Presentation of the electric G-Wagen
The EQG will be Mercedes-Benz’s battery-electric choice in the G-Class and will go on sale in 2024 as a 2025 model. As the company electrifies and decarbonizes, not even an icon like the G-Class goes unnoticed, although the development of an electric G-Wagen is certainly not the work of a moment.
That’s because the EQG “isn’t an SUV,” points out Emmerich Schiller, CEO of Mercedes-Benz’s G-Class sub-brand – it’s a 4×4 and a true G-Class. The EQG is therefore subject to the same strict test regulations as its gas engine counterparts. That means this battery-electric wagon survived the winding 1,240-mile off-road test route around the Schöckl mountain, which overshadows the home of the G-Class in Graz, Austria.
A real G-Class
As the EQG is still a prototype and a few years away from production, we don’t know the specifics of the powertrain. There’s a battery, of course, and fitting it was a challenge because the G-Class is expected to have to survive off-road. This leads to problems not common to battery electric vehicles – dust, water, twisting forces and impacts from rocks and the like.
To make that possible, the G-Class engineers didn’t just take one of Mercedes-Benz’s existing EQ platforms and put a G-Class body on it. Instead they used a strong ladder frame chassis and designed the batteries and motors to match. The battery itself actually forms part of the structure of the ladder frame and is therefore slightly more rigid than the internal combustion engine car’s substructure. Regardless of the capacity and chemistry of the battery, we can tell that it powers four electric motors.
How does the EQG drive?
We’d love to tell you exactly how the EQG feels behind the wheel, but such early access dictates that we’re currently passengers in this prototype EQG. It’s a very insightful drive though, and it helps that it’s the same test track where Mercedes-Benz launched the current-generation 2019 model year G-Class. We tackled this route earlier in the day with the monstrous Mercedes-AMG G 63 4×4 Squared with portal axle. So we know how demanding the track is.
In front of us is a G 550 Professional with the photographer and while it would be wrong to say he’s struggling, the rider doesn’t have it as easy as I did in the EQG prototype. The insistence of Schiller and his team that the EQG drives off-road at least as well as its combustion engine relatives is underscored here. Indeed, the way the EQG is able to harness the instantaneous torque of these four electric motors and distribute its drive faster and more accurately than a traditional all-wheel-drive system means it’s completely unfazed by the difficult terrain it’s rolling over .
No one reveals how much power the engines develop, but for an EQS SUV 580 rated at 536hp, a number in the 600hp range seems reasonable for the EQG and is in line with the performance we’ve experienced from it.
There’s a low-range transfer case – there are actually four of them, one for each engine. Combined with selectable G-drive options (including a Creeper mode), the hardware makes the EQG feel almost unstoppable off-road. It does all of this silently too, crushing the only sounds coming from the ground beneath the tires as the EQG conquers the rugged topography.
A bit bumpy at this stage
This prototype lacks some of the comfort of its stock proportions, largely because the cabin features the type of test equipment required at this stage of its development. Similarly, there’s also fabric covering much of the interior, although there’s no hiding that, the later production EQG will be as spoiled, comfortable and luxurious as you’d expect at this price point. The EQG is expected to cost around $200,000 before all options, more than the current AMG G 63.
While some might miss the roar and roar that comes with the V8 engines that power the rest of the G-Class range, the EQG’s electric powertrain brings a composure that’s instrumental in creating luxury and comfort. That’s true whether you’re effortlessly crawling up or down a ridiculously steep mountainside, or engaging in more conventional, slightly less adventurous on-road riding.
Typical Mercedes strengths and a few tricks up the sleeve
We are familiar with the interior of the G-Class from the current line-up and have nothing to complain about. Indeed, the lack of masking noise from a combustion engine powertrain only serves to emphasize how well the interior is built – there are no squeaks or rattles in the cabin, even when driven in extreme off-road conditions.
Mercedes-Benz will certainly be making some visual and specification revisions to the interior (and exterior) of the EQG for the eventual production model, which will serve to highlight the different drive it delivers. Basically, however, it retains the high-quality workmanship, the latest MBUX infotainment from Mercedes-Benz and the generous amount of space of the current G-Class models.
As the definitive pinnacle of the G-Class range, the EQG should have all the bells and whistles. Expect it to be equipped with all Mercedes-Benz active driver and safety aids, connectivity and convenience features. As with existing EQ models, there will be additional functionality in the MBUX infotainment system related to load scheduling, preheating and the like, and the EQG will also benefit from some unique EQG buttons, just one of which Mercedes-Benz engineers were ready to reveal during our early access.
Where the regular G-Class has the off-road buttons on the center console, the EQG has an additional pair. One is covered up for now, but the other allows what Mercedes-Benz calls a “G-turn”. Just push it off-road, and the individual electric motors spin in one direction on the driver’s side and in the opposite direction on the other. This allows the EQG to rotate within its own length and rotate much like a tracked vehicle. This ability is unique to the four individual motors, and while potentially useful in tight off-road situations, the G-Turn really demonstrates the unique potential for maneuverability offered by its electric powertrain, which can be of great benefit both on and off the road as well as in the field.
No frunk, no problem
The G-Class engineers appear to have integrated all of those electric motors, the battery, and all of the associated control electronics, and heating and ventilation equipment into the space normally occupied by the combustion engine, transmission, and 4×4 hardware. So, unlike some electrified models that free up space under the hood, there’s no storage space. But the EQG still delivers the huge boot and generous passenger accommodations of the current G-Class.
300 miles range is possible
Nobody’s ready to debate battery capacity or chemistry, but we do know that in keeping with the rest of the EQ offering, the EQG will take elements from the existing parts and adjust them accordingly. So it’s to be expected that the G-Class will come with the largest battery currently offered in the EQ range, namely the 108kWh battery used in the EQS and the EQS SUV. Given the expected weight, which we estimate to be around 6,600 pounds, and the less-than-smooth aerodynamics of the G-Class, we’d suggest a potential max range in the 310-mile range. During our long off-road ride, it only used about 7% to 8% of its charge, balancing energy use on the climbs with useful regeneration on the descents.
Mercedes-Benz is known to be developing battery packs with higher density and up to 20% more capacity, and rumors are circulating that the G-Class could be the first EQ production model to receive these new cells. Given the volume and aerodynamics of the EQG, any advantage such batteries could bring would certainly be put to good use here.
In terms of charge times, the fastest chargers allow current EQ models to charge from 10% to 80% capacity in around 30 minutes. It is unthinkable that the EQG is offered with less power and even benefits from even faster charging technology. After all, current EQ models use a 400-volt architecture, while competitors like the Porsche Taycan use an 800-volt system for faster charging.