Spent a day Driving a pre-production 2022 Mercedes Benz EQS gave an in-depth look at what the German automaker did with the billions of dollars it spent on electrification.
The EQS is a carefully crafted flagship sedan that combines the automaker’s MBUX infotainment system, a new electric platform and performance improvements. It is an inexcusable task to set a new benchmark for a full-size luxury sedan that happens to be electric.
The luxury electric sedan is designed to show American consumers what Mercedes can (and will) deliver with electric vehicles in the future. And a lot is at stake. The German car manufacturer is counting on a successful introduction of the EQS in North America.
“It’s the beginning of a whole new era because so far we’ve had a completely flexible platform with hybrids, ICE and BEV,” said Christophe Starzynski, head of the EQ brand, adding that Mercedes will be adding three additional electric vehicles by 2025 US portfolio, including the EQE and two other SUVs. “This is the first time that we’ve really designed and developed all of the technology in a battery-electric vehicle.”
The EQS is the 17-foot-long flagship derivative of the S-Class, the first-class luxury sedan from Mercedes-Benz with a base price of 110,000 US dollars. (The pricing for EQS has not yet been announced.) It is built with the best technology available to date. While most customers don’t appreciate all of the doodads on offer for this car, they can enjoy knowing that everything is stored in this extensive infotainment cloud or just a software update away.
The first ride
A fully loaded EQS is such a leap forward that the new S-Class already feels like it’s in a different era.
The EQS 580 4Matic model I tested was outfitted with a 56-inch hyperscreen, head-up display, acoustic glass, entertainment in the back seats and an air filter system, which Starzynski says is pre-pandemic, but of course feels very good at the moment .
As of writing, the exterior details of the car are under lock and key until the unveiling on April 15th. The version I tested was partially camouflaged, so I can’t tell you much about the molded nuances of the A-pillar.
My five-year-old daughter accompanied me on the test drive. We started at the Mercedes Manhattan dealership, where EQS was displayed in the shop window. As I approached the car, the driver’s door automatically swung open with great enthusiasm. From the point of view of her child seat, my daughter was playing with the rear window that floated in front of her. She chose pink and purple ambient lighting for the cabin. Her top snack: “It’s a glittering rainbow ride.”
The experience in the back seat is actually of great importance as EQS is chauffeur friendly, a requirement for luxury cars in China, the hub for electric vehicle sales for the next decade.
For a tall person like me, the spacious driver’s seat – accented by the pillow that wrapped around my neck – was one of the most comfortable rides I’ve ever had. Once buckled up, the car is in the mood. Cue the light and sound design bells and whistles.
As much as I could appreciate the feel of silver sound waves to offset that soft EV whirring, we soon decided to blow the five-year-old’s current favorite Barbie soundtrack from the surging set of 15 Burmester speakers. (There are unfortunate compromises taking a five-year-old with you.)
Everything in the EQS comes from the 56-inch hyperscreen OLED, which is divided into three separate door-to-door displays. Personally, it’s not as intrusive as it appears in photos. Its elliptical contour has a gambler-like cockpit sensitivity.
The MBUX functions are located on the 17.7-inch OLED main screen to the right of the steering wheel. The passenger can also personalize their own touchscreen. The powerful computing system contains 24 gigabytes of RAM and 46.4 GB of RAM per second as well as eight CPU cores.
The user experience
Simplicity is a hallmark of good design that is reflected in the best Apple products. In contrast, Mercedes has always been very concerned about delivering a dizzying array of user experience options and providing multiple approaches to accessing information. This inclination is transmitted in the EQS using controls on the steering wheel, on the armrest and on the main screen. During test drives, I find several options for distracting controls. I’m never sure if it’s because I didn’t have the time to fully adapt, like it takes a couple of weeks to get used to a new feature on a smartphone, or if it’s just over the top. I noticed the heads up display, but it was too much place to look during the time I was in the car.
What intrigued me is that the MBUX system studies driver behavior over time. At the end of my journey, the screen module reminded me that I might want to refuse my active sitting massage again. In short, I could bypass the other controls and focus on what I wanted to use the most. Voice commands were decent, though my high tenor managed to outsmart the system. I have not yet come across a car language system that understands me all the time.
There is no room for analog in the EQS experience. The graphics are clear, multi-dimensional and clear. One downside was that my fingerprints were smeared on the touchscreens. Pro tip: bring a good screen spritzer and a good cloth before taking a picture. Another minor gripe was that the steering wheel appeared to be designed for a person with hands much larger than mine, and it was a bit awkward to access all of the functions stored on the steering wheel, which forced me to look down for the correct ones Find jobs. In the end, I relied on the middle MBUX screen to adjust the settings.
My favorite part of the EQS user experience is handling messages about outreach. At all times, the various screens on the dashboard showed how many miles I had left if my calculations were realistic for my destination and mapped where to recharge.
About this battery. The model I drove had a 107.8 kWh battery that powers two electric motors used in all-wheel drive. The range based on European testing is 470 miles but could decrease based on US EPA testing standards. I drove about 125 miles round-trip from Manhattan to a small town called Beacon and back without worrying about charging.
I opened the screen to see the ChargePoint options that came with one click. A distinction is also made between the stations at which 200 kW direct current quick chargers are available. According to Mercedes, charging takes about 15 minutes. To convince consumers of the battery life, Mercedes has added a warranty that covers the loss of capacity of the battery and is valid for a decade after purchase or up to 150,000 miles.
Take that away
The drive itself delivered the powerful output you’d expect from 517 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque at work. The EQS beats the competition’s drag coefficient at 0.20 which is a fact that is fun but not essential knowledge for ordinary drivers.
It always takes a moment to feel comfortable in a long sedan, but like the S-Class, the EQS handles its proportions with grace and turns effortlessly thanks to the standard rear-wheel steering. It reflects the safety features of the S-Class and ADAS systems. The drive settings include classic and sport, which can be accessed via the steering wheel controls or the armrest. I’m generally a sporty rider and I liked the upbeat feedback this mode gave.
“Of course we will continue to develop it,” said Starzysnki, adding that software updates will improve ADAS functionality. Customizable updates such as light settings are also available for download.
The biggest differentiator of the EQS drive is the battery recovery system. The intelligent recuperation mode optimizes the battery and controls the driver’s actions. Normal recovery reduced the disorder. I was playing around with a pedal on the freeway. Drivers also cannot choose any assistance at all.
The rollout of mainstream electric vehicles in the US appears to be just around the corner – and it could even come faster than expected if President Biden’s infrastructure plan is passed. But automakers will have to do a lot more than crowd out Tesla if they are to grab the attention and dollars of U.S. consumers. According to Experian, electric vehicles accounted for just 1.8% of U.S. auto sales in 2020, reported on Automotive News.
Major changes require time, money, and long-term commitment. The next level of the Mercedes-Benz EQS brings the playing field one step closer to the turning point when the EV part of the architecture is no longer up-to-date, but the expectation of a luxury vehicle.
(Disclosure: In 2018, I was a Mercedes-Benz EQ Fellow for the automaker-sponsored Summit Series program and was featured on the EQ homepage.)