First Drive: 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB
If electric vehicles are ever going to gain widespread recognition as a legitimate option for the majority, we’ll need to see more of them in formats that serve everyday lifestyles. That means putting more EVs on the road that are right-sized for families, reasonably priced, have a serviceable range, and come in the same body styles that people already want to buy.
Here’s the good news: on first impression, the Mercedes-Benz EQB is the first electric vehicle that could potentially check every one of those boxes. Only one other electric seven-seat SUV has been available to this point, that being the Tesla Model X, which is mostly right-sized but hardly attainable cost-wise. That makes the EQB a pioneer in a segment that’s been conspicuously devoid of options.
And here’s the maybe not-so-good news, with a twist: the EQB is a compact SUV through and through, with honest-to-goodness compact SUV proportions and capabilities. For Canada, this could be a very good thing. Apart from pick-up trucks, compact SUVs are far and away the most important sales segment in this country. However, what compact SUVs don’t often do well is hold seven seats. More on that in a minute.
The EQB is based on a flexible platform that underpins several more Mercedes-Benz models globally, including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, GLA, and GLB. Of these, the EQB is closest to the GLB in its proportions. There are a few differences such as the EQB’s four centimetres of extra length; and two centimetres less second-row headroom, but overall the dimensions are very similar. More importantly, the EQB retains a healthy 20 cm of ground clearance despite having its 66.5-kWh battery mounted to the underbody, an important figure for clearing Canadian snowbanks.
That makes the primary difference between the two the EQB’s all-electric powertrain, and it’s an impressive one. The EQB 350 4MATIC is the version that will arrive in Canada first; it uses a pair of electric motors, one mounted on each axle, to create 215 kW of power (on a straight conversion, roughly 288 horsepower) and 383 lb-ft of torque, via electric all-wheel-drive.
For the EQB’s proportions, this setup performs beautifully. Power delivery through the single-speed transmission is exceptionally smooth, and it can be kept under control by selecting Comfort mode or the speed-limited Eco mode. A quick flip to Sport mode unlocks the potential of the electric powertrain’s instant acceleration. Combine it with the optional adaptive damping system and the low centre of gravity, and the EQB handles as well as any luxury compact SUV out there, if not better.
It also provides plenty of feedback through the digital instrument cluster on how the driver’s behaviour is affecting the state of charge and use of the available range, showing real-time numbers on how much power the braking is regenerating and how much the driver adds to the range by using it effectively. (In Europe, the official range figure is 419 km; Canada’s testing takes our climate into account, so expect to see a lower number when the EQB launches in our market.)
Although tech innovation stops short of the MBUX hyperscreen seen in the flagship EQS sedan, the EQB does include some forward-thinking features. The on-board navigation system integrates public charging stations up to its peak rate of 100 kW into its route mapping anywhere in the world while including real-time information on charge port availability, pre-conditioning the battery on route, and calculating the minimum amount of charge time to reach your destination in the least amount of time possible based on weather, local topography, and your driving habits.