Ladies and gents, give a warm welcome to what must be 2020’s least likely off-roader. It’s the Mercedes EQC 4x4², and it follows the same mantra as the similarly-badged version of the previous-gen G-Class: more ride height, extra chassis beef, and the capability to pull off some impressive flex.
Taking the plug-in, fully-electric EQC 400 as a starting point, Mercedes has boosted the ride height by 293mm - not just twice the clearance of the standard car, but also 58mm loftier than the current G-Class.
It now has portal axles, and 20-inch beadlock wheels shod in chunkier tyres. 100mm wheel arch extensions cover the EQC’s widened track, but otherwise, the bodywork is all as standard. There isn’t even any underbody protection - because the battery mounted at the base of the EQC is so well protected, the 4x4² simply doesn’t need any cladding down there.
It manages 31.8 and 33-degree approach and departure angles, which is slightly better than a G-Class, and in another league compared to a normal EQC, which manages just 20.6 and 20.0 degrees. The wading depth is a long way off the G at 400mm, but still a big improvement on a showroom-fresh EQC’s 250mm fording ability.
It’s had some electronic tweaks, too. There’s a reprogrammed off-road driving mode, plus a reworked version of the Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS). This is the noise generator the EQC is required to have by law - so pedestrians know there’s a two and a half tonne SUV trundling down the road they’re about to cross - but here, Mercedes’ engineers have had a bit of fun with it.
The system is more powerful and uses the headlamp housings as speakers, which Mercedes has christened ‘Lampspeakers’.
The point of all this? We’re not entirely sure, but it isn’t to preview a production vehicle, by the looks of it. Mercedes COO Markus Schäfer says, “The EQC 4x4² shows how enjoyable sustainable mobility can be,” which makes sense since the car’s true purpose is likely to pave the way for the rumoured all-electric G-Class.