Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2022 Mercedes-EQ EQS 580 4Matic.
San Francisco, CA - The Mercedes-EQ EQS 580 – not the Mercedes-Benz EQS, but the Mercedes-EQ EQS – is the first vehicle sold in North America bearing anything resembling the “EQ” name, that is the badge to be supported by Mercedes’ EV models going forward. We’ve seen the EQA, B and C in Europe already (there’s a van, too) but for North America, they’ve brought out the big guns with the EQS, a roughly S-Class-sized sedan that, admittedly, looks pretty much nothing like an S-Class.
The S-Class is pretty much the industry standard when it comes to big luxury sedans, so if Mercedes is going to make a splash in the quickly expanding world of EV luxury, its entry into the all-electric big luxury sedan segment needs to be a goody; it has some massive shoes to fill.
Considering our launch location just outside of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, however, it would appear that the customer base Mercedes hopes is going after is of a different ilk than the hip-hop artists and white-haired CEOs that the S-Class has always spoken too. Indeed, it’s the younger tech exec – the Tesla crowd – that the EQS is aimed at.
For starters, it looks nothing like any Mercedes we’ve seen before it, this side of some far-out concepts. You could make an argument that it’s a very futuristic take on the CLS four-door coupe or the AMG GT 4-Door Coupé, but that’s a stretch.
Neither of those have this car’s completely smooth front fascia bereft of a traditional grille or shutlines; because opening the “hood” of the EQS actually means removing a panel with a tool. Things like this are why for an electric car, maintenance costs are lower, and the common things EV owners need to do – refilling the washer fluid, for instance – can be done via a panel ahead of the left front fender. There’s no need for them to ever open the hood on their own. The headlight lenses are very futuristic and connected by a full-length light bar, which is also nowhere on other Mercedes vehicles.
Then there are the wheels. Now, there are many designs that are all unique to the EQS but they’re all developed with aerodynamics in mind. So, they look as futuristic as that sounds. The super-spoke-y 21-inch items seen here are the perfect match for their surroundings. They are simply spectacular.
The wheels and front fascia, along with a completely flat underbody, all contribute to a drag coefficient of 0.20, meaning this is the slipperiest car you can buy today because if you know anything about EVs and their range, you know that in addition to big batteries, a slippery shape for low wind resistance is crucial to developing range. Which, by the way, the EQS does to the tune of about 545 km and which during our route through both urban gridlock and picturesque coast and country seemed perfectly attainable according to our trip computer.
We probably could have done even better had we made more use of the paddles attached to the wheel that can modify how much power gets recuperated whenever you come to a stop.
Speaking of our trip computer, it’s one of what must be about 500 systems loaded into the EQS, one of the most technologically advanced vehicles ever to see the light of day.
While much of the tech wizardry happens under the skin, the most evident magic happens in plain sight as soon as you step in, and it’s called MBUX Hyperscreen which comes as standard on the EQS 580. (The American market gets an EQS 450+ that comes with RWD and a more traditional dash, but that model won’t be arriving in Canada until they decide to add 4Matic AWD to it further into the model’s lifecycle).
Basically, the dash appears to be one big digital display measuring 56 inches, although it’s made up of three separate screens – one for the gauge cluster, one for the front seat passenger and one for the infotainment display.
It will come as a surprise to none that most every in-car command you can think of is done via touchscreen with haptic feedback, from the climate controls to the sunroof controls and everything in between. Of course, many will mourn the lack of something like a volume knob, but know that a lot of this is also voice-controlled, and you can add an option – yes, even with a base price of $144,200, there are still additional options – to control some of this with gesture controls.
I’m one of those who mourn the lack of hard buttons in cars today, but I was surprised by how well this particular interface made it easy to get over it. The buttons are all responsive and while there’s a lot going on here, a 20-minute conversation and demonstration with one of the project leads showed it isn’t as daunting as it might look.
In addition to all your traditional functions – navigation, drive modes, infotainment, Apple CarPlay and so on – the system also offers everything from minigames (great way to pass the time as you charge, even if you are making use of a level 3 charger that can return an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes) to an equalizer system that eschews your traditional sliders for a more user-friendly interface. It really helps get the most out of the spectacular Burmester audio system.
And then, there’s the augmented reality navigation system.
Usually, I attach CarPlay and use Google Maps for my navi but this system is so high-tech and clever that it’s the way I’d go, every time. What augmented reality does is display a video image of the road ahead as you come to your next instruction, and drops arrows and road signs on the screen that land just ahead of the turn you need to make. So, the only way to miss the turn would be to drive “through” the digitized arrows. Those appear on the massive heads-up display as well, as if the Hyperscreen wasn’t enough.
Then there are the driver aids, chief among them a hands-free drive system that can creep you through traffic, stay centered in the lane (with almost imperceptible steering adjustments to do so) and change lanes for you once you’ve activated your turn signal. It will occasionally ask you to put your hands on the wheel, but it’s not very invasive and we spent many strings of kilometres letting the car do the work. It will get after you if you take your eyes off the road, however, and even remind you to adjust the steering wheel so that you can best see the gauge cluster. That’s right; it can tell when your view of the gauges is blocked by the wheel. Uncanny.
Equally uncanny is the rear-wheel steer system, that can turn the rear wheels up to 10 degrees to shrink the turning radius. It does this to the point that the radius measures no larger than that of the A-Class compact. The feeling of that rear end swinging ‘round independently of the front end is one I’ve felt before, but never to this, ahem, degree, and it makes tight city driving and parking that much easier.
On the road
Of course, if all that high-techery isn’t enough and you’re more interested in the drive, well, there’s a lot going on there, too.
Power for the 580 is rated at 516 hp and 630 lb-ft of torque, and since there’s no delay in power delivery, this big EV super-sedan (weighing 5,500 lb) gets up and running lickety-split, completing the 0-100 km/h in about 4 seconds on to a top speed of 250 km/h. Those aren’t quite the ¬bahn-burner figures you’d get from, say, an S63 AMG, but they’re plenty fast for anything anyone will be doing in their EQS 580. If that won’t do, there is an AMG version right around the corner.
But frankly, all-out speed isn’t the point here. What you want from a car like the EQS is a serene, comfortable drive that has you feeling like you’re driving something almost otherworldly. The EQS 580 gets air suspension, continuously adaptive dampers and incredibly supportive and comfortable seats (with a multitude of massage functions) so that you don’t emerge from long drives feeling tired.
A word of caution, though: if you’re expecting S-Class levels of rear seat room, think again. That aggressively sloped roof does take a slice out of rear seat headroom and the seatbacks can’t be adjusted, either. A rear seat package that would add all that may be coming down the line but for now, be sure to spend time in the back seat if you’re considering one of these.
At the end of the day, the real question is this: "Why start your EV journey in North America with a sedan, as opposed to the SUVs we North Americans know and love?"
First, know that the EQS and EQE SUVs are right around the corner so don’t you worry; Mercedes-EQ will have a spot at that table. But here’s the thing: Regardless of how popular SUVs are here, Mercedes is still seen as a brand that makes incredibly powerful, technological and luxurious sedans. Ask their people – as I did – and they will tell you that the way to put their best foot forward is with a flagship sedan. So that’s what they did, and they nailed it in spectacular fashion with the EQS.
Ultra futuristic in every way
Hyperscreen infotainment is the industry standard
We like less
Snug back seat