- The EQG is a new, all-electric version of the classic G-wagen
- Four electric motors allow the EQG to rotate in place
- Hugely impressive off-road
- Will be introduced in 2024, likely as a 2025 model year vehicle
The EQG will be Mercedes-Benz’s battery electric choice in the G-Class range, due to go on sale in 2024 as a 2025 model. As the company electrifies and decarbonizes, not even an icon like the G-Class is overlooked, though creating an electric G-wagen certainly isn’t the work of a moment.
That because the EQG "isn’t an SUV’" insists Emmerich Schiller, CEO of Mercedes-Benz’s G-Class sub-brand — it’s a 4x4, and a true G-Class. As such, the EQG is subject to the same arduous testing regime as its gas-engine counterparts. That means this battery-electric has endured the tortuous 1,240-mile off-road test route around the Schöckl mountain, which shadows the G-Class’ home in Graz, Austria.
Because the EQG is still a prototype, and is a couple of years away from production, we don't know powertrain specifics. Naturally there is a battery, and it’s been a challenge to get it in, because in the G-Class the expectation is that it’ll need to survive off-road. This creates issues not usual in battery electric vehicles — dust, water, twisting forces, and impacts from rocks and the like.
To enable that, the G-Class engineers haven’t simply adopted one of Mercedes-Benz’s existing EQ platforms and put a G-Class body on top. Instead they utilized a strong ladder frame chassis and engineered the batteries and motors to fit. The battery itself actually forms part of the ladder frame’s structure, and it’s a touch stiffer than the combustion engine car’s underpinnings as a result. Whatever the battery’s capacity and chemistry, we can reveal that it powers four electric motors.
We’d love to tell you exactly how the EQG feels from the behind the wheel, but such early access dictates we’re currently passengers in this EQG prototype. It’s a very revealing ride, though, and it’s helpful that it's around the same testing route that Mercedes-Benz used to launch the current generation of G-Class for the 2019 model year. We tackled this route earlier in the day driving the monstrous, portal-axled Mercedes-AMG G 63 4x4 Squared. We know just how demanding the route is, then.
There’s a G 550 Professional ahead containing the photographer, and while it would be wrong to say it’s struggling, the driver isn’t having as easy a time of it as mine is in the EQG prototype. Schiller and his team’s insistence that the EQG drives with at least the same ability as its combustion engine relatives off-road is underlined here. Indeed, the way the EQG can exploit the instant torque from those four electric motors as well as apportion its drive more quickly and accurately than a conventional four-wheel-drive system means it feels utterly unfazed by the difficult terrain it’s rolling over.
Nobody is revealing how much power the motors are developing, but with an EQS SUV 580’s output rated at 536 horsepower, a figure in the 600-hp range for the EQG would seem reasonable and in line with the performance we experienced from it.
There’s a low-range transfer box — actually there are four of them, one for each motor. Combined with selectable G drive choices (including a Creeper mode), the hardware makes the EQG feel all but unstoppable off-road. It does all this silently, too, the only sounds coming from the ground under the tires being crushed in submission as the EQG conquers the rugged topography.
This prototype lacks some of the comfort of its production relations, chiefly because the cabin features the sort of testing equipment that’s required in this phase of its development. Similarly, there’s fabric covering much of the interior, too, though there’s no hiding that, the eventual production EQG will be as cosseting, comfortable and luxurious as you’d expect in this level of high-dollar purchase. The expectation is that the EQG will retail for around $200,000 before any options, more than the current range-topping AMG G 63.
While some might miss the bluster and blare that comes with the V8s that power the rest of the G-Class lineup, the EQG’s electric powertrain brings a serenity that’s instrumental in adding luxury and comfort. That’s true whether it’s creeping effortlessly up or down a ridiculously precipitous mountain side, or undertaking more conventional, somewhat less adventurous driving on the road.
We’re familiar with the G-Class interior from the current lineup, and we have no complaints. Indeed, the lack of masking sound from a combustion engine powertrain only serves to highlight just how well built the interior is — there's no squeaking or rattling in the cabin, even when it's being driven in extreme conditions off-road.
Mercedes-Benz is certain to make some visual and specification revisions to the EQG’s interior (and exterior) for the eventual production model, which will serve to highlight the differing propulsion it’s delivering. Fundamentally, though, it’ll retain the fine quality finish, Mercedes-Benz’s latest MBUX infotainment and plentiful space of the current G-Class models.
As the eventual pinnacle of the G-Class lineup, the EQG should come with all the bells and whistles. Expect it to be loaded with all of Mercedes-Benz’s active driver and safety aids, connectivity and comfort and convenience equipment. As with existing EQ models, there’ll be additional functionality within the MBUX infotainment system, in relation to the charging scheduling, preheating and such, and the EQG will also benefit from a couple of unique EQG buttons, only one of which Mercedes-Benz’s engineers were prepared to reveal during our early access.
Where the off-road buttons exist in the center console in the regular G-Class, there’s a pair of additional ones in the EQG. One is covered up for now, but the other allows what Mercedes-Benz describes as the "G-Turn." Press it, while off-road only, and the individual electric motors turn one way on the driver's side and the opposite way on the other side. Doing that allows the EQG to turn within its own length, rotating much like a tracked vehicle can. That ability is a quirk of capability from the four individual motors, and while it is potentially useful in tight off-road situations, what the G-Turn really demonstrates is the unique potential for maneuverability that its electric drivetrain delivers, which can be hugely advantageous both on- and off-road.
The G-Class engineers appear to have incorporated all those electric motors, the battery and all the associated control electronics and heating and ventilation equipment within the space usually occupied by the internal combustion engine, gearbox and 4x4 hardware. Unlike some electrified models that free up the space under the hood, so there’s no frunk storage. But the EQG still delivers the huge trunk and generous passenger accommodations of the current G-Class.
Nobody’s prepared to discuss the battery capacity or chemistry, but we do know that in line with the rest of the EQ offerings, the EQG will pick elements from the existing parts and adapt them to suit. It’s reasonable to expect then that the G-Class will come with the biggest battery that’s currently offered in the EQ lineup, that being the 108-kWh one that’s used in the EQS and EQS SUV. Given the anticipated weight, which we estimate at around 6,600 pounds, and the less than slippery aerodynamics of the G-Class, we’d suggest a potential maximum range in the region of 310 miles. During our lengthy drive off-road, it used only around 7%-8% of its charge, with energy draw on the ascents countered by useful regeneration when descending.
Mercedes-Benz is known to be developing higher-density battery packs, with as much as 20% more capacity, and rumors are circulating that the G-Class might be the first EQ production model to receive these new cells. Certainly, given the EQG’s bulk and aerodynamics, any advantage such batteries could bring would be put to good use here.
With regard to charging times, the fastest chargers allow current EQ models to charge from 10% to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes. It is inconceivable that the EQG will be offered with any less capability, and, indeed, may benefit from even faster charging technology. After all, current EQ models use a 400-volt architecture, while rivals like the Porsche Taycan use an 800-volt system for quicker charging.
Electrifying the G-Class is a bold statement of intent from Mercedes-Benz, not least because it’s a herculean task to retain all the G-Class’ off-road ability and on-road luxury. Our early ride in the prototype EQG demonstrates that the addition of batteries and, crucially, four individual electric motors has created a G-Class that can tread more authoritatively in extreme off-road conditions yet tread more lightly environmentally. That’s a very impressive feat, and one that underlines that while electrification might be a necessity, it’s also an opportunity.