2022 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus N293 vs 2022 Audi e-Tron Sportback

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus N293 vs 2022 Audi e-Tron Sportback

Our two electric SUVs look remarkably similar. But getting them together might tell a different story.

Audi driver tries Merc… The night before meeting up with Phil and his EQC, disaster strikes – I trundle the e-Tron round to the nearest set of Source London chargers only to discover they’re occupied by a Tesla, a plug-in BMW 5-series and a Jaguar i-Pace. There are more on-street plugs not too far away (I end up alongside a Porsche Taycan for the evening) but a 10-minute trip out of the house turns into a half-hour one by the time I’ve walked the mile home. It’s no better the next morning at our service-station rendezvous on the M40. The two Ecotricity chargers are occupied by a pair of Nissan Leafs, and Phil and I gaze longingly at the row of 16 Superchargers, with seven Teslas humming away having their electric fill.

It’s hardly a representative survey of charging availability in the UK, but if you’re taking the plunge with an EV, that Tesla charging network is still untouchable. And Tesla doubles down on that with battery tech that provides way more range than rivals. As EVs, they’re still leading the way.

But as cars? Maybe not so much. Elon’s machines tend to be hampered by brittle ride quality, brittle interior materials and brittle build quality. Both the e-Tron Sportback and Phil’s EQC feel more premium in comparison.

No, neither has a Tesla-sized central cockpit screen, but that novelty is wearing off, and the Merc’s interior is very welcoming, with twin displays, bronze highlights and lovely contrast stitching. Suddenly the Audi feels rather bland by comparison.

And like a bit of a blunderbuss. The Merc has a sharper throttle, responds more eagerly to steering inputs, and comes across as an unruly little high-rise hot hatch. This is of course only by way of contrast to the Audi and its sedate nature; the reality is the Mercedes is a 2.5-tonne electric SUV, not a VW T-Roc R rival.

But after a day in each other’s cars through the Chilterns, it’s the Audi I want to head home in. I love the looks, the refinement, and – being half a foot taller than the general populace – I need the space. There’s more legroom in the back thanks to the three-metre wheelbase, bigger front seats, and the centre console doesn’t crowd me out like it does in the Merc.

I just wish it had more range, or rather, it was more efficient. Even when fully charged we never now see 200 miles on the Audi’s on-board computer, a result of it averaging less than two miles per kWh. Phil’s Merc is nearly 25 per cent better and yet that pales in comparison to the Teslas. Sort that, and then everyone would need to charge less. Over to Phil…

…Merc driver tries Audi Automotive osmosis. Sounds like a French concept car, actually the ability of your daily runner to get under your skin, warts and all. So there’s nothing more corrective than assessing your car through the prism of an arch-rival.

We go for a gentle run through the Oxfordshire countryside. The Audi’s width has me breathing in to squeeze past oncoming traffic. It doesn’t feel as quick off the line as the Merc (and isn’t, sacrificing half a second to 62mph), though it keeps on pushing – whereas EQC punch tapers off past 50mph and the e-Tron makes a louder e-whine than the buttoned-up Merc.

Turning the Audi’s wheel feels a touch light and vague off the dead-ahead, but becomes nicely weighted with speed. I’m over-ridden at the first corner by the lane-assist system, which takes a confident line through the fast sweeper. Doesn’t stop it getting switched off instantly, by one touch of the stalk button.

The Merc does the whole stopping thing far better. Use the paddles to select from two gradients of regen braking, or coasting mode: engage what’s best for the conditions and the Merc persists until instructed otherwise. With the Audi, you have to pull a paddle every time you want to amp up regen, and it’s two tugs for max. Talk about complicated. Add in its less responsive pedal, and the extra 100 kilos of mass, and stopping the e-Tron is a bit sluggish.

Ben finds the Merc really squirrelly under braking: ‘The body goes in about eight directions at once.’ It’s not just under braking: cornering, sudden steering inputs and bumps can upset the soft suspension. While this gives a lovely loping primary ride on smooth surfaces, the secondary ride is often harsh, thumping through dips and jarring over crests. While the Audi has superior body control, both cars crash their 21-inch wheels on B-roads

For a £92k car, the e-Tron’s cockpit pales into blandness compared with the Merc’s imaginative colours and materials. Additional demerits for the range bar that’s less clear than the Merc’s swingometer, and the lack of a stopper to prevent the seatbelt latch plate hiding at floor level. That said, the LED outline illuminating the buckles is helpful, and the touchscreen’s haptic feedback is welcome compared with the inert Merc’s.

Driving the e-Tron doesn’t make me question my EQC commitment. The Merc is more efficient (2.4 miles per kWh over the 145-mile trip), more emotional and more engaging to pedal. Confirmation bias? Perhaps. Or confirmation that CAR remains a melting pot of unruly opinions.

Suddenly the Audi feels rather bland by comparison, and a bit of a blunderbuss.

2022 Audi e-Tron Sportback

  • Month 9
  • The story so far
  • Audi’s first EV, in Jag i-Pace-rivalling Sportback guise
  • + Bigger than an EQC – better too?
  • — Merc’s interior touches lift its ambience above the Audi
  • Logbook
  • Price £79,900 (£92,470 as tested)
  • Performance 95kWh battery, dual e-motors, 402bhp, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 124mph
  • Efficiency 2.5 miles per kWh (official); 1.9 miles per kWh (tested); 0g/km CO2
  • Energy cost 8.9p per mile
  • Miles this month 569
  • Total miles 6035

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQC 400 4Matic AMG Line Premium Plus

  • Month 7
  • The story so far Merc’s e-SUV now racking up some serious (but quiet) miles
  • + Consumption on long journeys
  • — Bumpy secondary ride
  • Logbook
  • Price £65,720 (£75,295 as tested)
  • Performance 80kWh battery, twin e-motors, 402bhp,
  • 5.1sec 0-62mph, 112mph
  • Efficiency 2.6-2.8 miles per kWh (official), 2.4 miles per kWh (tested), 0g/km CO2
  • Energy cost 3.0p a mile
  • Miles this month 922
  • Total miles 2561
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