Mercedes-Benz EQC 4×4²: This Is What Happens When You Give an EV Portal Axles

The electric off-roader’s headlamps also act as loudspeakers, so Mercedes calls them “lampspeakers.”

byMáté Petrány|
Electric Vehicles photo


Mercedes-Benz has been in love with portal axles ever since it acquired the Unimog brand in 1950. The automaker bought out the business initially owned by German tool builder Boehringer and has since perfected the design originally thought up by Albert Friedrich and Heinrich Rößler. Instead of designating the equipment for use in relatively simple trucks and SUVs, Benz has now built an electric vehicle with portal axles, creating the go-anywhere EQC 4x4² Concept.

The key here is that the wheels are not at the height of the axle center but instead situated much lower down on the axle hubs owing to the portal gears. This provides superior wheel articulation and ever-crucial ground clearance, meaning this EV can traverse obstacles that would leave normal Jeeps struggling.

Previously, Mercedes-Benz went all in with the now military-only classic G-Wagen, launching the bonkers G500 4x4 Squared as a limited edition of 416-horsepower portal axle G-Classes. Brabus then managed to tune the 4x4² idea up to 700 horses, which may be a riot, yet still wouldn't fix the vehicle's center of gravity, leading to one getting flipped after being T-boned by a Toyota Prius. Daimler's crew then followed up with a radical and equally unfeasible study called the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain 4x4² wagon, which turned a mid-size family car into an all-conquering portal axle beast running on 31-inch tires. Unfortunately, this E-Class had to remain the prototype of our camping dreams.

Now, Mercedes-Benz decided to tease us once again, going for a concept based on the EQC 400 4MATIC SUV.

The EQC 4x4² was built by the same team which did the aforementioned E-Class wagon. Compared to a regular all-wheel-drive EQC 400, this rig features a portal axle suspension mounted at the regular points, which lifts the SUV from 7.08 inches to 11.53 inches. This raise makes the EQC 4x4² ride 2.28-inches higher than a standard G-Class.

The electric SUV's fording depth has been increased from 5.9 inches to 15.74 inches, while approach and departure angles have been pushed to 31.8 degrees at the front and 33 degrees at the rear. Once again, the G-Class and its approach and departure angle of 28 degrees have been outclassed.

Mercedes says that despite the EQC 4x4² running on 20-inch wheels wrapped in 285/50 Cooper Zeon LTZ all-season tires, this electric off-roader's turning circle remains small thanks to the axle kinematics with the four-link setup at the front. This EQC can also tow your trailer and, of course, utilize the same roof-rack tent as the standard model.

The production EQC uses the external noise generator (Acoustic Vehicle Alert System, AVAS) required by law to reproduce custom-curated sounds. The EQC 4x4² got a system as beefed up as its suspension, composed specifically for it by using the headlamps as external speakers. Mercedes found enough installation space in the headlamp housings to create what it now calls the "lampspeaker".

So, portal axles, matte metallic gun-metal grey wrapping, black wheel arch flares and a banging loudspeaker to let nature know you're coming.

Markus Schäfer, member of the Board responsible for Daimler Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars COO., Mercedes-Benz

When it comes to electric off-roading, do you prefer this Benz concept, Bollinger's startup approach, Rivian's desert-ready pickups and SUVs, or GMC's crab-walking Hummer EV? Mind you, the original Hummer H1 does come with portal axles, and can also be converted to electric drive...if you've got the money.

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