Electric vehicles made such big strides throughout 2021 that some industry analysts called this the year of the EV. But major manufacturers and startups alike tend to split their EV models into either hardcore performance machines or cheap consumer cars, with fewer options in the middle. As fun as mashing the throttle on the Tesla Model S Plaid or as boring as Nissan Leaf might seem, the majority of buyers want a more practical option that combines reasonable range with a comfortable interior and high build quality.
Mercedes-Benz might be a bit late to the EV game but the new EQS nails the luxury commuter EV market, with all the features that city drives will want and none of the sacrifices to aggressive driving that other high-spec electrics tend to make. I recently got the chance to hop behind the wheel of an EQS 450+ for a quick test drive in Pasadena, California, where I put the big EV sedan through its paces in town, on the freeway, and for a short stint up the famed Angeles Crest Highway.
Welcome To The Future, Mercedes-Benz
The 450+ sits at the lower end of the EQS lineup, which also includes a dual-motor 580+ 4Matic edition at a higher price point and an AMG version to compete with the more powerful competitors from Tesla, Lucid, Audi, and Porshe. Though the EQS might seem like an S-Class sibling, it's actually built on an all-new platform with that by-now-famous "skateboard" battery layout.
The EQS I drove produces 329 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, all sent to the rear wheels from a single electric motor. Mercedes made sure to offer serious range, so the EQS 450+ targets 350 miles during real-world driving, while the 580+ comes in slightly lower. But the big battery contributes to a curb weight of almost 5,600 pounds—more than my 2006 Porsche Cayenne with a twin-turbo V8 under the hood.
But don't look at those weight and horsepower stats with disdain, because even the lower-power EQS I drove still offers gobs of low-end torque. In town and on the freeway, nobody will ever feel like they're suffering from a lack of power. Meanwhile, Mercedes perfectly tuned the regenerative brakes on the EQS, which can be adjusted via paddles on the steering wheel.
The lower-spec EQS also starts at just over $100,000 which places it solidly in the luxury sedan segment. But with high-end pickup trucks running $60-80,000 these days, plenty of consumers budgeting for their next car might decide the EQS represents a great option from an established manufacturer.
Delivering A Comfortable Ride
A smooth driving experience will probably serve as the most important aspect that will help the EQS stand apart from competitors. Those 20-inch wheels measure slightly smaller than the 21s on the Audi RS e-tron GT I drove immediately before the EQS, and the higher-profile 255-millimeter tires help to absorb bumps, improve aero, and reduce road noise significantly (the latter all the more important in any EV, since no internal-combustion engine covers up exterior sounds).
And Mercedes definitely focused on aerodynamic enhancements for the EQS, which achieves a stunning 0.20 drag coefficient to beat both Tesla's Model S and Lucid's Air. The exterior ends up looking a bit bulbous, almost like a smiley Beluga whale from certain angles. Up on the Angeles Crest, the tall (if slick) profile, significant poundage, and narrow tires do lead to a fair amount of body roll—but the EQS isn't trying to set any g-force cornering records.
Plenty Of Headroom
The nautical theme continues on the interior, though somehow Mercedes managed to create a space that feels incredibly roomy despite that low aerodynamic drag. The comfortable front seats look almost purposefully designed after a sea-shell, throwing me back to my interview with iconic automotive designer Frank Stephenson, who explained how much of his inspiration involves biomimicry—specifically, when he views cars moving through air as akin to fish swimming through denser water.
The Whole Dash Is One Enormous Touchscreen
The EQS interior also takes touchscreens to a whole new level. The entire dash is one big screen, from left of the driver's instrument cluster to the center infotainment and climate controls, all the way to another display ahead of the passenger seat. I can't stress enough how wild this feels at first, though in my 30 minutes or so with the car, I quickly acclimatized to the change. Really, the design splits into three separate screens beneath the capacitive surface—I'd hate to think what replacement might cost if a few pixels burn out, though.
That capacitive touch function extends to other buttons, which allowed me to slide the big panoramic sunroofs closed just by stroking a surface above the rearview mirror.
Testing Out The Back Seat
The EQS's interior certainly improves upon the exterior design. In sedans, I always like to see how I fit in the back seat after adjusting the driver's seat to fit my 6'1" and 165-pound frame. I can report that the back seats in the EQS sit a little upright—though apparently an option for reclining rear seats does exist—but that the legroom and headspace will comfortably fit much larger bodies without any feeling of claustrophobia.
Lots Of Space For Groceries And Gear
The rear-seat headroom merges with a true hatchback layout—that sort of whale-like roofline, once again—to provide access to an enormous trunk. Again, I can't emphasize enough how much usable space the EQS provides, from the front seats to the back and the hatch access, which capitalizes perfectly on the potential for roominess made possible by small, punchy electric motors and lowslung skateboard battery design.
The Lucid Air compares favorably in terms of utility, with a similarly bulbous rear end that features a unique trunk lid design to allow for greater access. But the EQS hatchback and rear space take the cake, nonetheless. For Mercedes-Benz customers, the EQS should offer exactly the kind of utilitarian luxury that will make this sedan a perfect purchase for family hauling around town. Buyers who lives in regions with frequent snow may want to look at the all-wheel-drive 580+ 4Matic.
In and around Pasadena, the EQS truly impressed me as a car that resulted from real market analysis, a luxury EV option that takes everything great about the affordable Tesla Model 3 and levels up significantly in terms of refinement. No, you won't take it to the track and shred tires at the drag strip. But I fully expect to see plenty of these cruising near-silently around West LA soon—until Mercedes finally electrifies every member of the S-Class lineup, that is.
Sources: youtube.com, mbusa.com, audiusa.com, and insideevs.com.