What is it?
As the EQS relates to the regular stone-age S-Class, and the EQE to the E-Class, say hello to the EQS SUV: the first full-size off-roader based on Mercedes’ pure electric ‘EVA2’ architecture. Its analogue in the old world is the GLS, an unfairly overlooked vehicle in the luxury car world. Mind you, the Mercedes range – with its panoply of models and designations – is so sprawling it’s easy to lose one or two down the back of the sofa. It would need to be a big sofa, though. The GLS is huge.
As is the new car. It shares its wheelbase with the EQS saloon, at 3,210mm, measures a resounding 5,125mm in overall length, and sits 200mm higher. It also weighs in excess of 2.7 tonnes, but it is a full seven-seater – a commodity that is particularly prized in the North American market where that sort of kerb weight is junior league. Still, you won’t miss one of these when it hoves into view, blocking the sunlight like the alien spaceship in Independence Day.
Is this really the answer in embattled 2022?
A saintly EV it may be, but try explaining that the next time Extinction Rebellion have glued themselves to the M25 or let your tyres down. Mercedes’ Ambition 2039 is targeting full CO2 neutrality by that year – including decarbonising the supplier network and vetting the cobalt mines – and the EQXX concept shows that lighter batteries and their myriad benefits are coming. For now, the emphasis is on electric mobility, intelligent resource conservation and making in-roads on the circular economy. The EQS SUV is also stealing a march on key rivals like the Bentley Bentayga and Range Rover, for whom full electrification is a way off yet.
The UK is in line for two versions at launch: the EQS 450 4Matic, which averages between 2.5 and 3.1 miles per kWh for a claimed range of 378 miles, and has the equivalent of 355bhp and 590lb ft of torque, and/or the EQS 580 4Matic whose 536bhp output and 632lb ft sees the overall efficiency drop just a fraction. These are claimed figures, mind, and we all know what the real world disparity can be.
The 4Matic cars are dual-motor and all-wheel drive; the electric motors are permanently excited synchronous ones which have a higher power density, greater efficiency, and higher power constancy. The motor on the rear axle has a six-phase design (the not-for-the UK EQS SUV 450 + is a single motor set-up), and there’s all sorts of thermal cleverness in the batteries’ cooling circuits.
The SUV uses the same lithium ion battery pack as the EQS saloon, with up to 12 modules and pouch cells. Mercedes has developed the batteries, and the software that has oversight on them, in-house, and claims that their cobalt content has been reduced to less than 10 per cent. This is obviously an important consideration in terms of sustainability. The battery’s total capacity is a substantial 108.4 kWh, and it’s packaged within the floorpan. It sits in a crash-protected area in the underbody, embedded in the structure with an extruded aluminium profile to the side. The battery modules are housed in an energy absorbing structure and there’s also a double-walled base plate. The chassis uses steel and aluminium, with hot-formed steel used in critical load paths in the A and D pillars.
Mercedes claims the EQS has the lowest centre of gravity of any of its SUVs, although any benefit this might have dynamically is surely off-set by the thing’s overall porkiness. The battery can be charged at up to 200kW using a DC fast charger, theoretically up to an 80 per cent charge in a claimed 31 minutes. There are various intelligent charging modes, including one to preserve the battery life, and bidirectional charging is available in territories like Japan.
Does it look any better in the flesh?
Packaging that third row of seats is a challenge (see also what happens to the Land Rover Defender when so configured). Mercedes has toyed for years with the ‘mono-box’ form on its concept cars, and it works on something that’s like a renegade from Blade Runner 2049. The EQS SUV has so much mass it was never going to be a design doozy, although it does transfer lots of the EQS’s design thinking (though we actually prefer the EQE): the surfacing is strong, there’s a smoothness to the overall form, and the shutlines and joints have all been minimised. It’s also exceptionally aero efficient: its drag co-efficient is just 0.26 (in its cleanest set-up). As with other EQ cars, the primary difference is at the front, where the (fixed) clamshell bonnet is much shorter and steeper than we’re used to. The EQ black panel grille is here, too, with a 3D hexagon light working with the daytime running light to create a distinctive signature. You get the feeling Mercedes’ designers would love to have delivered a totally seamless transition into the windscreen, but it wouldn’t work in the real world; too many reflections. Clever A-pillar, though: its design improves the aero and the acoustics.
The roof is black to reduce the perception of height, the mirrors sit on the car’s shoulder rather than on the doors themselves for aero and acoustic reasons, and the EQS has framed (as opposed to the EQS/E’s frameless) glass. The door handles are flush.
There are optional running boards, which in the absence of a ladder help smaller folk to climb up, but have a downturned element on the under-side that also aids aero efficiency. There’s a little shoulder kick at the rear and a rising rear side window, to add a bit of visual interest in an area of a car that often gets the dodgy end of the stick.
Overall, it’s cleverly executed without challenging the Range Rover as a giant piece of modern mobile technology, and you’d be nuts to choose anything less than 22in wheels. But we’d put money on the upcoming EQE SUV being better proportioned.
What's the verdict?
“Objectively speaking, the EQS SUV does it all but it lacks the character and supreme authority that makes the Range Rover such a lodestar”
It’s difficult to think of a more complete, absolutely state-of-the-art and some way beyond luxury off-roader than this. Objectively speaking, the EQS SUV does it all, up to and including an unexpected prowess off-road. Its refinement is world-class, its technical specification unimpeachable, the on-board experience about as good as it gets.
Does it sound like there’s a but coming? Maybe. It lacks the character and supreme authority that makes the Range Rover such a lodestar, and reinforces the suspicion that the more sophisticated electric cars become, the less like cars they actually seem. The full-size EQS SUV will undoubtedly work for a big chunk of its target audience, but we’ll hold out for the AMG version of the EQE SUV.
What is it like to drive?
The EQS 580 is a pretty rapid device for something this size, and has the handling smarts to match. But really, travelling at full tilt in a vehicle like this is an heroically daft thing to do. Give it the beans once to confirm it can do it, or maybe during a spirited overtake, but the name of the game here is refinement and mindfulness. This isn’t a car, more of a 21st century transport module, connected up the wazoo, lavishly appointed, and equipped with an interior of startling complexity. More on which in a moment.
This side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, we can’t think of anything else that’s as hushed as the EQS SUV on the move. Tyre and wind noise are the enemies in high-end electric cars, but this plus-size Mercedes is exemplary. Various body cavities contain special acoustic foam, and there are trick seals on the doors and windscreen. The motors are specially encased, and the drive units are double insulated thanks to rubber mounts. There are even recesses in the floor to minimise annoying ‘structure-borne’ sound and vibration.
In fact, the EQS SUV is so good that it seeks to almost entirely disconnect you from the apparently irritating business of actually driving. With no internal combustion engine to add some texture to the experience in extremis, the occupants are more luxuriously isolated than ever. This may well be the ideal scenario for anyone who has the £130k (and up) that the EQS SUV costs – they probably have a FTSE 100 company to run or assets to strip – but you do end up feeling somewhat… anaesthetised. Various soundscapes are available to enliven things, though none mimic ‘Ace of Spades’ by Motörhead, more’s the pity. Silver Waves or Roaring Pulse, anyone? (That second one is an OTA upgrade.)
The 4matic set-up allows for a continuously variable torque distribution, depending on what you’re after. In the pursuit of maximum efficiency, the front axle motor can be turned off altogether. If you’ve lost your mind and temporarily confused the EQS SUV for an AMG GT Black Series, torque is juggled seamlessly between all four wheels to maximise traction and acceleration. If you’re on snow and ice, the system detects spinning wheels and adjusts the torque distribution accordingly.
The EQS SUV’s suspension uses a four-link set up at the front and multi-link rear, with Mercedes’ Air Matic air springs and variable damping control as standard. The ride height can be raised by up to 25mm up to 50mph, but above 68mph it automatically lowers by 10mm in Comfort mode and 15mm in Sport to optimise aero efficiency. Mercedes decided against electric anti-roll bars, but their absence isn’t felt. The thing rides beautifully and is well tied down.
In addition to the usual Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual driving modes, the SUV naturally adds an Off-Road function, which works with or without the electronic stability programme on. The brakes, traction control and what Mercedes calls ‘downhill speed regulation’ (hill descent, if you like) are all in play here, and although Mercedes’ chief engineer for the EVA2 platform, Holger Enzmann, tells TG.com that this car was never meant to be a full-blown mud-plugger, we’re actively encouraged to venture off-road (on chunky off-road rubber, obvs). We’re talking ruts like sine waves for maximum axle articulation, slippery rubble downhill sections, and acute departure angles (the short rear overhang is useful). Plus, the (optional) rear steering angle of 10° – the standard active rear axles works up to 4.5° – doesn’t just help you evacuate otherwise terrifying multi-storey car parks and reduce the turning circle from 11.9 to 11m, it means you can make an uphill turn sandwiched between two giant fir trees without breaking into a sweat.
Not that any prospective EQS SUV owner is ever likely to risk their 22in wheels articulating the axles. But the thing’s mighty capable; we know, because we did it.
The EQS SUV is an exemplar in passive and active safety, with an array of assistance features and packages. Experience with the latest S-Class suggests that that some of them – Active brake assist with cross-traffic function, for example – can be over-zealous. And honestly, does anyone really need or use Remote Parking Assist? Only if they’re a pillock.
Brake feel, as on the EQS and EQE, is inconsistent, and certainly the only significant issue in a largely fault-free if anodyne driving experience. Three levels of energy recuperation are available: D+ for coasting, D for normal regen, and D- which delivers more. D-Auto is an adaptive setting that’s constantly playing with the regen depending on the conditions. The effect is strong, but it definitely benefits range.
What is it like on the inside?
The EQS SUV is Mercedes’ manifesto for hi-tech, and the Hyperscreen really steals the show. “The Hyperscreen is an epic moment,” Mercedes Chief Design Officer told us when it was unveiled. “It actually came out of our design studio in Lake Como. The entire instrument panel is a screen, and the moment I saw it I knew we had to do it. And once we did that there would be no way back. It sets the industry standard.”
It’s a £7,995 option, but a bobby-dazzler. That vast screen is made of scratch-resistant aluminium silicate and curved three-dimensionally during the moulding process at temperatures of 650°C so that the display never distorts. The Hyperscreen features eight CPU cores, 24-gigabyte RAM and 46.4 GB per second RAM memory, making it, says Mercedes, “the brain and nervous system of the car”.
There are actually three screens, one for the driver, a huge central display, and a third one for the passenger, who can watch a film without disturbing the poor sap behind the wheel. The guiding philosophy is called ‘zero layer’, the system’s machine learning adapting to the driver’s behaviour so that it can proactively display the right functions at the right time. No more hapless meandering through a world of counter-intuitive sub-menus (although there’s a display element on the sat nav that is both completely superfluous and very distracting). Mercedes claims that its voice activation is also fully sorted now, too, but it’s still patchy. (They all are).
AI helps the navigation system plan the optimum route ahead, monitoring variables such as topography, ambient temperature, speed, and heating and cooling demand, as well as charging station availability and payment functions. So in theory you can forget about range anxiety. It’ll even advise whether two short charging stops are better than one longer one. Honestly, it all seems a bit much, until you get back into a lesser-equipped car.
Although the ‘regular’ display is no less dazzling. The screens ‘float’ above a dashboard which flows into the door trims. The EQS gets a substantial centre console with huge storage space beneath, and the option of a panel with the Mercedes star lasered into open-pore wood and back-lit. Ahead of the driver is a 12.3in instrument display, complete with 3D functionality, while the central portrait display manages to be next-level without requiring a PHD or being counter-intuitive. The absence of a rotary controller or touchpad might sound risky, but you simply swipe across the main modes – including media, navigation, radio and so on – your touch elicting a gentle haptic buzz on the crystal clear 12.8in OLED screen. Even the climate control is straightforward (on which note, the UK isn’t getting the fancy HEPA air filtration system).
Less successful is the sliding control for the audio, neither the one on the base of the screen or the smaller one on the wheel moving totally smoothly. The mind-blowing Burmester optional audio system can now be had with Dolby Atmos which delivers a 360° surround sound. It’s phenomenal, and works wonders if there’s a film on.
As in the S-Class, you can bathe the car in all sorts of ambient light, and the seats are sensational, with or without massage functionality. There’s also a variety of ‘energising’ comfort modes, which draw on nature to elevate the occupants’ mood. There’s even a stationary ‘power nap’ setting which reclines the seats and closes the roller blind if the car is fitted with the panoramic roof. Yep, this is a car that can actively lull you to sleep – it also ionises the air and depicts a starry sky on the screen – and then wake you up again without jolting you into hard, unpleasant reality. The SUV even gets its own fragrance, No.6 Mood, the bottle hidden in the glove-box.
This is all either wonderful stuff or absurd overkill. We can’t quite decide, although the base note’s tobacco, cedar and sandalwood sure beats a Magic Tree.
Needless to say, this is a hugely roomy vehicle. And versatile. The second row of seats can be electrically adjusted as standard, fore and aft, by 130mm for extra knee-room, while the back-rests are also adjustable. and there’s 2,100 litres of luggage space. That’s four golf bags, to use a vehicle-appropriate metric, or 24 crates of mineral water to use one that isn’t. There’s a cargo position which keeps the seats more steeply angled to accommodate larger objects without folding them flat. Third row occupants are not marooned in a wasteland; even these seats can be heated.
What should I be paying?
This car is a major financial commitment, but aimed at a strata of society most likely too busy profiting from fluctuating energy prices to worry about it. Prices start at £130,000, and you’d better pencil in half a day or more if you plan to get busy on the configurator. Like all new Mercedes, the options list is more of a three-volume encyclopedia. Now with the added complexity of ‘over-the-air’ updates, a neat new revenue stream for the car business, but as annoying as it is on your phone or laptop.
The charging process itself is simplified provided the user signs up for Mercedes Me Charging, with charging and billing taking place automatically. It offers access to 850,000 AC and DC charging points worldwide, and Plug & Charge is also available (no need to authenticate yourself).
Mercedes issues a battery certificate for its high-voltage batteries which is basically a performance guarantee: this runs to a service life of 10 years or 250,000km and a remaining capacity of 70 per cent. As for those claimed consumption figures, we saw an easy 2.5 miles per kWh during a run to 11,000ft-plus in the Rockies near Denver, Colorado. The EQS SUV 580+ is a powerful vehicle, but it’s not a performance car. So we didn’t drive it like one.