Mercedes’ stunning new electric vehicle throws down the gauntlet to its rivals
It is like nothing else. Extraordinary, totally new, captivating in many ways and with a real sense of a historic benchmark being established.
Yes, it is the Mercedes EQS electric luxury car that, even after driving it for a week, found ways to surprise me.
I’m not saying I found everything to be perfect but it certainly sparked a few ‘wows’ from me over the course of the drives.
It’s the crescent shape, the cabin-forward structure, the interior, the technology and near-intuitive nature that sets it apart as a car which shuns the conventional large saloon image (technically it’s a five-door) and basically puts it up to rivals to ‘beat that’.
It is important to remember it is not an electrified S-Class. It is the size of an S-Class but has been built on a new platform that is large enough to embrace a giant 107.8kWh battery within its massive wheelbase.
It is five metres long and every centimetre embeds the belief that it has done nearly everything possible to assume leadership of the cavalcade into the new electric era.
That battery size is crucial as it allows a 700km-plus range.
It was amazing, psychologically, what a difference that range made. I hardly bothered looking at the charge-remaining for the entire test period and I drove it a lot during that time. I put up in excess of 550km and still had plenty of charge left. That is the furthest I’ve driven an electric car without recharging. And it felt good.
More importantly it seemed to be highly accurate about what energy remained to be expended – a great practical reassurance at the core of this technological starburst.
It is a truly big car in every way, except perhaps rear-view visibility where the sharp rake of the roofline cuts into what you can see behind.
But there are so many cameras and sensors it doesn’t matter as much as it could, especially when parking – up to 10 degrees of rear-wheel steering gives the EQS the manoeuvrability of an A-Class.
The optional MBUX Hyperscreen interactive/infotainment system is an extraordinary spread of data and communication (three screens under the one pane, the full width of the dash) between driver/front passenger and auto system. It’s a bit confusing at times but still an extraordinary piece of display and engineering. That said, the touch-sensitive steering wheel controls are a bit of a challenge.
I had the EQS 450+ version with its single 325bhp rear motor. There are, and will be, more powerful models (a 700bhp AMG is due) but this did me quite nicely, thank you. It has a 0-100kmh time of 6.2 seconds which is quick enough for a big car on our roads.
It’s a large, low-slung, car but it is no slouch. Helping it achieve that acceleration figure is the fact that it has the lowest air resistance of any production car in the world.
Of course I have quibbles, despite the pioneering nature of the EQS. For example, its basic suspension mode is too ponderous for my liking (modes include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual). And there was a fair old thud from a rear wheel over a rough part of a road in a midlands town.
Amid all the techno splendour, another feature that lets it down slightly is the switchgear for drive, reverse, wipers, etc. They look old-fashioned and ‘ordinary’ Merc. No matter. On the open road this was a joy, a real feel of the road and car. We luxuriated in the wonderful seating with its puff-pastry headrests soft and reassuring.
The kilometres swished by (it was vastly quiet) with effortless performance from this electrical giant. I didn’t have to charge it but if I did it could have replenished from 10pc to 80pc in just half an hour with a 350kW rapid charger, or two hours on a 50kW post. Even at that it is slower than Audi’s e-tron GT, the Porsche Taycan and the likes of the Tesla S.
Nonetheless, it’s hard not to keep coming back to what this car does for you as a driver and a passenger. Rear-seat room is phenomenal, and the boot is huge, long and deep.
Would I buy it – all €168,001 of it? Now, this is where I contradict myself a little. Of course, if I had the money and wanted a grandiose, ground-breaking limousine all to myself, or more likely my chauffeur (who wouldn’t be too busy driving or charging) I would opt for it. But in reality I think the smaller electric Merc, the EQE, while tidier in dimensions, is a nicer car to drive and of a more practical nature.
However, as a stand-alone option, it would be hard to pass the EQS. From the moment I first got in, I felt there was something of a historic nature about the car. So yes, I would pay the money and enjoy.
Mercedes EQS 450+ electric SUV: 333hp, 565Nm, 0-100 kmh in 6.2 seconds, top speed 210 kmh; claimed range 717km. Road tax: €120.
Standard spec: adaptive damping system, driving assistance, panoramic sliding sunroof, rear-axle steering, parking package with 360-degree camera.
Extras: 21ins AMG alloys, air balance, MBUX Hyper Screen €12,213), Nappa leather,
With extras: €168,001.