With electric vehicles going to take over in coming years, will some segments disappear? Will the rugged 4×4 vehicles and pick-ups slowly fade away? Not likely if we look at what Mercedes-Benz is working on as its electrification program progresses.
The company has revealed a prototype which uses a drivable technology platform on the basis of an EQC 400 4MATIC that is now on sale. Known as the EQC 4×4², this SUV is able to go further on rough terrain using future-oriented technology.
With the EQC 4×4², Mercedes-Benz engineers will test the limits of the vehicle and show that e-mobility is not just urban but also conceivable off-road. The one-off prototype was developed by a cross-departmental team as a technology platform.
“Our aim is to combine modern luxury and sustainability with emotional appeal. The EQC 4×4² shows how enjoyable sustainable mobility can be. This is where electromobility high-tech and an intriguing customer experience are transferred to the mountains, thanks to MBUX and over-the-air updates. To put it succinctly, electric, progressive luxury goes off-road,” said Markus Schafer, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG responsible for Daimler Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars COO.
“This drivable study clearly shows that, alongside a passion for e-mobility, we at Mercedes-Benz lay a strong claim to leadership in this sector and will heighten the emotional appeal of this even further in the future,” he declared.
The capabilities of the EQC 4×4² include driving through sand in desert regions and on beaches, on rocky terrain and through mountain streams. As well as great reliability and corresponding comfort, the mature genes of the standard model also allow trailer operation and installation of a roof-rack. A roof-tent and inflatable dinghy allow the remotest areas to be reached.
Very generous ground clearance
At 293 mm, the EQC 4×4² rides more than twice as high as a production EQC; even a G-Class is 58 mm lower. The fording depth is increased by 15 cm to 40 centimetres and, of course, all necessary measures are taken to protect the many electronic systems and battery pack.
The generous ground clearance is made possible by the conversion to portal axles. Unlike conventional axles, the wheels are not at the height of the axle centre but are instead situated much lower down on the axle hubs owing to the portal gears. Or conversely, the entire vehicle moves up.
The reprogrammed Off-Road drive programs take advantage of the high-performance logic of the current GLC models. For example, using targeted brake interventions, this enables an improved torque curve when starting on loose ground. In combination with the tyres (285/50R20), this results in very good traction.
Soundscape gives feedback to driver
Another highlight of the EQC 4×4² is the sound experience with its own ‘soundscape’. The acoustic production comprises sounds that give the driver feedback on system availability and vehicle parking. It is influenced by various parameters such as the position of the accelerator pedal, speed or energy recovery rate.
The technology uses intelligent sound design algorithms to calculate the sounds coming from the amplifier of the sound system in real time and the interior loudspeakers to reproduce them.
The production EQC uses the external noise generator (Acoustic Vehicle Alert System, AVAS) required by law to reproduce the sounds. The EQC 4×4² has a more powerful AVAS composed specifically for it and uses the headlamps as external speakers for this purpose. The reason for this is that the sound experts at Mercedes-Benz have made creative use of the available installation space in the headlamp housings – thus the ‘lampspeaker’ was born.
The EQC 4×4² is actually the third model of the 4×4² family from Mercedes-Benz. The G 500 4×4² has been around since September 2015, and in 2017, came the E 400 All-Terrain 4×4² study. For now, the EQC 4×4² remains a study, a vehicle for the engineers to test new technologies. However, if response from the public proves to be good and there is a business case, perhaps Mercedes-Benz will turn it into a production model in future.