Review: Mercedes-EQ EQB 350 makes quiet introduction to NZ, but its versatility, space and range are worthy of fanfare

Mercedes-EQ EQB 350
Photo credit: Tarmac Life

By Dave McLeod of Tarmac Life

Mercedes' EQ alphabet continues to expand with the 'quiet' introduction of the all-electric B. I say quiet as it slipped into the New Zealand range without a lot of fanfare or local launch, but thankfully I was given the keys for a week to make my own assessment.

Having driven the B-Class when it first came out, I have to say I was impressed. Despite its 'smallest in the family' A-Class underpinnings, I found it to be a compact yet incredibly versatile SUV that did in fact seat seven (even a 6ft-something goalie in the third row), so I was expecting big things. Joy of joys, the EQB didn't disappoint - well, sort of.

You see, to my surprise my review model came as a five-seater (the seven seats are an option) so my carry-all expectation of the EQB was slightly bruised. However, in return I did get around 50kg of weight saving and 495L of luggage space to play with - enough for numerous suitcases, a couple of buggies or plenty of shopping.

Outwardly, the EQB's size and silhouette mimics its ICE-based sibling, but it does come with the Mercedes-EQ black panel grille with central star and a continuous horizontal fibre-optic light strip linking the DRLs. Also, the headlights themselves feature blue-coloured highlights to underline its Mercedes-EQness.

My whip came in sparkling Iridium Silver and rode on 20-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels, last seen on the EQA I reviewed. A chrome strip breaks up the black of the lower side protection panels and an EQ badge (also blue) sits on the front wings.

The rear sports LED tail lamps that merge with a tapered LED light strip, emphasising the EQB's width and the sculpted tailgate that opens to the previously mentioned 495L. It was all topped off with an automatic panoramic electric sunroof and a drag Cd value from 0.28.

The inside will be a familiar place for those that have driven a modern Merc and in particular the EQA. The instrument cluster and infotainment screen are presented as one long panel that takes up almost half the width of the dash, while five jet engine style vents, funky back-lit trim, chrome and a contrast-stitched top completes the look.

The seats are highly bolstered with an alcantara/leather-style finish and the ambient lighting that surrounds the cabin offers up a multitude of colours to suit your mood.

The info/instrum screens are highly configurable and offer up virtually all the information you could ever want; the sounds are supplied by Burmester; the system is the latest MBUX; and there is also an EQ exclusive manu for you to find out how, where and how much the EQB's energy is flowing.

Mercedes-EQ EQB 350
Photo credit: Tarmac Life

On the matter of energy, there are two EQB models up for grabs: the 250 that comes with a single FWD electric motor (140kW/385Nm) and 9.2 seconds 0-100km/h or the 350 that I had, with two motors (430kW/520Nm) and so 4Matic AWD and 6.2 seconds 0-100km/h.

Both models come with a 66.5kWh battery that's located way down low (with AC11kW/DC 100kW) charging behind a flap on the driver's side rear), however, since the single motor consumes energy at a rate of 16.7kWh/100km (vs 18.8 for the 350), Merc says the range for the 250 is 507km vs the 350's 445km. As a point of note, my review model was registering 409km when I picked it up.

What I really enjoy about Merc's approach to electrification is just how simple it is. Those transitioning from ICE to EV can just get in, push start, select drive on the column stalk and away you go. Everything is located as per the ICE version and therefore easy to understand. In fact, even the likes of drive modes just range from Eco to Sport so again, simple.

However, should you wish to be brave and dabble with the settings, you are suitably rewarded. For example, switch to Eco and start using the 'regen force' paddles behind the sporty steering wheel and you start to gain range kilometres. Again, use the paddles to 'motor brake' in corners and anticipate the lights and even more kilometres appear - it becomes quite a game. I guess I should get out more.

Mercedes-EQ EQB 350
Photo credit: Tarmac Life

With its compact dimensions (length 4.7m, width1.8m, height 1.7m) there's maybe the assumption that the EQB's cabin will be cramped - but much to the contrary, even with four adults on board, we didn't seem to be rubbing shoulders. And despite being a loaded two-tonne SUV, it still sprung off the line and up to the national speed limit with an enthusiastic pace.

On the matter of enthusiasm, the adjustable damping suspension and 4Matic system had me cornering with confidence and the huge list of driving and safety aids (from steering, braking and lane-keep assists for blind spot and traffic sign recognition), I knew the EQB had my back should things get frisky.

The addition of the EQB to Merc's NZ electric fleet may have been done quietly but I feel it's really something you shout about. I would have preferred the seven-seater option (as that's what I feel the B-class should be) but it offers up a tonne of space, oodles of versatility and of course, zero emissions. 

Mercedes-EQ EQB 350
Photo credit: Tarmac Life

Why you should: An all-electric compact Merc SUV that offers more cabin room for occupants and gear, and a fully-charged range that near's 500km.

Why you shouldn't: The B-Class Merc comes as a seven-seater, however my review EQB came with five (there is a seven-seat option). The 250 variant's acceleration is pretty slow for an EV.

What else to consider: Tesla model Y would be right up there on the list, plus the Audi Q4 eTron, Kia EV6 and BMW iX3 would be other vehicles to compare.

Tarmac Life