You typically don’t drive a Mercedes S-Class SUV with one wheel in the air. Especially when it’s about four feet in the air. Yet, that’s what was on the menu during a recent drive of the EQS SUV, the automaker’s electric answer to the GLS.
The awkwardly named EQS SUV (the EQS is also Mercedes’ electric sedan) is the fourth electric vehicle the German automaker has brought to the United States. All part of an aggressive electric roadmap as Mercedes pushes its transition to an EV-only company by the end of the decade.
With more and more people opting for an SUV over a sedan, the EQS SUV could be the first luxury SUV Mercedes customers buy (or at least lease). It starts at $104,400 for the rear-wheel drive 450+, while the all-wheel drive 450 4Matic starts at $107,400. For those looking for more power out of the all-wheel-drive package, the 580 starts at $125,950. All three variants will be available in the United States this fall.
With those prices starting above a hundred grand, the automaker has to deliver the quintessential Mercedes experience that long-time owners and new customers have come to expect from the company.
Mercedes style, on the road as well as off it
Fortunately, for the automaker and potential customers, the EQS SUV, for the most part, delivers the proper Mercedes luxury experience.
On the road, the EQS SUV supplies the anticipated ride comfort that Mercedes customers have come to expect. In town, potholes, cracks and other various scars on the pavement were swallowed up handily by the vehicle. In urban and suburban environments, the SUV shines as it deftly maneuvers around tight corners and into even tighter parking spots thanks to the standard all-wheel steering that turns the rear wheels up to 10-degrees.
I recently drove the EQS sedan (again that weird naming decision) for a week which was also outfitted with 10 degrees of rear steering. I can say that it made me wonder why any automaker would want to build and sell any sort of large vehicle without rear-wheel steering. It’s a game changer.
A day in the EQS SUV only furthered my resolve to hassle every automaker on the planet until rear-wheel steering is standard on all vehicles larger than a Toyota Corolla. The turning circle is bonkers-small in the EQS SUV. It made short work of U-turns as it reduced that radius from a potential 39 feet down to 36 feet. That doesn’t seem like much on paper, but it makes a huge amount of difference when you’re behind the wheel.
No place was that more apparent than when Mercedes booked us about 30 minutes of off-roading. What I expected was essentially a long gravel driveway. What the automaker threw at us was some actual offroading that culminated with the wheels off the ground and the luxury SUV pivoting like a see-saw from one font wheel in the air to one rear wheel in the air.
Will an EQS SUV owner ever do this? Likely not, but they could. It’s no rock crawler but the 4Matic 450 and 580 both ship with an off-roading mode if a driver is so inclined. During my time in 580 4Matic on a muddy off-road track, I walked away impressed.
The EQS SUV is a Mercedes in every sense
Back on asphalt the SUV’s overall driving comfort and ability to tackle some of the sharper curves in the mountains near Denver, Colorado are thanks in part to the automaker's Airmatic air suspension and dampening system. While the SUV carved up the road, the interior remained calm. The downside to this setup is that, during aggressive driving, the vehicle can feel floaty around corners and over bumps. This phenomenon really became an issue during high-speed cornering.
Acceleration really came down to the trim level. The 580 4Matic was the quickest off the line and made short work of passing slower vehicles. Mercedes clocks it with a zero to 60 time of 4.5 seconds. The mid-level 450 4Matic hits 60 in 5.8 seconds while the rear-wheel drive 450+ will hit 60 in 6.5 seconds.
Power output for the 580 4Matic is 536 hp and 633 pound-feet of torque. The 450 4Matic gets 355 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Finally, the 450+ delivers 355 hp and 419 pound-feet of torque. While the desire to just select the most powerful Mercedes is a strong one, the reality is, the 450 4Matic delivers all-wheel drive forward traction for only a few thousand dollars more than the 450+ and is nearly $22,000 cheaper than the more powerful 580 4Matic.
During my time behind the wheel of all three vehicles, the 450 4Matic delivered everything you want from a Mercedes ride and acceleration-wise.
Coming to a stop (like all EVs) is handled by a combination of friction and regenerative braking. The recuperation on the vehicle is top notch, and Mercedes has even added an “Intelligent” recuperation system that uses the route and vehicles ahead to determine how much regen to apply. It’s nice and smooth and while I prefer the highest setting of recuperative braking, the automatic system does deliver power back to the battery without being overly intrusive – if that’s your thing.
Driving the EQS SUV is a reminder of how the luxury market really needs to move all vehicles to an electric powertrain. It’s quieter and smoother and that’s exactly what someone looking to be pampered by their vehicle is looking for.
An interior that would make other cars blush
Catering to the whims of the fancy extends inside the vehicle. The seats are comfortable and supportive. At six-foot, three inches, I had plenty of head and legroom in the front and second row of seats. But there is a third row available, and the nicest way to say this is that only small children should sit back there. No one over five-foot-two inches should venture into that third row.
As for the materials, regardless of where you’re sitting, Mercedes continues its tradition of outfitting its vehicles with high-quality materials. It’s a sea of leather surfaces and real wood brought together to exude modern luxury.
The EQS SUV is available with two infotainment screen systems. There’s the standard 12.8-inch portrait OLED touchscreen found standard in the 450+. It does everything you need and I found it to be easy to reach and see both in bright daylight and at night.
Then there’s the 56-inch Hyperscreen. A three-display system that reaches from a-pillar to a-pillar and houses the dash cluster, a 17.7-inch landscape OLED touchscreen and a 12.3-inch OLED passenger screen. It’s… a lot. The center screen does offer up a huge view of the world and thanks to Mercedes latest version of MBUX, it defaults to a mostly uncluttered view of the map and navigation.
The 12.3-inch passenger screen is a source of contention though. I used it a few times to control media and check on some of the vehicle’s settings — namely its pitch and roll while driving. It even has its own browser which shuts off if the driver tries to look at it. That’s great.
The question of use though really comes down to how often is someone else in the car and whether they will make full use of it. I’d see most people defaulting to their phones or tablets. Your family may differ.
Regardless of screen size, Mercedes continues to update the voice assistant of MBUX and it’s still one of the best on the market. Asking Mercedes to find you a restaurant and add an additional stop along the route can be done without taking your hands off the wheel. I found it understood a large majority of my queries and it delivered what I was looking for most of the time. But usually, I just wanted directions.
Still offering some of the best tech in the business
Those directions led me to spend a lot of time on the highways around Denver, where the EQS SUV showcased how Mercedes’ driver assistance system is still one of the best in the business. The EQS SUV stayed dead center in its lane and tracked curves without issue.
Cut-ins by other drivers were handled smoothly with steady braking and acceleration. Once rush hour hit, stop-and-go traffic was easily handled by the EQS SUV making gridlock just a little bit more bearable.
Getting around comes courtesy of a 107.8 kWh capacity pack that’s included on all three trim levels. There are no EPA numbers yet, but Mercedes is targeting 305 miles for the 450+. As for the 450 4Matic and 580 4Matic, both of those should hit 285 miles before needing to be plugged in.
When they do need to be juiced up, all the vehicles will charge at speed up to 200 kW at a compatible DC fast charger. Mercedes is still using a 400-volt system for its EVs, but it’s topping off that architecture with the 200 kW. Still, for the money, it feels like the German automaker should have splurged on 800-volt systems to match the charging speeds of the Porsche Taycan and Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Overall, Mercedes’ goal to make an S-class electric SUV has been met. It’s a luxury SUV that combines surprisingly rugged off-roading chops with an interior that pampers its driver and passengers. Technology-wise, Mercedes continues to be on the cutting edge with solid driver assistance features that inspire confidence while on the road.
But I do still wish it charged faster. Also, while the exterior design is an improvement over the EQS, the current design language feels a bit too bubbly for a Mercedes. Still, it’s currently the most luxurious electric offroader on the market. At least until the electric G Wagon shows up.