This is not a van. My son was adamant on this point. While he's as keen as any 11-year-old might be on supercars, sports cars, fast saloons and hot hatchbacks, like all kids what he really craves is space to play around in. Thus, the Mercedes-Benz EQV jumped right up his list of desirable vehicles.
But it's not a van. Not according to him, anyway. In spite of being based on the Mercedes Viano – which the last time I checked is very definitely a panel van – and having the tall sides, boxy body and stunted nose of a van, the EQV is so much more than that. In the end, my son came up with the perfect official title for it: it's a Stealth-Drive Mobile Command Post.
It’s early. It always is on a school run morning, so we’re up at about half-six. The EQV (sorry – Stealth-Drive Mobile Command Post) was driven up from Dublin the evening before, and displayed uncommonly refined and soothing manners on that long motorway haul. Better yet, it also displayed an uncanny ability to hit its marks when it comes to battery use.
Under the floor, beneath those comfy leather-bound seats, there lies a 100kW h battery (with 90kW h of that available to the driver) and that gives the EQV surprisingly long legs – up to 350km on a full charge, according to the WLTP test. Thanks to living in a terraced house, I topped up that big battery on the way home on a rapid DC public charger (which can refill the EQV’s battery at a speed of up to 110kW) so the range is currently holding at around 340km. More than sufficient for today’s duties. The top speed, to help maintain range on longer motorway runs, is limited to 140km/h.
Washed, shaved, and breakfasted, we head out towards the Mobile Command Post and with a push of a button on the key the EQV’s best trick is revealed: remote-powered sliding side doors that whirr open as you approach. They’re not perhaps the greatest innovation ever (lots of other cars have had them) but I think they’re the best feature on show here. Obviously, you enter the EQV through these doors – not the prosaic, conventional doors at the front – and clamber into the driver’s seat as if hauling yourself into the cockpit of a vintage aircraft.
Once there, you’ll notice a dichotomy. The EQV is luxurious, with lots of high-gloss wood and leather, but it gives away its commercial vehicle origins in a few areas. That key that you used to open the doors? It’s still a physical key, and you have to slot it into the dash and twist it to wake everything up.
The instruments, borrowed from the outgoing C-Class, are simple and old-fashioned – but thankfully also clear and handsome – analogue dials, while the big screen in the centre seems easier and less overwhelming than the full-width MBUX setup of Merc’s latest passenger cars (even if it uses the same awkward trackpad controller).
Comfort is very high on the agenda. You sit up high in the cab (cockpit? Bridge?), looking down on mere Range Rover drivers, cosseted and comforted by a leather captain-style chair. Behind you is veritable acreage of room and seats. You can have your EQV with six seats as standard, or seven (as with our test car), or even eight. All, even those in the very last row, will have more than adequate space for adults, and even when all seats are filled, there's still a gigantic 1,030-litre boot out the back.
Twist that old-school key and the EQV’s electric system comes to life. This being the EQV 300 model (there isn’t any other available as yet) it has a 204hp electric motor, driving the front wheels. That may not sound like a lot for a vehicle – sorry, Command Post – weighing 2,635kg, but it also has 362Nm of torque, which is not “loads” but is “adequate”. Certainly, there are no complaints as we pull silently out into traffic, and in spite of its size and heft, the EQV slips smoothly along.
It rides with authority over pock-marked city streets (helped by the weight and a massive 3.2-metre wheelbase) and refinement inside is very good indeed – there’s little of the squeaking and grumbling of interior trim that usually accompanies MPVs made out of vans.
Indeed, the EQV is far better in that regard than its primary rival, the outgoing Volkswagen Caravelle. The steering is a little slow, as you might imagine, and requires big inputs. Whatever else it is, the EQV is not agile and pin-sharp, but neither is it as whale-like as you might imagine; helped by the reversing camera and front parking sensors, we work our way through the gaps easily enough.
At the school gates, we whirr past the ranks of serried petrol and diesel cars, so many of them needlessly idling, engines on. As the side door whirrs back, allowing the boy to deploy, there are the expected oohs and aahs from passing classmates. If nothing else, the EQV grants you some serious dad points at the drop-off.
Then again, it would want to. The list price of our test EQV is – wait for it – €99,006. A hundred grand, even for a car with that badge, seems trauma-inducing, not least because whatever our pretensions towards it being that Mobile Command Post, it is still ultimately a van.
The penny drops, though. The EQV is not really intended for family use. It’s a chauffeur-service car, an airport shuttle, and the big upfront cost matters so much less when you remember that commercial users can write off the capital cost against tax. Add that to its zero-local-emissions running, and its ability to fuel from the mains, not a pump, and you have a car (van, mobile command post) that makes enormous (no pun intended) sense for the right kind of operator.
The thing is, it's also close to being a perfect family car, and if you remember that a Tesla Model X costs pretty much the same, and can offer more one-charge range with much less interior space, perhaps it's not so bad. Whirring smugly away from the school gates, my Cool Dad coffers nicely topped-up, I know which six-figure electric car my (entirely notional) budget would be spent on.
And, remember, it’s not a van.
Lowdown: Mercedes-Benz EQV 300
Power: 150kW electric motor putting out 204hp and 362Nm of torque with a single-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120).
Range (WLTP): 350km.
Electric consumption: 26.3kWh/100km.
0-100km/h: 12.1 seconds.
Price: €99,006 as tested; EQV starts at €97,005.
Verdict: Hugely expensive, but then it's also hugely versatile. And just huge.