June 14, 2024


Automotive pure lust

2021 Mercedes-Benz EQA250 Is a Half-Hearted EV

What does an electric future look like? Driving the newest electric vehicles usually provides a picture of the latest and greatest in EV progress, but the Mercedes-Benz EQA is more like a snapshot of the recent past. Based on the internal-combustion GLA rather than a standalone platform, the EQA seems to hail from the first generation of EVs—slow, with limited range, trading more on perceived virtuosity than actual virtue. In terms of performance, it has a long way to go to catch a current Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Bolt, let alone cars of a similar price range, such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E or Tesla Model 3.

The EQA, which we drove on its home turf near Stuttgart, Germany, at least looks the part of a Mercedes. It’s entry-level opulence at its finest, especially when the Electric Art version is specified, with black and rose-gold seats, rose-gold air vents, and backlit decor strips on the dashboard. Our test car was thus equipped and also showcased the plethora of electronic gadgets that populate the compact Mercedes models.

Outside, the EQA shares its sheetmetal with the GLA, but Gorden Wagener’s design team has uncluttered the front and rear ends to align this little electric crossover with the other offerings under the Mercedes EQ subbrand. The EQA-exclusive wheels look suitably futuristic and no doubt help reduce drag.

As in the gas-powered GLA, the EQA’s powerplant, in this case a 188-hp induction motor, is fitted under the hood and drives the front axle through a single-speed gear set. This means there is no space for a front trunk and the rear load floor is slightly raised to make room for the 66.5-kWh battery pack. The floor is also raised, which creates a less comfortable experience in the rear seat. There is plenty of space between the rear bench and the front seats, but the elevated floor forces the rear passengers into a slightly froglike position. The cabin is otherwise comfortable and well appointed, as it is in the GLA.

In Europe the EQA250, the only currently available model, is priced slightly above the 221-hp GLA250, whose performance it fails to match (and by a considerable margin). The 188-hp motor, which produces 277 pound-feet of torque, is hampered by the EQA’s remarkable heft. It tips the scales at almost 4500 pounds. The immediate response of the motor makes this car fun to drive in the city, but Mercedes’s claimed zero-to-62-mph time of 8.9 seconds is far in arrears of either the GLA250 (zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds) or any EV that might remotely be considered a competitor. Beyond 60 mph, performance trails off, and the EQA250 is electronically limited to 99 mph. We feel it could do perhaps another 15 mph, which would help matters on the autobahn but likely put a major dent in the range.

On the plus side, the powertrain is very quiet—even more so than many other EVs we have driven. And it’s fun to play with the configurable energy regeneration settings. We also noticed that even after repeated 60-to-99-mph runs, output was never dialed back. The performance, while modest, is at least consistent.

In the current, almost comically optimistic European NEDC cycle, the EQA250 is rated at 302 miles of range. We got half of that, but admittedly we pushed the car to its modest limits. On the other hand, the weather was fair, and in other circumstances the range could drop even lower. Mercedes says you can help the EQA get the most out of its battery by informing the navigation system of your destination before you set off. That way, the car can adjust its powertrain strategies according to the topography to maximize range.

Going forward, there will be both a range-optimized EQA and a more powerful version with 268 horsepower and all-wheel drive. The latter will offer improved straight-line performance, but since it will be even heavier than the EQA250, we doubt it will do much to win over driving enthusiasts.

In fact, everything that Mercedes-Benz has achieved with the MFA platform over the past decade—precision, agility, lightness—is lost in the EV conversion. The EQA250 wallows around country roads with an abundance of squat, dive, and roll and a remarkable lack of excitement. Brake feel is particularly bad during enthusiastic driving, and during hard cornering the stability-control system reins in the car with a rude display of authority. It should be mentioned that our test car was shod with 215/60R-18 winter tires; performance should somewhat improve with the standard 235/55R-18 summer tires. Not that compact luxury crossovers see much off-road use, but the EQA even suffers in that hypothetical use case. Because of the huge battery pack, its breakover angle is less than that of the GLA.

Mercedes-Benz has not decided yet whether the EQA will be offered in the United States market or whether the upcoming EQB, a derivative of the GLB, will make it across the Atlantic. Best kept in the city—or the suburbs, where people can charge it at home—the EQA250 serves as a stark reminder that EVs still come with sacrifices. This one more than most.

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