the Bolt EV and newer Bolt EUV. But “a long-range version also is planned” for different markets, said the company.
The EQB features an 11 kilowatt onboard charger. It also can plug into a public quick charger and, with at least 100 kW of DC power will go from a 10% to an 80% charge in 30 minutes.
There has been speculation that a higher-power version of the EQB also may be in the works. The gas-powered, seven-seat Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 punches out 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, getting it to 60 in about 5 seconds. The EQB does have the advantage of instantaneous torque from its electric drive system, though Mercedes has not released performance figures yet.
Pricing yet to be announced
Also yet to be revealed: pricing for the various EQB models.
The new Mercedes EQB will be assembled at the automaker’s plant in Kecskemet, Hungary. It will be the factory’s first all-electric model, though it has already handled plug-in hybrid versions of the Mercedes-Benz CLA line and will add the A-Class plug-in sometime in the future.
All told, Mercedes says that most of the $85 billion product development money it has outlined for 2021-2025 will go towards battery and digital technologies. By the end of 2022 it plans to have eight all-electric models in showrooms around the world.
“The company envisages that more than 50% of its passenger car unit sales will be accounted for by plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles by 2030,” it said in a statement released last week.