Mercedes turned its cushy electric SUV into an epic jacked-up off-roader

Mercedes has turned its EQC electric SUV into something a whole lot more interesting, making a true off-road beast of an EV that hints at where future extreme models could take the brand. The Mercedes-Benz EQC 4x4² borrows the core tech of the EQC 400 4MATIC and then cranks it up on multi-link portal axles for incredible clearance when the going gets rough.

Indeed, the 293 mm – more than 11.5 inches – of ride height is over twice what the production EQC can offer. Compared to the venerable G-Class, itself hardly a weakling when it comes to off-roading, there's 58mm (2.3 inches) more height from the EV.

If you're unfamiliar, portal axles basically give the wheels some stilts. Rather than putting them at the height of the axle center, there's a stack of portal gears that allows the axle to be shifted up and massively increase clearance underneath. We've seen Mercedes use it before to good effect with previous SUVs, but never on an all-electric one.

The result is not only the ability to trundle over larger rocks without issue, but an increase in capabilities elsewhere too. Fording depth, for example, is now 15.75-inches, almost 6-inches more than the regular EQC. The approach angle is now 31.8-degrees, and the departure angle is 33-degrees. Compared to the G-Class – again, an SUV that's well-respected for its off-road abilities – they're considerably higher than its 28-degrees front and rear.

Electrification, meanwhile, pays dividends in other ways. The ability to precisely adjust the amount of torque going to the wheels with electric accuracy makes for an improvement in traction control, Mercedes says. Adding in targeted taps of the brakes, and the torque curve for starting off on loose ground is improved, too.

Big wheels help, of course, with 285/50 R 20 tires that look the part as much as they add grip. Black wheel arch flares and a matte metallic gunmetal grey wrap leave the EQC 4x4² looking suitably menacing.

It sounds the part, too. Just as the regular EQC has a noise generator intended to warn pedestrians that an otherwise quiet EV is nearby – something regulations require – so too the EQC 4x4² makes a soundtrack of its own. It's more powerful, however, Mercedes says, using the headlamps as external speakers. They play a combination of tones generated by the real-time position of the accelerator, the SUV's speed, and its energy recovery rate.

Sadly, this is all just a "drivable study," Mercedes says, intended to demonstrate that its electric range may be environmentally-conscious but it doesn't have to be boring. The EQ line-up is part of a big push by the automaker to capitalize on electric vehicles, which will see two new platforms – one for larger EVs, the other for small and midsize models – launch in the coming years.