The Mercedes-Benz EQA matches stylish looks with a decent electric range. DARREN CASSEY finds out if it’s a worthy contender in this bustling segment.
Electric vehicles are fast becoming the norm, and it seems there are two ways established manufacturers are going about electrifying their fleets. One way is to create electric vehicle platforms from scratch to be sold under new branding, while the other is to simply offer electric versions of existing products.
Mercedes-Benz, however, has done a little bit of both. It launched its EQ sub-brand for electric vehicles, but has largely been adapting existing models for electric powertrains, with the forthcoming EQS the first bespoke model.
The EQA is a hugely important car for Mercedes as it hopes to be the volume electric seller, and the German firm has brought it to market through adapting the popular GLA SUV. But with rivals offering cool, quirky, bespoke alternatives, does it have enough character and quality to stand out?
Today we’re testing the EQA 300. It sits above the 250, which was introduced for the car’s launch, and below the 350, which went on sale around the same time as the 300.
Aside from a little more power, one of the key upgrades with this model was the introduction of all-wheel-drive and some improved equipment levels. Each trim gets impressive equipment levels and fast charging is also available, with access to public charging subscriptions included.
The dual electric motor system gives the EQA 300 its all-wheel-drive setup, with a motor on each axle. The combined output is 225bhp and 390Nm of torque, resulting in a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 99mph – this is low, but fairly typical of EVs.
The 66.5kWh battery provides up to 264 miles of range, and although we didn’t get to put this fully to the test, in our mixed driving route our usage would lead us to believe a good 250 miles would be possible in optimal conditions. Fast charging is possible at speeds of up to 100kW, with a 10-80 per cent charge taking around 30 minutes.
Jump behind the wheel and anyone who’s driven a GLA will feel right at home – until you pull away, that is. The EQA silently cruises along with the hushed refinement we’ve come to love from premium EVs, and the light steering and slightly raised driving position make it ideal for city driving.
It’s comfortable, too, with the suspension soaking up all but the harshest bumps. It’s clearly been tuned with comfort in mind, because despite high torque and hot hatch-esque performance it doesn’t feel particularly sprightly.
It’s not the most cohesive package, though, with the pedal weights mismatched making smooth driving tricky, and any attempt at fun in corners is met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. It’s a comfortable car for daily driving duties, but there’s little in the way of excitement.
Mercedes-Benz knows how to make a stylish, premium SUV, and the EQA is no different. From the side profile its GLA base is obvious, but up front it’s a whole lot more stylish and distinct. There’s no grille because there’s no hot engine that needs cooling, so instead you get a large grille-shaped plastic block that rolls into sleek headlights.
It’s one of those odd cars that looks a lot better in the metal than it does in pictures, too, with that front end having a refreshingly simple and elegant appearance. It’s a similar story at the back, where the designers have been restrained and added a simple full-width light bar and new brake lights.
The EQA’s cabin has a distinctly premium feel to it, with soft-touch materials in all the right places (though if you feel around there are some cheaper-feeling areas close to hand). As is typical of Mercedes’ interiors, it feels a little fussier than rivals from BMW and Volvo, but the design is bold and will appeal to a different type of buyer.
The large, double screens on the dashboard continue to be an excellent touch, bringing a sense of modernity to the cockpit. It uses Mercedes’ latest infotainment system, which includes a decent, if not quite class-leading voice control system. Otherwise it’s pretty spacious for both front and rear passengers thanks to wide, comfortable and adjustable seating.
The EQA’s job is to be Mercedes-Benz’s most mainstream EV (for the time being at least). As such its job is not to ruffle too many feathers, providing a stylish look and comfortable driving experience – and in that case it’s succeeded.
On paper it makes a lot of sense, being a pleasant car for daily driving duties with a decent range for longer journeys, and many buyers will be more than happy with that performance.
The key thing that lets it down, though, is the fact that it just feels a little safe and uninspiring when so many rivals have used the electric revolution to do something interesting and exciting…