Imagine an electric car that will allow you to connect Brest with Lyon on a single battery charge, i.e. almost 1000 km without compromise in speed, comfort and, above all, driving pleasure.
Impossible? Mercedes-Benz is convinced otherwise and created the Vision EQXX concept to prove it. This rear-wheel-drive sedan serves as a showcase for the electric drivetrain, aerodynamics and lightweight design technologies the brand aims to bring to future production models.
A 100 kWh battery built into its flat floor provides a theoretical range of over 1,000 kilometers. By comparison, the rear-wheel drive EQE 350 claims a range of 650 km with a 90.6 kWh battery.
The 900V unit is equipped with the latest CATL lithium-ion cells. With their silicon anode, they are said to deliver energy densities of up to 400 Wh per litre, making them much more energy efficient than the cells used in batteries found on existing EQ electric models. It is also claimed to be 50% smaller and 30% lighter than current batteries.
Mercedes has already demonstrated the potential of the Vision EQXX during two development rides, the latest of which was a trip from Stuttgart to Goodwood for a distance of 1202 km without the need for recharging. However, this was achieved by a team of highly trained test pilots with real-time access to all the information generated by a trunk full of data loggers and in constant radio contact with engineers based at Mercedes in Germany.
However, Mercedes is so confident in the Vision EQXX’s ability to hit high-performance targets with any driver behind the wheel that it simply tossed me the key and told me to drive and see for myself what was possible. It’s not just a low-speed round-trip journey, but winding roads in and around the vast research and development center in Immendingen.
Before I sit in the driver’s seat and hit the start button, I’ll give you a quick rundown of what’s inside this teardrop body. With various active spoilers, including a sophisticated diffuser that deploys from the lower edge of the rear bumper at high speed, the EQXX achieves a record drag coefficient of 0.17.
The car itself is largely bespoke, including a platform that is a distant cousin of the Mercedes Modular Architecture (MMA) used for vehicles such as the EQC sedan expected in 2024-25.
At 4977mm long, 1870mm wide and just 1350mm high, the Vision EQXX is 226mm longer, 50mm wider and 105mm lower than the current C-Class. Its wheelbase is shorter by 40 mm and is 2800 mm.
As for the engine, the compact 241 hp synchronous unit integrated into the rear axle was jointly developed by Mercedes’ German engineering team and its HPP (High Performance Powertrain) division in Brixworth. Drive to the rear wheels is through a single-speed gearbox, the driver’s door opens wide, which makes it easier to access the cabin, despite the relatively low height.
The front clamshell seats, with fairly firm cushioning but little lateral support, are set fairly low without special footpegs, and the pedals are quite high for a very sporty driving position. There is no rear view, as an array of solar panels covers the entire roof and the space normally reserved for the rear window.
The instrument cluster is quite low and features a curved 110cm wide digital display with 8K resolution. The touchscreen houses a range of menus and data, including wind direction, which is measured by three tiny sensors on the front. Everything is very elegant, but it’s not just for show. Everything works the way you would expect from a regular Mercedes.
To move forward, you pull the Direct Shift joystick toward P and push the throttle, just like any stock EQ model. We find the typical smoothness of electric motors after they have been started. Performance is good right from the start, and it feels pretty quick under load up to an adjustable top speed of 140 km/h.
But since the Mercedes engineers are monitoring my every move remotely, now is not the time to check the car’s acceleration. Instead, we set a circuit course to see how close we can get to the savings figure achieved by inboard riders.
The digital display provides real-time consumption, which we try to keep as low as possible. The original plan was to operate without air conditioning to conserve energy levels, but with temperatures reaching 30 degrees in the midday sun, we decided that wasn’t such a good idea.
At normal road speeds, the Vision EQXX is perfectly polished. In addition to the quiet nature of the operation of the electric motor, aerodynamic interference is almost completely absent. This is where the rear diffuser opens up to lengthen the bodywork, reduce underbody turbulence and provide increased longitudinal stability. There are four modes of regenerative braking, which are activated using the paddles on the steering wheel.
In use, you rarely need to physically apply the brakes, even in slower corners. On the other hand, the Vision EQXX rolls freely without any noticeable mechanical resistance for impressive distances, and this without any power consumption thanks in part to the low rolling resistance 185/65 R20 tires developed specifically for the concept by Bridgestone. The constant switching between different modes raises and lowers consumption, which is both stimulating and entertaining.
From a driver’s point of view, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Let’s start with the layout of the drive wheels. The steering is surprisingly precise, albeit quite heavy, and the battery location in the floor provides a low center of gravity in favor of maneuverability.
With excellent forward visibility and a relatively narrow width, the Vision EQXX is easy to place on the road, where it proves to be very agile. That’s when we notice that the concept is already clocking over 10,000 miles on the clock, proving it’s not just a salon beast. In fact, the EQXX feels great on a wide variety of roads, at low and high speeds.
It’s currently hard to say how much automotive technology will be present in Mercedes’ next electric models. But as a show of intent, it’s very impressive.
The longer you ride it, the more convincing it becomes. We already feel that it is mature enough to start production. Such thoughts, however, ignore the costs associated with its creation…
As we near the end of our test drive, the data logger shows throttle applications, braking, steering angles, operating temperature and more. This is the economic number we are looking for, however.
And, to our great surprise, we are doing better than Mercedes, with 12 km per kWh, despite using air conditioning and carrying a passenger. Brest Lyon on a single battery charge? No problem at all. In fact, according to our calculations, we can go further…
© Greg Cable / Coach
Price: not for sale!
Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Power 241 hp
Transmission: to the rear wheels, 1-speed gearbox
Empty weight 1755 kg
0-100 km/h: 6.8 sec (estimate)
Maximum speed 140 km/h
Battery 100 kWh approx.
Claimed range: approximately 1200 km (approx.).