After driving nearly every car for sale over the last 20 years, it’s natural for the cars of the past to enter into your thoughts when driving something new. Humans compare experiences to gain perspective, which explains why we were daydreaming about Rolls-Royces while driving Mercedes-Benz’s new electric luxury four-door, the EQS450+.
Like a Rolls-Royce Phantom, the EQS is a capsule of luxury and silence that pours itself down the road with unerring grace. Unlike a hard-to-swallow Rolls, the EQS looks like an Advil Liqui-Gel. It’s a lozenge of a car with what Mercedes claims is the lowest drag coefficient—0.20—of any car on sale. That slick bod whips through the air, barely disturbing it, and leads to near silence at extra-legal highway speeds.
The 107.8-kWh battery sandwiched in the floor also helps keep road noise to a minimum. That big battery also allows the EQS450+ to go an estimated 350 miles between charges. While that range bests the other German electrics, Lucid and Tesla both have models that far surpass that number. Find a Level 3 DC hookup and the EQS can go from 10 percent charge to 80 percent in 31 minutes. On a typical Level 2 setup, the EQS take just over 11 hours to go from 10 percent to 100 percent.
Moving the electrons around in the battery is a single motor driving the rear wheels that makes 329 horsepower and 419 pound-feet of torque. It’s not nearly as quick as the 516-hp EQS580, but it’ll shove you into the massaging seats. After the initial thrust from a stop the acceleration tapers off, but 60 mph is yours in a claimed 5.9 seconds. In more relaxed driving, the right-now torque affords the EQS the same sort of effortless waftability that Rolls-Royce has been touting for decades.
Yet what really reminds us of the Spirit of Ecstasy is the suppleness and silence of the suspension as it glides over the tarmac. Not much of the outside permeates the EQS’s cocoon. The long 126.4-inch wheelbase certainly helps attenuate bumps, but it’s the tuning of the standard air-spring suspension that maintains the serenity despite our test car’s 21-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear summer rubber.
Those sticky tires provide excellent grip despite the Benz’s estimated 5600-pound curb weight. Press it hard into a corner and it remains flat, and the low center of gravity born of the massive battery in the floor seemingly drills the car into the center of the Earth. Steering efforts are light and don’t pick up much even in Sport mode, but the easy efforts help mask the heft and size of this S-class-sized hatchback.
Four-wheel steering turns the rear wheels up to 10 degrees in opposition of the fronts at low speeds, helping to shrink the turning circle to 35.7 feet, making this very big Benz feel like an A-class. There’s an ease and luxury to the whole driving experience, that is only interrupted by the brakes. Hitting the brakes in the EQS starts with energy regeneration from the motors and then blends in the stopping power of the four massive brake rotors. Stepping into the brake pedal is an initially mushy experience that doesn’t slow the car much. Keep pushing and you reach a hard point where the pedal resists being moved further. Press harder and the deceleration finally hits, but it takes a lot of pedal pressure to get meaningful braking, and by then you’re sailing towards that burgundy Corolla at an alarming rate.
Using those unnatural-feeling brakes can be largely avoided by pulling on the right paddle behind the steering wheel twice. Do so and you get the maximum regeneration (what Mercedes terms Recuperation) that largely eliminates the need to touch the brake pedal and allows one to speed up and slow down in traffic by using only the accelerator. That max regen mode won’t bring the car to a complete stop though. The system slows the car to about 5 mph and then continues to creep ahead. There is an additional regen mode that requires you to hold the right paddle called Intelligent Recuperation. It utilizes the adaptive cruise-control radar and camera systems to optimize regeneration based on the surrounding traffic, the topography, and the twistiness of the road. When engaged, it’ll bring the car to a stop provided the car in front of you has stopped. It certainly works, but it’s not smart enough to stop at a stop sign or red light and will only react to whatever the car ahead is doing.
Aside from this being Mercedes’s first car built on its new EV platform, the other big news is the so-called Hyperscreen. The Hyperscreen consists of three screens that are covered in a massive glass panel that spans the width of the dashboard. The three touchscreens control nearly every function in the car, from setting an interior temperature to a game of Tetris. As a new system, it takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few hours of experimentation we became comfortable with scrolling through radio stations, looking up the outside air quality, setting a destination on the native navigation system, and pairing a phone to the system. Once paired, we largely skipped Benz’s system for Apple CarPlay. There is also the option of talking to the EQS. Saying “Hey, Mercedes” wakes the EQS’s virtual assistant that can help with a number of controls from setting the temperature to making a phone call. It works surprisingly well, but talking to your car always seems just a little silly.
The Hyperscreen certainly looks like the future, but the instrument display in front of the driver is set high. That elevated cowl is the exact opposite of the low and simple dashboard of a Tesla Model 3 or even a Model S. The brain adjusts to it, but without an engine ahead of you, why does the cowl need to be so high?
We also questioned the lack of a frunk. A cabin air filter and some other ancillaries live under the fixed hood, but the EQS makes up for that deficiency with an absolutely massive amount of cargo space under the hatch. And, if that’s not enough, the rear seats fold away.
There’s also a lot of space in the rear seat—leg-crossing, stretch-out space. Sitting in the rear seat you realize that this car is a reimagining of the S-class. In addition to the S-class appointments, performance, technology, and space inside, the EQS comes with an S-class-like price. The least expensive EQS450+ starts at $103,360, moving up to the Exclusive Level adds $3400, and the appropriately named Pinnacle Level comes in at $109,560. Pricing for the more powerful EQS580 opens at $120,160, requires an additional $3400 for the Exclusive trim, and for those who want it all, the Pinnacle will wear a $126,360 window sticker. Aside from the acceleration, the smaller motor EQS450+ is the same luxurious experience as the EQS580. If you never floor it for more than a couple of seconds, you’ll never feel like you should have gone with the quicker car. The EQS450+ is just as quiet, just as refined, and just and lovely as the more expensive EQS580. So, for those who don’t think every car that’s next to you at a red light is competition, you’ll be just fine.
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