17 August 2021
17 August 2021
Full disclosure, I fully expected to like the newly arrived, all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQA 250.
As an unabashed fan of the eclectic mix of urban ability, sportiness and interesting design of the Mercedes-Benz family of compact SUVs, the conceptually alike and well-specified EQA 250 had a head-start in my esteem.
Yet any such thoughts reach a T-intersection when it comes to analysing the key difference that makes the EQA 250 so special – its all-electric drivetrain.
Press the ‘Start’ button and where any conventionally fuelled Mercedes-Benz purrs to life with a familiar, low-engine note, the EQA sounds like – nothing. Silencio. A ‘Ready’ prompt on the dashboard is the only evidence that when you release the brake pedal, the EQA is good to go. Squeeze the accelerator and if you strain your ears, there’s a barely perceptible electric whir, changing in pitch to give auditory witness to the inexorable sensation of building speed.
It’s a quirk of electric vehicles (EVs) – or perhaps more of a perk – that all of their torque is available from the get-go; ergo, smooth and muscular acceleration is a given, even in a compact SUV such as this one. The e-motor at the front axle produces 140kW and 375Nm, which is more than adequate for the urban uses to which most EQAs will likely be put, and enough to bring a smile to the face of keen drivers come the weekend.
But the EQA has another trick up its sleeve that its petrol-powered twin, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, can’t match and, to my mind, it’s one of its greatest selling points. As a driver with decades of experience in standard autos, I’ve become almost unconscious to the back-and-forth motion of my right foot in stop-start traffic, constantly feathering the throttle and brake in turn. It’s only when you’ve experienced ‘one-pedal driving’ in an EV that you comprehend the physical tension and semi-conscious mental load that is associated with this constant adjustment – by its absence.
The steering wheel-mounted paddles that are used for manual gear shifting in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles are re-tasked in the EQA to toggling between levels of energy recuperation when braking, and consequently, reducing the forward motion once you release the throttle.
Anyone who has ever driven a golf cart will be familiar with the feeling of rapid deceleration. Its effect is that you can gently modulate the throttle without needing to touch the brake, or even decrease speed to an almost-stop by simply lifting your foot when maximum recuperation is selected. In urban traffic flows and motorway tailbacks, it’s more intuitive – and far less taxing.
Not only that, but ‘one-pedal driving’ also maximises the harvesting of kinetic energy and feeds it back into the 66.5kWh battery beneath the floor, so that the utilisation of electric vehicle range – the distance you can travel before needing to recharge – can be slowed, or even reversed. Yes, you might actually see the range increase at certain times during a drive, rather than the downward trajectory of the fuel gauge that we have come to expect from combustion engine vehicles.
Notably, the EQA 250 is a poised performer on even jagged rural roads, no doubt assisted by the flat and wide battery pack placed low in the vehicle body. As with other Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, you can fine-tune the responsiveness of the engine and agility of the suspension by toggling from Comfort to Sport mode, or choose your own personalised settings using the Individual mode. In concert with the four paddle-based regeneration modes, the EQA’s settings can be fettled to a gamut of uses, from neighbourhood runabout to daily commuter or long-legged weekend tourer.
Clearly, the latter use brings considerations of driving range to the fore. At full charge, the EQA has around 400km of driving range before needing to meet a plug. That puts the EQA not far shy of the fuel-driven range of other compact Mercedes-Benz SUVs. It’s worth noting that in rapid-charging conditions, the EQA can top up from 10 per cent to 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes.
And as we speak of longer trips, this EQA has another trick up its sleeve – space. The cabin dimensions are startlingly capacious for its compact footprint. I’m 185cm tall and can sit behind my own driving position in the EQA with around 10cm of knee room to spare, plus ample toe, elbow and head room. That’s exceptionally generous for this class of vehicle, let alone a compact electric. Boot space remains more than adequate at 340 litres.
The fit and finish in the cabin is top-notch, from the body-hugging, heatable front seats to the beautiful fully digital twin-screen dashboard and a host of surprise-and-delight features such as wireless phone charging, a voice-controlled multimedia system and user interface and customisable ambient lighting. A full complement of top-notch Mercedes-Benz safety systems is included, and exterior design elements such as full width light bands both front and rear are subtle but distinctive declarations that this is no ordinary SUV.
For me, the lure of never having to pull up to another servo – a very real prospect once you set up a home-based charging system – has a strong pull, along with that priceless feeling that comes from doing something good. On that basis, I expected the EQA 250 to make a strong case – for an electric vehicle. After getting behind the wheel, I’m convinced this compact SUV makes sense in any context.
Discover the all-new EQA 250 and book your test drive today.
By Steve Colquhoun