Will Sabel Courtney
Don’t get too used with the name EQS. Here in 2022, it’s good to know; EQ, of course, is Mercedes-Benz’s in-house term for its electric vehicles, the equivalent of Audi’s E-Tron or BMW’s i; S, meanwhile, refers to the car’s position in the lineup — alongside the S-Class, GLS-Class and SL-Class at the top of the range. Like most German car names, it’s pretty easy to decipher once you know the basics of the code.
But wait, you might be wondering, you keep talking about how Mercedes-Benz is going all-electric soon. Shouldn’t I be paying extra attention to what their big, brand-new EV is called?
Well, no. And the reason is simple: because the successor to the EQS will, in all likelihood, just be named “S-Class.”
See, for the next eight years or so, as the company works to wean its customers off that sweet, sweet distilled fossil juice, Mercedes-Benz will basically be selling two versions of all its most important cars: one version that runs on gasoline (or diesel, in other markets), and another that uses electric power. It’s an expensive strategy, to be sure, but it should only last an automotive generation or so.
For now, however, that puts the EQS square alongside the similarly-sized, similarly-priced, similarly-luxury W223 S-Class at the pinnacle of the Mercedes-Benz car line. How would it stand up in the real world, where life can be cold and hard and short on DC fast chargers? I took it for a week to find out.
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The EQS 580 is, arguably, the pick of the EQS litter
My first experience with the all-new EQS came not with the regular models, but rather, with the souped-up Mercedes-AMG EQS — the version packing two Affalterbach-tweaked motors making a combined 761 horsepower and 758 lb-ft of torque. The EQS 580 can’t hit quite as hard, but its 516 horses and 631 lb-ft of torque spread across all four wheels are nothing to sneeze at — especially since all that power comes on with the urgency of an unexpected sternutation when you hit the right pedal, whether you’re at a stop or doing 60 mph. Its acceleration may not induce headaches the way the AMG version can, but it’ll still blast past 99 percent of the cars on the road — especially from a rolling start. (There’s also a less-potent single-motor EQS 450+, but while I haven’t driven it yet, its 329 hp seems right on the lower edge of fun for a 5,600-lb car.)
It’s also more than capable of holding its own in turns. You won’t confuse it with a Porsche Taycan, but hey, you’re not likely to mix up the driving experience of an S 580 with a Panamera GTS, either. Even so, the steering is direct and pointed, if lacking in feedback — a common complaint to 90% of cars on sale today, I grant you, but still a valid one — and even on winter tires, it can hold the line well through tight sweepers. It’s no sport sedan, but the EQS’s limits are more than high enough for a big, comfy cruiser like this.
More importantly, it rides with the sort of solidity and comfort that most luxury cars can only dream about. Bentley and Rolls-Royce engineers would be happy to extol the virtues of having ample mass when it comes to ride and NVH, and this Mercedes has plenty of mass to go around, thanks to the 108-kWh battery pack at the bottom of the chassis.
The EQS looks like the future, and that’s for the best
Some people out there no doubt aren’t yet comfortable with the electric future; even if the advantages of EVs seem clear, they’d rather keep their cars and trucks looking the way they have for ages. (See: Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV.) The EQS, however, makes no qualms about its future-facing mission with its smooth, almost-one-box look.
Opinions amongst fans online has been mixed, even perhaps averaging negative — but there’s no denying that it’s unique, unlike anything else on the road today. Personally, I like the look, especially the understated Nautical Blue tones of my test car. (The attendants at my local parking garage went gaga over it, as well, so I know it’s not just me.)
Besides, Mercedes-Benz styling has arguably been at its best when it works in the simplest of forms: think of the brutal boxiness of the company’s W123 and W126 cars, or the clean lines of the original SL-Class. The smooth, Jellybean-of-Tomorrow shape of the EQS looks like no other car on the road — and if the upcoming EQE is any hint, its riverbed-stone-smooth looks may come to define the company’s next generation of sedans as boxy brutalism defined them in the 1980s.
The EQS packs excellent range
Even Tesla and Porsche must bow at the feet of this big-batteried Benz when it comes to range. The EPA rates the EQS 580 as going 340 miles on a charge, with ther EQS 450+ rated for 350 — but the independent crew at Edmunds found the 450+ could go 422 miles on a charge, a 21% improvement over the EPA’s estimate. Suffice it to say, unlike many an EV, the EQS packs range comparable to a gas-powered car.
When I picked it up, the battery was a hair below fully charged, but the range estimator told me I had 293 miles to empty — a range I could stretch to 324 if I drove like a grandma.
Of course, those nice folks at Edmunds test their cars in balmy California; the temp during their test was a night-on perfect 67º Fahrenheit. Given that I was driving at sustained high speeds in near- or sub-freezing temperatures, those range figures quickly began adjusting downwards as the car constantly recalculated how far it could really go given the circumstances. (You can read the whole story about the troubles of long cold-weather trips in an EV here, if you haven’t yet.) But in temperate weather (and a strict respect for the speed limit), I have little doubt I could do the 330-mile trip to my mother’s house on a single charge.
The EQS interior is every bit worthy of the price
As we’re all feeling these days, a dollar can’t buy what it used to. Still, even the roughly $135,000 spent on my loaded EQS feels every bit worth the money once you’re inside. The leather is omnipresent and buttery smooth, so soft to the touch it almost feels warm even when the seat heaters are off. (My car had the $4,450 Neva Grey / Biscaya Blue Nappa leather option, which no doubt burnished its luxury credentials…and seemed totally worth the money.) LED lighting spans the cockpit in subtle ways, gently pulsating on occasion as if to remind you the car is alive.
The seats, meanwhile, are among the most comfortable ones found in the automotive world today. If not for the need to recharge, I could have easily knocked out eight or nine hours without stopping in those thrones — especially with the 30-speaker Burmester stereo pumping out whatever satellites and Spotify alike had to offer.
Big Mercedes sedans have always been known for their expansive interiors, but the EQS takes things to another level. Thanks to its flat floor and lack of things like driveshafts and bulky gearbox housings, the cabin is airy and open like few cars on sale today. And that pays dividends in terms of storage space, too. Forget purses and handbags; you could store a backpack in the space below the cupholders, and the door pockets feel big enough to swallow water bottles with ease.
That applies to the rear seats as well, which pack every bit enough space to make this car worthy of CEO-chauffeuring duty. The design remains every bit as elegant and tech-laden as up front, and the seats themselves are comfortable enough that you might be tempted to sneak back there and take a catnap if, say, you
There’s a middle seat if you have to carry three people back there, but the space is really meant for two, with the center armrest folded down as seen here.
And all that space doesn’t come at the expense of cargo room, either. While it doesn’t have a frunk the way some EVs do (Mercedes had to put the biological warfare-grade air purifying system there), it does have an impressive 22 cubic feet of trunk space in a wide, deep opening beneath that rear hatch. (Yes, you heard right: Mercedes-Benz’s new flagship luxury EV is technically a hatchback.)
The Hyperscreen seems like too much at first; instead, it’s just right
Mercedes has made much about what they call the “Hyperscreen” — the panoply of displays stretched across the entire dashboard, from instrument panel to center infotainment screen to auxiliary passenger display. The glass cockpit gauges are nothing new, and the passenger’s touchscreen more novelty act than purposeful feature. The central display, however, is among the better examples of the breed.
It feels much more organic than the iPad Pro-on-a-stand found in the S-Class or SL-Class, flowing seamlessly out of the expanse of black glass stretching across the dash. Nearly every control is routed through it, but the buttons are so large and the screen so clear, it’s far easier to manipulate than the majority of infotainment touchscreens. (Also, for Christmas, it greeted me with a gingerbread house on the welcome screen and added snow to the home button, which are very much the sort of subtle delights I’m all-in for if we’re stuck with cars that are constantly linked to the Internet and updating behind the scenes.)
The Mercedes-Benz EQS 580: better than an S-Class?
My week with the EQS was intentionally a stressful one. I drove it more than 300 miles to my mother’s place in Vermont for Christmas, scrounging for chargers all the way; I had to plan my days up north around trying to find places to charge up in an area relatively lacking in fast-charging ports; I had to precisely time my return back to New York around not just charger-clogging holiday traffic, but my partner’s inbound flight at LaGuardia, adding a whole ‘nuther level of anxiety to the road trip process.
And yet…even with all those inconveniences, my time with the EQS was utterly wonderful.
Would I buy it over a new Mercedes S-Class? Put a gun to my head, and I’d probably say no — but the decision would be hard enough that it might take that level of persuasion to force me to choose. Here in 2022, charging an EV is still a bit too difficult if you a) don’t own a home and b) need to travel long distances, two factors that ring true in my case. (Besides, the latest S-Class is absolutely delightful.)
But if I had a home with a garage, and I lived somewhere like California, or all the folks I needed to see lived within 200 miles? I’d probably go EQS. Which certainly bodes well for the next generation of Benzes, when we likely won’t have a choice.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580
Base Price / Price as Tested: $120,160 / $135,300
Powertrain: 107.8-kWh battery pack + dual electric motors, all-wheel-drive
Torque: 631 lb-ft
EPA Efficiency: 92 mpg-e city, 99 mpg-e highway
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