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2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS First Drive: Luxury, Electrified

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/23/2021 Alexander Stoklosa,Courtesy of Manufacturer
a car parked on the side of a road: 2022 Mercedes Benz EQS15 © Courtesy of Manufacturer 2022 Mercedes Benz EQS15

You've seen the new Mercedes-Benz EQS' available dashboard-spanning Hyperscreen and probably commented on how the exterior looks like a jelly bean. Most likely, you wondered whether this electric luxury sedan is a Tesla wannabe with a three-pointed star on the nose. Nope. It's not.

During two days of relatively low-speed cruising through Switzerland, surrounded by the small country's expansive network of speed cameras and police itching to levy steep fines for even minor infractions, we never saw much more than 75 mph. Certainly we never engaged in anything that could be described as being "ludicrous," and we never saw Plaid. In fact, we didn't think much about Tesla or face-melting acceleration at all.

See, Mercedes has existed in some form or another since 1883. Tesla has been a going concern since 2003, and it only started producing mainstream electric vehicles about a decade ago. With that extra century of experience, Mercedes is rapidly catching up in the EV race, but it doesn't need gimmicks like horns that make farting noises, and it really doesn't need to beta-test vehicles using its customers. Indeed, Mercedes has a reputation that precedes it—one that doesn't include fawning apologists ready to swoop in and defend its missteps on Twitter.

It's old money versus new money, and the 2022 EQS sedan puts that difference on stark display, side-stepping in its Gucci loafers any attempt to face Tesla head-on as some kind of super-sedan, as have Porsche's Taycan and Audi's E-Tron GT. Instead, the EQS feels as special as its gas-fed equivalent, the standard-bearer S-Class limo; this one only happens to be electric, and Benz masterfully leverages quiet, swift electric powertrain technology to deliver an even better luxury experience.

a car parked in a parking lot © Courtesy of Manufacturer

Speed Isn't the Point

At launch, two versions of the EQS will be available: the all-wheel-drive EQS580 and the rear-drive EQS450+. No matter which EQS you buy, Mercedes tosses in the same 107.8-kWh battery pack; yes, that means the single-motor 450+ model is the range champion—properly equipped, it can travel 478 miles per charge, according to the optimistic European test cycle (final EPA figures are forthcoming). A dual-motor (one per axle) 580, by comparison, likely won't be able to travel as far as a similarly equipped 450+, although its computers constantly shuffle power between the two motors to maximize efficiency.

The EQS580's dual motors combine for 516 hp and 631 lb-ft of torque—with the rear motor being the same 329-hp, 419-lb-ft unit used in the EQS450+—and Mercedes says it'll reach 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. That's quick for something so large, but that 4.1 seconds is nearly twice as long as it'll take a Tesla Model S Plaid to reach the same speed. The EQS450+ moves more deliberately still, needing a claimed 5.9 seconds to reach 60.

A few rapid blasts on seemingly camera-free roads passing through cow pastures backed up what those numbers suggest. Launching the EQS580 doesn't feel like being punted forward as if rear-ended by a speeding Escalade. But the accelerative surge carries longer than you might expect, pressing you firmly into the armchair-comfy driver's seat as the EQS quietly builds speed. The 450+ is leisurely by comparison, though it feels as quick as, say, your average midsize luxury sedan.

We enjoyed the EQS far more when not bothering with figuring out if it could keep up with a Tesla on a dragstrip. The sedan is vault-quiet and pours itself down the road in well-isolated comfort. The 580 has a sensation of being heftier—indeed, it weighs just shy of 300 pounds more than the single-motor 450+, with a chunk of that mass added to the front end by the additional motor. Both EQSs ride on Mercedes-Benz's magic-carpet-ride air suspension, with adaptive dampers that firmed up just a smidge when the drive mode selector is flicked to Sport.

a person driving a car © Courtesy of Manufacturer


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Sit Back and Relax, the EQS Has This

Comfort aside, the EQS delivers some genuine steps forward in EV development. Take the brake system, for example. As in other EVs, it manages the electric motors' regenerative braking, using drag from the motor(s) to slow the vehicle and recapture energy that otherwise would be lost and sending it back to the battery. Also as in other EVs, below a certain speed or above a given braking threshold (such as in an emergency), the system switches over to engage the mechanical disc brakes at all four corners.

Benz's engineers found an elegant solution to the sometimes odd switchover between electronic and mechanical braking (which can engage even by lifting one's foot off the accelerator): The brake pedal moves itself to match the level of regenerative braking in effect when your foot isn't on it.

This ghost-in-the-machine movement ensures that, even in the EQS's most aggressive regenerative setting, as the vehicle slows, the pedal is located in a position equivalent to that braking force—so that when you put your foot on it to bring the EQS to a complete stop, you needn't push through false travel to match the computer's braking up to that point. The result is ultra-smooth deceleration, no matter when you physically get involved; the switchover between the electric and mechanical brakes is seamless.

A lot of the EQS' design drips with such conscientious engineering for minimizing the driver's effort. Every EQS gets rear-wheel steering, which can turn the rear wheels up to 10 degrees out of phase with the fronts at low speeds; along with software trickery, this allows for ultra-tight U-turns or—if you find yourself in Switzerland or on a good back road—snug switchback turns that require only a wrist-flick of the steering wheel. There's no hand-over-hand flailing like you might expect in a vehicle this large. In fact, while sportiness or fun clearly isn't the EQS' jam, the four-wheel steering shrinks this limousine-sized pod around you, making it feel like you're behind the wheel of a much smaller, more agile car. At higher speeds, the rear wheels move in phase with the fronts for a stabilizing effect.

a screen shot of a video game © Courtesy of Manufacturer

Hyperscreenplay

The EQS' much-hyped Hyperscreen option adheres to the same simplicity-is-luxury ethos. Even with three huge screens integrated into an intimidating piano-black panel running the width of the dashboard, the in-car electronics are more approachable than you'd expect. What configurability exists is limited. For the 12.3-inch driver information display, one can use a touchpad on the left side of the steering wheel to swipe through a handful of layout styles (including faux analog speed and power output gauges with info listed between them, the same with a navigation map in the middle, a full-screen navi display, or more modern gauge presentations); swiping up or down on the pad manipulates pared-back menu items on the driver screen.

On the 17.7-inch central display, you can use touch inputs or a touchpad on the right side of the steering wheel to make selections. Usefully, a physical "home" button sits at the bottom of the screen, alongside a "back" button. Users can opt to leave tiles for favorited menus along the bottom of the main screen, which displays primarily as a navigation map with menu shortcuts at the fringes. For example, we anchored audio and seat massage shortcuts down there during our drive.

Occupants can also verbally call out "Hey, Mercedes," and a query or request, and the onboard voice assistant will make it happen. This protocol has improved greatly since it was introduced a few years ago, and it seemed more capable of understanding natural-language requests. Your front-seat passenger can do almost everything they could on the central screen using their private screen on the right side of the dash, including inputting a navigation destination and "swiping" it from their display to the central one, which will kick on guidance for the driver. It's very impressive, and while the non-Hyperscreen setup (12.8-inch center display) isn't as jaw-dropping, it still looks slick and is every bit as straightforward to use.

Whether you think the outside of the EQS is worthy of similar praise is a matter of taste. Some think the EQS is a disappointing progression from the concept car that inspired it. We'll say this: You need to see the EQS in person. Lost in photos is the sheer scale of the thing—it's as big as an S-Class, falling within an inch of that limo's length, width, and wheelbase dimensions while being taller. What counts is that you can't see the outside from within, nor will you care—that's how sumptuous and quiet the cabin and driving experience is.

Mercedes-Benz of course lacks a monopoly on leveraging electric motors' smooth, torque-rich, and utterly silent operation. And deeper analysis of its charging and range capabilities will have to wait for a full test. But the brand has taken the electric sedan to its most luxurious conclusion so far, meaning that for now the EQS is everything a Mercedes should be and most of what a Tesla isn't.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS Specifications
PRICE $100,000 (est)
LAYOUT Rear- or front/rear-motor, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
MOTOR(S) 329-hp/419-lb-ft AC permanent-magnet motor; 187-hp/212-lb-ft front & 329-hp/419-lb-ft rear AC permanent-magnet motors, 516 hp/631 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 5,600-5,900 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 126.4 in
L x W x H 207.3 x 75.8 x 59.6 in
0-60 MPH 4.1-5.9 sec (mfr est
EPA FUEL ECON Not yet rated
ON SALE Winter 2021
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