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Step Aside BMW i, The EQ Has Landed

A Glimpse Of Mercedes-Benz's Version Of Future Mobility

The complete deployment of battery-electric cars is inevitable as is the autonomous driving platform. While the world at large only looks to Tesla for both shifts, we've often times forgotten about the inventor of the modern automobile and what it has in store for the world in these two areas. We got to see first hand last week on the prospect of a future with zero carbon-emissions from vehicles and also a quick glimpse of some cool autonomous features in the premium segment. It's an impressive prospect, one that is going to be fronted by Mecedes-Benz's new electric brand of vehicles, called 'EQ'.

The'res a little bit of a mingling going on here; it's an SUV with the character of a coupé and a little bit of everyone's favourite shooting brake design at the rear end.

Marking its first local (and regional) exhibition at Desa Park City, Kuala Lumpur last week, the Mercedes-Benz EQ Brand Exhibition featured the amazingly stunning Concept EQ, a proper, working concept car, which carries Mercedes' future electric aspirations. It's a rare case to see a concept car perform a few circles out on an open car park, but that's what we got to witness at Desa Park City's Waterfront last week. I'm not sprucing the buzz by any way here; the Concept EQ is a head turner on all fronts.

Similarly to the latest series-produced models from Mercedes-Benz, the vehicle architecture builds on an intelligent multi-material mix of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre.

The vehicle does express Mercedes-Benz's ambition as pioneer and innovator of the automotive industry, and according to the brand, they're counting on four pillars of connectivity, autonomous driving, shared & services as well as electric drivetrains to mobilize this future undertaking. This Concept EQ, is a quick glimpse of what's coming our way soon. So, when will this Concept EQ become a production model? As early as next year, 2019. Do we think it's a rush? No, simply because the German automotive giant has been at work on its electric platform for a while now. But, it's been playing catch up not just with Tesla, but also with at least one other counterpart from Germany. Need I mention those three letters here?

"The vehicle concept is thus optimised to meet every requirement of a future-oriented, battery-electric model family. The basic architecture is suitable for SUVs, saloons, coupés and other model series." - Mercedes-Benz Malaysia

Anyhow, the world first took notice of Mercedes' electric vehicle ambitions in 2016, with the showing of their 'Generation EQ' concept. The SUV model you're perusing here however will be used as the foundation to develop the actual SUV, known as the EQ C. How similar the two models will mimic each other is beyond us, but we expect it to be very close to this Concept EQ we saw last week, if not identical. The current data at hand in terms of the Concept EQ's attributes are quite feisty; 300kW (basically 400 hp thereabouts) and 700 Nm of torque, with an operating distance range of 500 km. 0-100 km/h has been estimated by Mercedes-Benz to be below 5 seconds. Yeah, amazing figures.

The focus of the driver-oriented cockpit is on simple, touch-based controls with a new electro-look. The asymmetrical design of the instrument panel with its large, floating wide-screen display is tailored to the driver.

It goes without saying that Concept EQ also features the latest driver assistance systems from Mercedes-Benz. Using highly accurate maps from the marque's partner HERE, the systems know such things as the precise curve radii as well as the position and size of a roundabout. The vehicle can then automatically adjust the speed and driving dynamics to give the driver even greater comfort and relaxation. EQ thus takes a further step on the road to autonomous driving, always under the premise of safety and in compliance with the statutory regulations. There is a special focus on the optimised interplay between the individual features, so-called "sensor fusion", i.e. the intelligent combination of data from different sensors. In the opinion of experts at Mercedes-Benz, this is one of the key requirements on the way to automated driving.

This Concept EQ is also equipped with 'Car-to-X technology' which allows it to exchange information with common infrastructure and, other vehicles. This will be an interesting feature for the future of a Mercedes-Benz ownership. Besides the array of safety features that can be introduced for accident prevention, there is also a host of social and rewards features that can also be developed based on this platform; live car-to-car communication, on-the-road information sharing/exchange between vehicles and it is also helpful to the driver as it helps inform about nearby recharging opportunities.

Apparently, as soon as Concept EQ realises that the destination cannot be reached on the available battery charge, it advises the driver of appropriate options on the navigation map. We did notice however that the focus of the user interface is on optimal driver assistance, such as when the main concern is to make best possible use of the available energy in the batteries in order to achieve the best possible range. The innovative consumption display provides the driver with feedback on their driving style while drawing attention to energy-saving possibilities.

The innovative, digital user experience differentiates Concept EQ from the familiar control logic in today's vehicles, while giving a peek into the future of user interaction at Mercedes-Benz.

This Concept EQ comes with four individual seats. The reduced volume, impression of floating-in-space and avant-garde seat upholstery layout make for a light visual sense. Typical in Mercedes brilliance, we've been told that its speakers have been integrated into the head restraints. Its side bolsters are covered in light-white leather, while perforations with a pixel-rain look give off a view of particles in rose gold. Echoing the extravagant design, is how the TFT monitors for rear-seat entertainment are also integrated into the front backrests.

The'res a massive 24-inch TFT high-def wide-screen display that blows up all the relevant info in front of the driver, such as speed, range, driving data or navigation and map details. This system is versatile, quite similar to the current cockpits we've seen in current Mercs. The driver can opt to have on display a low information density with a very clean look or to have extra content on as well. We also expect it to have some new Mercedes-style goodies in terms of infotainment and engagement. We cant reveal just yet what those are, so you'll have to wait with us. 

All in all, Mercedes-Benz have assured us that they will have 10 working models for the EQ Brand by 2022, with the EQ C serving as the entry-level SUV model. But, why have the brand chosen to show us an electric SUV model instead of an electric sedan, like what BMW did a few years back with their EV mascot, the 'Vision i Dynamics' concept? My guess is that an SUV product is more all-inclusive to demonstrate the brand's direction. Closer to home, especially with a booming Asian economy, SUVs have become an increasingly more practical option for the urban city folk and I can only guess that the German marque is capitalising on this new and rapidly growing trend. Not to mention, the luxury of space and comfort is nudging out the 'old-school' want for sheer driving pleasure. 

From right: Dr. Claus Weidner, CEO & President, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, and Mark Raine, VP Sales & Marketing, Passenger Cars, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.

Even so, it's not an issue though, because a successful EV platform will be a scalable one and we'd imagine that a brand like Mercedes-Benz is well underway in developing a versatile architecture that can suit all of their battery-electric models. It's something Volvo Cars has already been doing for some years now with their stellar hybrid T8 powertrains and likewise, with Tesla as well. Even BMW has in the past shared how the only way to tackle this electric game is to provide a modular platform. How close a battle this will become remains to be seen, but for now, this EQ Brand looks set to overtake at least the European continent's pack of competitors.