With its second entry into Australia’s nascent electric vehicle market, Mercedes Benz has opted to go smaller with the EQA 250, a compact SUV that provides enough zip to navigate city streets with the comfort one comes to expect from the German brand.
But how will it fare against the soon to be released Tesla Model Y? And will it lure traditional Mercedes customers away from the current petrol and diesel offerings?
I recently got to test drive the Mercedes Benz EQA for a half day in Sydney, finding that it was easy enough to navigate through traffic and to make its way through tight back streets of the Inner West.
Its key statistics are a 66.5kWh battery, which Mercedes says will deliver an estimated 408 kilometres of driving range (but this is yet to be fully put through its paces in Australian conditions).
The electric motor offers 140 kilowatts of power and a decent 375 Newton-metres of torque, making the vehicle responsive enough for cruising around the CBD and providing enough range for longer trips.
It’s basically an all-electric Mercedes GLA
It is hard not to simply think of the EQA as a mere adaption of the Mercedes GLA, the automaker’s existing petrol-fuelled, compact SUV.
Mercedes insists its fleet of all-electric models, which in Australia currently includes the popular and larger EQC (itself modelled on the GLC) and will extend to the EQS next year, are a stand-alone segment.
The cars do feature exterior styling that is distinctively characteristic of electric models, such an aerodynamic front end that does not need to accommodate airflow for a radiator.
However, the internal layout, which is virtually identical to their petrol siblings, gives away the fact that Mercedes has not built these vehicles from the ground up as electric vehicles.
Thankfully, the necessary compromises are pretty trivial.
The Mercedes EQA 250 comes with Mercedes prices, but it’s the comparison with the petrol version of the car that makes this very interesting.
The EQA starts at $76,800 – which includes taxes but excludes all on road costs – and means that it is likely to just miss out on the $3,000 rebates being offered by the New South Wales and Victorian governments. Still, the base model will come in just under the Luxury vehicle tax and will be eligible for the NSW government’s stamp duty waiver.
It also puts the EQA in the same price segment as the Lexus UX300e, and about where the Tesla Model Y is expected to fall, but more expensive than the less luxurious Hyundai Kona.
The EQA will probably reach the Australian market ahead of the Model Y – it is scheduled to begin deliveries later this year – and will eventually see the two models in competition for EV drivers looking for a bit more space. Mercedes will bank on its established platform and expereience, while Telsa will bring a lot of hype around its mid-size SUV model.
Mercedes is also offering an Edition 1 upgrade package for an additional $7,300, which upgrades the wheels to 20-inch AMG light-alloy wheels and provides upgraded interior and exterior trim.
For comparison, the entry-level petrol GLA 200 retails at $57,500, so the all-electric EQA does attract a hefty price premium. However, the performance of the electric EQA is more aligned with the higher-priced GLA 250 upgrade, which starts at $69,900.
If you factor in savings over the life of an electric vehicle from reduced fuel costs and potentially lower maintenance costs, the EQA is quite price competitive with its petrol-fuelled predecessors.
It’s interesting how this price parity is starting to occur at the top end of the car price range – like the Porsche Taycan that now accounts for half of its passenger car sales in Australia – but is still some way off at the key sub-$50,000 end of the market.
The fine print
The EQA comes with most of now standard features, including keyless entry and start, active driving assist and an all-digital dash, which can be controlled through its touch screen, through the steering wheel and via a touchpad mounted in the centre console. The dash allows you to control heating, cooling, entertainment, and navigation.
The EQA also features a wireless charging spot for your phone, but using Apple’s Carplay or Google’s Android Auto does require a wired connection. The EQA has a USB-C port, so you may need to use a supplied adapter for this.
The mouse pad in the centre console for controlling the dash is probably a bit superfluous, to be frank. But this is a feature of the petrol-powered Mercedes GLA, and it’s one of those features I imagine regular Mercedes drivers have probably grown accustomed.
While parked at a charging station during my test drive, a Tesla owner gleefully pointed out the raised rear floor, which is to accommodate the EQA’s battery and a ‘bump’ that runs down the car’s centre line, which it inherits from the GLA’s need to run a drive axle to the rear wheels.
It does take up some legroom and is a minor inconvenience, but otherwise, there is not much to give away that the EQA was not designed as an electric vehicle from scratch.
Mercedes provides guidance for the speed of charging, using its Type 2 CCS plug, through the three standard methods: the EQA is chargeable using a standard home power point, but this will take around 24-hours for a full charge from near empty to full.
An 11-kilowatt AC charging unit will give the car about 90 per cent charge in just under 6 hours, and for those less patient, the EQA can also use a DC fast-charging station, having the ability to receive a maximum charging power of 100 kilowatts, which will provide an 80 per cent charge in around 30 minutes.
Mercedes also includes a three-year subscription to Chargefox with the purchase of an EQA, providing complimentary unlimited access to selected Chargefox Ultra-Rapid and Rapid recharging stations.
As has become standard with electric and hybrid vehicles, the EQA features regenerative braking, allowing you to regain a bit of battery charge while slowing down the vehicle.
The EQA has a nifty feature that allows you to control the strength of regenerative braking, enabling you to turn it off entirely or ramp it up to a higher setting. I found the top setting a little too strong, like I had hit the brakes a bit too hard, and I found it a bit disconcerting to use on a regular basis – but the mid-range settings were fine.
The EQA also features an auto regenerative mode that uses the car’s proximity radar to make a judgement about the appropriate level of regenerative braking, taking into account the vehicle’s speed and proximity to other road users.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.