Jeremy Clarkson: I like the Mercedes-Benz EQC but electric cars are still not for me

'As battery-powered cars go, it's pretty good. But I don't think it's as good as Jaguar's I-Pace.'

DESPITE MAKING the announcement last week that he’s sold on the idea of man made climate change, Jeremy Clarkson is showing no signs of letting go of his apathy towards electric cars.

The Sunday Times columnist has gone on the record to say “rest assured I’m never going to buy one, ever“, and was appalled that the most recent pure-electric car he tested (the Jaguar I-Pace he reviewed in December 2018) tripped his home’s fuse box when he plugged it into a wall socket.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC, which appears in today’s Sunday Times Magazine, was unlikely to garner a glowing write-up from Clarkson, then. But in a surprise twist, the Grand Tour host says he enjoyed his time with the big, battery-powered SUV — albeit with plenty of caveats and provisos.

One of the few areas he had no issues with was the EQC’s performance. Despite tipping the scales at a not-inconsiderable 2,495kg (making the car weigh, according to Clarkson, “exactly the same as Nottinghamshire”), it’s no slouch in a straight line; the 402bhp and 561 lb ft of torque from the electric motor making the Merc “really quick” when you stomp on the accelerator pedal.

Clarkson says that he suspects all that weight (and the fact it’s based on the combustion engine-powered Mercedes-Benz GLC’s platform) is probably why its range of 259 miles per charge isn’t as good as the 270 miles claimed by its rival the Audi e-tron, nor the up-to-292-mile Jaguar I-Pace. This also, he says, makes longer drives quite challenging when you have limited access to charging facilities.

“I can’t charge an electric car at home in the Cotswolds,” Clarkson claims, “because it blows all the fuses, and I can’t charge one in London because I live on the top floor or a tower block. So I’d have to make it there and back on one charge, which is doable. But only just.”

He also rejects the idea that he could simply recharge the EQC en route. While the car has built-in sat nav that can direct the driver to the nearest charging point, Clarkson was sceptical of the information’s accuracy.  The feature “didn’t know” about the points at the Soho Farmhouse club house, he claimed.

Other Merc quirks that got on the Sunday Times columnist’s nerves included an infotainment interface with “all sorts of graphics that, at first, make no sense”, and an all-wheel drive system that apparently couldn’t cope with the slippery conditions on his farm.

And cosmetic details, such as how the car’s front is designed to resemble a radiator grille despite it not needing a radiator, attracted Clarkson’s ire.

By far his biggest issue with the Mercedes, though, was how expensive it is. He wrote: “Although it’s a five-door hatchback, the version I tested costs an enormous £74,610 before the plug-in grant. I have never been so amazed by a price tag. It’s almost exactly twice what I’d guessed.”

Despite his indifference towards electric cars, Clarkson concludes his road test with some fairly sound consumer advice. “Is it worth it? Well, if your lifestyle could accommodate electric propulsion, then yes. As battery-powered cars go, it’s pretty good. But I don’t think it’s quite as good — and it definitely isn’t as good-looking — as Jaguar’s cleverer, purpose-built I-Pace.”

Read Jeremy Clarkson’s full review of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC at The Sunday Times website.