How our COTY 2020 victor was decided

A premium electric SUV managed to snare the 2020 Wheels Car of the Year in the face of some very stiff opposition

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Crushing completeness, surprising suppleness and ripping refinement. These are just a few of the attributes that contributed to the fully electric Mercedes-Benz EQC winning the 2020 Wheels Car of the Year award.

This EV, the panel of seven judges agreed, was a premium family SUV that demanded no real concessions in terms of operational ease, comfort, performance, build quality, nor safety.

But before we delve further into its winning attributes, let’s deal with likely criticisms and potential shortfalls.

Yes, its price tag of $137,900 is a hefty one, so this is not an ‘everyman’s’ family wagon. But in the context of its competitor set – specifically, the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X – and its high level of standard equipment, the judges were convinced that the EQC represents solid value. 

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Be reminded too, that Wheels’ COTY aims to recognise automotive excellence, not just reward relative affordability.

“It’s by some margin the best SUV Mercedes has ever made” said veteran judge Byron Mathioudakis.

Compared to those two aforementioned rivals from Jaguar and Tesla, the design of the Mercedes is quite conventional. Downsides? It’s heavier, and doesn’t maximise the potential packaging advantages that the electric powertrain offers. But in the real world, its cabin provides ample space for a family of five and luggage, while its extra weight isn’t the handicap to performance or consumption that it may appear on paper.

As for the EQC’s EV powertrain, it could be argued that it’s not a radical game-changer in terms of outputs, battery density or range. Utilising an 80kWh battery with twin electric motors for outputs of 300kW and 760Nm, the EQC has a claimed WLTP range of 353km – a figure less than both the I-Pace and Model X, but more than the yet-to-arrive Audi e-tron. Our official road-loop consumption average was 30kWh/100km with spirited driving conditions. Further real-world testing saw that figure settle in the low 20s with more representative daily use. Customers will easily extract a driving range of 340km from a full charge, which will be ample for the vast majority in this segment.

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Then there’s the EQC’s instant torque and eager response as it piles on speed in an effortless, muscular, near-silent surge. Full-bore acceleration is deceptively quick; our 0-100km/h figure of 4.7sec beat Merc’s claim by almost half a second.

The other dynamic highlight is the suppleness of the chassis tune. With the long-travel dampers and relatively soft springs, it was agreed that this the best-riding Mercedes-Benz SUV bar none. “Soft, but not sloppy, with brilliant wheel control,” noted judge John Carey.

And did we mention it’s quiet? Only some wind rustle from the exterior mirrors above 100km/h mars the EQC’s eerie tranquillity, Tyre roar, which is a major shortcoming on the Tesla Model 3 (along with a pervading sense of cheapness for everything from seats, to trim, and build quality) is brilliantly supressed in the Mercedes.

“Simply one of the most complete and competent vehicles I’ve ever tested on the COTY route,” stated Byron. “Just so deeply impressive.”

Themes that were echoed by the other judges, as the EQC quietly glided to near-unanimous COTY victory.


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