TG’s electric Mercedes EQA: are old cars with batteries just as good as ‘real’ EVs?
Full disclosure, I’m a bit of an electrician. I love electric cars and have strong opinions about their deployment – mainly electric driving for all the boring commutes or work-like rides and keeping petrol for V8s with too many turbos for high days and holidays. Cars replaced horses, but people still drive for fun, and a classic or weekend car of 3000 miles a year is quite environmentally nimble. That’s my excuse anyway.
That’s the context of my argument that that’s why I’m not so fond of automakers cramming electric motors into current models, covering the grilles, and calling them done. Electric powertrains have so much more to offer in terms of packaging and performance, so-called legacy electrics always seem to smell vaguely of regulatory compliance and optics. They are rarely the best in an EV class, lend themselves to frustration, tend to feel a little half-hearted. It gets more complicated when some pure EV brands (like some Polestars, for example) share the larger parts of their architecture with a non-EV model. How offended and disappointed should I be? But that’s another chat. The thing is, the Mercedes EQA is clearly a GLA with added EV. An EQA is the newest member of the Top Gear garage. And I execute it. Uncomfortable.
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So let’s get a quick overview of what we actually have here. My EQA is a Mercedes Benz EQA 250 AMG Line Premium Plus. So that’s a pure electric car with one motor, front-wheel drive (there’s an AWD version) with a 66.5 kWh battery under the floor. The range is 250-263 miles WLTP, and there is an average payload, with a 11 kW payload and a 100 kW peak on fast public DC rapids. It weighs just over two tons (2,040 kg), of which about 480 kg is that battery, and with just under 190 hp and 375 Nm of torque, it is no sprinter, reaching a speed of 8.9 seconds from 0-100 km/h and a top speed of 160 km/h.
The entry-level Sport 250 weighs in at £44,495 and you get a good selection of standard kit for that – as you’d hope. Things like 18-inch alloys, LED lighting, cameras, a few 10-inch widescreen infotainment units, smartphone stuff, climate – all the usual bit’n’pieces. At the other end of the scale, AMG Line Premium Plus (£51,995) adds AMG-lite body styling, 20-inch multi-spoke wheels that are a nightmare to clean, Artico synthetic leather, AMG pedals, mats and the like (which are also appear on the AMG Line), but with 360-degree cameras, a Burmester sound system, adaptive suspension and electric seats. In other words, we have the one with everything on it. In addition, this car has the Driving Assistance package (£1,495) and Denim Blue paint – a £595 option – making this an EQA of £54,085. That’s a lot of money for an EQA (even if it’s loaded to the limit) when there are a lot of highly electrified options for that kind of money. You’re talking about Tesla, Polestar, BMW i4, any number of electric SUVs.
Now it must be said that the EQA is also not the most devious electric car. Yes, it has the futuristic, blank front that is typical of electrically modified motorized cars, but you’re never quite convinced that this had to be electric from the start. The space inside is good, but not exceptional (the trunk is slightly smaller than a standard hatch), there’s no frown (the space is packed with complicated-looking battery management and control modules) and I can’t help but think it’s a bit inconvenient, and that the rear wheel is in the wrong place in the rear wheel arch. Look at a dead profile shot, and you’ll see what I mean, and from there on you’ll never be able to undo it.
And yet I’ve already driven 2,000 miles, and – shock, horror – I quite like it. The charging speed may have a modest peak, but it reaches 98 kW for centuries, making the stops shorter – the key to charging. Big headline peak speeds are irrelevant if they only do this for 30 seconds and then drop. The Merc is solid and reliable and sucks up juice as it should. It’s comfortable, quiet, a decent size for most of my needs and has a lot of toys. I even like the interior, because once you’ve worked out what all the physical buttons do, you don’t have to use the touchscreen – and the trackpad actually works quite well. Okay, so it’s not the fastest in the world, but it handles highway speeds well enough – though I’d like a little more for ramps and the like every now and then. The only real bugbear is efficiency; I get an average of 3.6 miles/kWh, which isn’t great, and a real range (in the summer) of 223 miles. hmm.
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So this is a car that I wasn’t attracted to at first, but that actually turns out to be quite capable. There’s quite a bit to delve into – don’t get me started on the live traffic and electrical route planning (but that’ll come in another update) – and there are some obvious flaws, but so far I’m conflicted. I really shouldn’t like it, but I do. Let’s see if it holds up in the coming months, or if the honeymoon period turns sour.