What's the best electric vehicle for off-roading? | Top Gear
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Friday 9th June

What's the best electric vehicle for off-roading?

This Mercedes-Benz electric SUV will make short work of any terrain you can throw at it

They are a hardy bunch, off-roaders. The sort of people who get up early on a day when they could be sleeping late, waking up for a nice cup of coffee and some form of eggs for breakfast. They’ll seek out the roughest and most impassable sections of terrain in the sincere hope that their car will fail dramatically and they’ll have to spend hours getting it out with ropes or spades or a Chinook.

These people must be wired very differently to the likes of us, and they have very different requirements when it comes to choosing a new car. Not for them something nippy, or practical. Something that’ll zip around town or sips away at petrol without causing too much fuss. They like cars that are big and brash and terrifying, usually smoky ones that announce their arrival at least six minutes before they get there anyway.

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These drivers usually have a very long list of reasons why they couldn’t possibly go electric, even though no one is forcing them to for a long time. Back in 2020 Mercedes-Benz answered all those questions in one fell swoop as it revealed a shockingly modified version of its EQC electric SUV with an 80kWh battery fitted (good for over 200 miles of range, although that's probably on actual roads) and an impressive 400bhp at your foot.

This car was known as the EQC 4x42, although they could have just called it the EQC 64 for clarity. Mercedes board members talked about the emotional appeal of the electric off-roader, saying that the car showed “how enjoyable sustainable mobility can be”, as if the warm fuzzy glow of going electric wasn’t quite enough.

Mercedes really didn’t skimp on the 4x4 upgrades – the 150mm of extra ground clearance was afforded by fitting a portal axle, which meant that the wheels weren’t fitted at the height of axle centre. The 20-inch off-roading tyres certainly lent a bit of visual flair, mind, and with a roof tent and inflatable dinghy stashed in the roof rack you’d be solidly equipped for every eventuality.

The technical upgrades meant that the EQC bested the G-Class on some measures – departure angles of 32 degrees at the front and 33 at the back versus the G-Class’s 28 degrees on both. Mercedes was able to tune the delivery of power through the electric motor too, with a range of reprogrammed off-road drive modes to suit the car.

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One final touch was the beefing up of the legally required acoustic vehicle alert system (electric cars have to play sounds so you don’t get run over when you can’t hear them sneaking up behind you), integrating the speakers into the headlights.

Now, you might be thinking that this is the sort of car that’s right up Tom Ford’s wheel housing, and you’d be right. You can read all about his adventure driving the EQC 4x42 up a mountain in Italy here.

Sadly the car isn’t destined for production, which means that there’s still a space in the market for a car that will truly put the green back into greenlaning.

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