Let’s be honest: No one who buys a compact SUV cares that much about what’s under the hood. A compact SUV is practical, sensible transportation; a vehicle that will get you and your stuff from A to B in all weather, with little thought or effort. The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB350 4Matic is a practical, sensible compact SUV. But what’s under its hood makes it stand out from the compact SUV crowd.
The EQB is the first all-electric compact SUV from Mercedes-Benz. It shares much of its basic architecture, body, and interior with the gasoline-powered GLB currently on sale in the U.S. But instead of a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four—221 hp in the entry-level GLB250 and 302 hp in the full-fat GLB35 AMG—it’s powered by two electric motors, which impart all-wheel drive.
The EQB350 4Matic is top of the EQB lineup. With a newly developed permanently excited synchronous motor at the rear axle and a less powerful asynchronous motor at the front delivering a total system output of 288 hp and 383 lb-ft, it sits above the 225-hp, 288-lb-ft EQB300 4Matic and will be joined by the entry-level front-drive EQB250 (187 hp, 276 lb-ft) sometime in 2022.
According to the European WLTP test cycle, which is oriented more towards city driving than the EPA test, the EQB350 4Matic will travel 260 miles between charges. With a usable battery capacity of 66.5 kWh, that translates to 3.9 miles per kWh. By way of comparison, the 384-hp Tesla Model Y Long Range, the entry-level all-wheel drive Model Y, has a WLTP-rated range of 315 miles on a usable battery capacity of about 70 kWh, delivering an efficiency of about 4.5 miles per kWh.
Tesla still has the edge in terms of efficiency, then. Performance, too. Mercedes claims the EQB350 4Matic will hit 60 mph in a tick over 6.0 seconds. The Model Y Long Range we tested in October 2020 nailed it in just 4.1. It’s not just the extra power that helps the Tesla; the 4795-pound EQB weighs a few hundred pounds more than the dual-motor Model Y. For the record, the EQB350 4Matic’s 0-60 time is within a second of that of the GLB35 AMG and 1.2 seconds quicker than that of the GLB250 4Matic.
Though the comparisons with the Model Y are inevitable, the reality is the blocky EQB is quite a different vehicle to the soap-bar smooth Tesla. At 184.4 inches long and 72.2 inches wide, and with a 111.4-inch wheelbase, the Mercedes is 2.6 inches shorter, 3.4 inches narrower, and has 2.4 fewer inches between its axles than the Model Y. It is, however, 3.2 inches taller overall, and the roofline runs all the way to a near-vertical backlight rather than swooping down, coupe-like, as it does in the Tesla. If you want to carry seven people—or a lot of stuff—the EQB is a more practical design.
That’s right. Seven people. The conversion from gasoline to battery power hasn’t compromised the interior packaging at all, which means the EQB is available with the third row that’s an $850 option on the GLB250. Tesla’s Model Y third-row option places passengers’ heads right under the glass of the rear backlight. In the EQB, third-row passengers have steel over their heads. What’s more, Mercedes-Benz makes it abundantly clear that to ensure maximum protection in the event of a rollover, it considers the EQB’s third row suitable only for those 5 feet, 5 inches or shorter.
The second-row slides fore and aft through 5.5 inches of travel, and in the rearmost position, there’s a ton of leg- and kneeroom for six-footers. There’s plenty of headroom, too, even though the rear seat H-point is higher than that of the front to give rear passengers better visibility. Load space ranges from 16.4 cubic feet with the third row in place to 57.2 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded flat.
What makes the EQB350 4Matic stand apart from the compact SUV crowd is that it drives like a mini luxury car. None of its conventional internal-combustion rivals can match the smooth, silent surge of power from the EQB’s dual electric motors, nor the quiet comfort of its ride. Apart from some head toss—a function of its higher ride height and higher seating position—this little electric Mercedes SUV feels almost as calm and relaxing to be in as an S-Class.
In terms of its EV competition, the EQB350 feels nowhere near as busy on poor roads as the stiffly sprung Volvo XC40 Recharge, and generates a lot less road noise than the Tesla Model Y. While the 18-inch wheels and 215/60 Continental WinterContact winter tires fitted to our test car undoubtedly helped iron out any sharp niggles in the road surface, even with the standard 19-inch wheels and 50-series tires, the EQB’s well-damped long-travel suspension will still ensure a comfortable ride.
It’s no hot hatch, but the EQB350’s steering is direct, nicely weighted, and provides decent feedback. Braking is smooth and linear, the transition between regenerative and mechanical retardation seamless. There’s a ton of traction out of corners courtesy of the well-planted multilink rear axle, with the front wheels playing the perfect supporting role. Nail the accelerator and the little SUV scoots briskly away from the apex with surprisingly little understeer.
The power demand between the front and rear axles is modulated 100 times per second, depending on the driving situation. The idea is to optimize efficiency by using the rear electric motor as often as possible, the asynchronous motor at the front generating only minimal drag losses in partial-load operation. When it’s needed, though, you can feel the front motor contributing, though there’s no corruption through the steering. Max power standing starts on snowy forest roads near Munich saw the EQB350 leap away straight and true from a standstill with minimal traction-control interventions. It’s a brilliantly easy and surprisingly enjoyable thing to drive.
There are three driver-selectable lift-off regeneration levels, actuated via the paddles on the steering column. There’s also a mode that allows the car to use navigation data, traffic information, and speed sign recognition to automatically adjust the regen level itself. For us, the EQB felt nicest with the least amount of regen, being more natural and more fluid in its forward progress.
The Mercedes MBUX system really shows its worth in an electric vehicle. Program a destination into the EQB’s nav system and it will factor in the terrain, traffic, and the weather to determine the most efficient route. The system will recommend optimal points to quickly top up the battery along the way and precondition the battery for charging en route.
Our 210-mile test drive included a 160-mile run along the autobahn from Stuttgart to Munich, the rest on country roads and village streets. It was a breezy winter’s day, the ambient temperature right around freezing and snow flurries in the air, which explained why the EQB’s MBUX system was predicting a maximum range of only 212 miles as we pulled out of the hotel garage.
But as the nav system not only showed where the charge points were and whether they were fast chargers or not, but also how many were free, we didn’t hold back on the autobahn, cruising at 80 to 85 mph where possible, with occasional bursts to an indicated 100 mph (claimed top speed is 99 mph). Not surprisingly, the battery charge level dropped quickly, hitting 52 percent after just 62 miles.
A stop at a 300-kW fast charger—though, disappointingly, the EQB will only charge at a maximum rate of 100 kW, and in the cold weather, it ran at 70 kW—saw the battery topped up from 52 percent to 82 percent in 25 minutes. The nav predicted a likely range of 166 miles, a maximum range of 203 miles, and that we’d arrive at the 150-kW charger at our waypoint 98 miles away with 25 percent charge remaining.
Not quite. We arrived with 21 percent charge and between 35 and 50 miles of range remaining. A 34-minute stop with the EQB sucking down electrons at the rate of 75 kW brought battery charge back up to 82 percent.
Now, freezing weather, heavy acceleration events, and sustained high speeds made our trip an extreme duty cycle for an EV, which explains why the EQB350 struggled to deliver much more than 2 miles per kWh. Driven normally, under normal conditions, you could probably bank on averaging at least 3.2 miles per kWh, which equates to a range between 210 and 220 miles.
That’s still far from class leading. But the Mercedes-Benz EQB has other charms. It’s roomy and practical for its size, well equipped and well finished, and it really does ride and drive like a small luxury car. And Mercedes-Benz is aware of the range issue. It’s working on a long-range version of the EQB, which may sacrifice the third row in favor of extra battery capacity.
The Mercedes-Benz EQB350 4Matic is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. sometime in the first half of 2022. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but if MBNA were to follow Germany’s lead, expect a sticker right around the $49,000 mark.
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