DRIVEN: Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+

The “game-changer” label tends to be loosely thrown around nowadays but, when it comes to the brand-new Mercedes-Benz EQS, the term is completely appropriate. Here’s a clean-sheet debutant that will not only spearhead the three-pointed star’s sedan line-up, but also sets the bar for all of Merc’s upcoming battery-powered offerings, of which there will be several.

Unlike preceding EQ models, the EQS is underpinned by brandnew, dedicated EV architecture, rather than using a platform sourced from an existing combustion-powered vehicle. The headline stats for the EQS include a touring range of up to 780 km on a full charge and fast-charging capability that provides 300 km of range with a 15-minute zap.

Harnessing all the packaging benefits of its electrified powertrain (obviously, no bulky engine up front), the EQS has a distinct cab-forward design, with a short dash-to-axle ratio and an expansive wheelbase.

Measuring 5 216 mm in length and 1 926 mm wide, it sits halfway between the standard and long-wheelbase S-Class, although its tapered styling makes the EQS appear much more compact than it actually is on the road.

The key number to note is a wheelbase stretched to 3 210 mm, which means there’s acres of sprawling room inside the EQS with no transmission/driveshaft tunnel impinging on cabin space, of course.

Two EQS variants will be offered from launch: the 450+ and 580 4Matic, with an EQS 53 coming online later. Deliveries worldwide will start in 2022, with the first vehicles expected to reach South Africa by Q2. It’s too early to predict pricing but we expect it to be positioned slightly above that of a similarly powered S-Class.

The current S-Class range starts at just over R2,4 million, so figure on an entry point somewhere around the R2,7-million mark for the EQS 450+.

Both models use a 108 kWh battery pack, with the EQS 450+deriving propulsion from a single synchronous electric motor powering the rear axle. This variant pushes out 245 kW and 568 N.m of torque for a claimed zero to 100 km/h sprint time of 6,20 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h. The range-topping EQS 580 4Matic (pictured) is equipped with dual motors – one for the front and rear axle – hence the 4Matic suffix to align with Mercedes-speak for AWD. The two motors produce 385 kW; 135 kW on the front axle and 250 kW on the rear, and 855 N.m of total torque. This is comparable with outputs of 370 kW and 700 N.m for the upcoming V8-powered S580 L 4Matic.

Mercedes-Benz quotes a claimed zero to 100 km/h acceleration time of 4,30 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h. While these are not Tesla-bashing numbers for the EQS 580 4Matic, it feels rapid enough in the real world … but more on this later.

As with all electric vehicles, the sizeable battery pack makes for plenty of heft, with the EQS 450+ tipping the scales at a rather portly 2 480 kg and the top-ofthe- line 580 4Matic coming in at an AMG GLS 63-rivalling 2 585 kg. A low centre of gravity means the EQS, unlike its seven-seater stablemate, hides its substantial mass incredibly well.

The EQS has been subjected to a barrage of wind-tunnel tests and simulations, and the result of this is a record-setting coefficient of drag of just 0,20, aided by retractable door handles that sit flush with the door panels when the car is locked. Its slipperiness through the air is part of the secret to a claimed cruising range of 780 km on a full charge for the EQS 450+, as well as benchmarksetting silence and refinement.

It is the S-Class of EVs, after all. Given the absence of a combustion engine, you could well assume there would be some additional storage space under the bonnet. This isn’t the case; a massive HEPA filter resides under there and channels pristine air to the cabin. In fact, the bonnet doesn’t open at all. The only access point is via a flap on the front left fender to enable top-ups of the windscreen washer bottle.

Housed under the passenger cell is a new-generation battery pack that Mercedes-Benz claims has a significantly higher energy density than is the case with any existing EV. The batterymanagement software developed in-house allows updates over the air (OTA), which means the energy management system remains up to date  hroughout its life cycle. The EQS can be charged with up to 200 kW at fast-charging stations (where available) with direct current, enabling an added range of 300 km in just 15 minutes of top-up time. At home or public charging stations, it can be charged with up to 22 kW with alternating current using the onboard charger. This bodes well for its day-to-day usability, although we’ll reserve final judgement until we’re able to subject the EQS to an extended road test on home soil.

If you’re one of the lucky few who has sat in the latest S-Class, you’ll recognise some familiar elements in the EQS’ superbly crafted cabin, but it’s the optional whizz-bang Hyperscreen – an expansive curved glass affair stretching right across the dashboard – that provides a clear point of differentiation between the two. The Hyperscreen houses three displays that appear to merge into one. In addition to the virtual dials and large central infotainment screen, there’s also a 12,3-inch OLED display for the front passenger that provides its own monitor and control area.

Cleverly, there’s intelligent, camera-based logic … if the camera detects the driver is looking at the front passenger screen, it’s automatically dimmed. Even if you’ve driven internalcombustion-engined cars all your life, piloting the EQS doesn’t require any major adaptation, apart from embracing the routine of recharging rather thanrefuelling, that is. Just push the  start button on the centre console, pull the column-mounted stalk into “D” and you’re off. As expected, the EQS glides from a standstill in complete silence.

So much so that even the serenity and refinement of a Rolls-Royce Phantom pales by comparison. There’s obviously no din from pistons, valves and camshaft reciprocating but even so, wind and tyre noise are impressively well suppressed. Ensconced within its sumptuous cabin, you hear absolutely nothing, apart from the sound of your breathing.

Despite being 5,2 m in length and almost 2 m wide, the EQS’s four-wheel-steering helps in“shrinking” these dimensions as you manoeuvre. This is most  evident through some of the tight hairpins we encountered on the second day of the launch drive.

Once out of Zurich, the initial freeway schlep brought home the deceptive ease with which the EQS piles on speed. In the interests of licence preservation, keep a watchful eye on the speedo or simply activate cruise control and forget about it.

In the top-rung EQS 580 4Matic, a couple of quick squirts on the throttle delivered eye-widening acceleration and a reminder that 855 N.m is just an ankle twitch away. The EQS 580 won’t threaten a range-topping Tesla in a drag race but there’s more than enough urge for effortless cruising and decisive overtaking.

You can select any of three energy recuperation modes – high, medium and low – via steeringmounted paddles (in lieu of transmission paddles). Click on the left paddle to engage a higher recuperation mode, while the right paddle does the opposite.

One-pedal driving is possible in the highest recuperation mode, as the EQS decelerates sharply the instant you lift off the throttle.

An interesting novelty is the Mercedes-Benz Sound Experience that substitutes a synthetic soundtrack of an ICE exhaust note via the speakers. The Vivid Flux setting invokes a strange sound, like a spaceship, reminiscent of the old Renault Clio’s RS monitor with much the same functionality.

But Roaring Pulse is a much more agreeable option as it generates a rumble akin to a muted AMG V8. Stamp on the throttle and the decibels rise accordingly; you could conceivably fool passengers into thinking there is a V8 lurking beneath that faux bonnet. It’s quite entertaining but we suspect most owners will choose to bask in the EQS’ silky silence or revel in the bombastic tones belted out by the superb Burmester surroundsound audio system.

On day two of the media launch, we traded the 580 4Matic for a 450+. Even though it makes do with one less motor and driven axle, it has a healthy power and torque output and still feels adequately rapid. Heading out of the lofty ski resort town of Andermatt, about two hours south of Zurich, the spectacular ribbon of tarmac across the Gotthard Pass loomed – perfect for gleaning the dynamics of the EQS.

You would imagine a 2,5-tonne limo would feel cumbersome across a narrow, winding road such as this, yet, the EQS exceeds expectations. Its low centre of gravity (thanks to the battery pack under the passenger cell floor) and some deft chassis tuning result in surprisingly flat cornering characteristics.

Our test car was shod with 20-inch rims wrapped in 255 mmwide Goodyear rubber and this combo presents ample grip levels in the corners.You’d need to push inordinately hard to elicit any tyre squeal. The available rim sizes go up to 22 inches but opting for the latter would doubtless come at some cost to the ride quality.

The EQS is arguably not quite as supple as an S-Class. However, this is partly by design as company execs maintain it was conceived to provide more dynamic cornering characteristics, which it does. That said, the steering does feel remote – there’s little in the way of textured feedback – nor does the EQS come across as a particularly engaging driver’s car.

These criticisms will not dilute its appeal in the slightest to its target audience, most of whom are bound to be dazzled by the EQS’ barrage of cutting-edge tech, plus its impressive range and recharging stats. Overall, it’s as cohesive and impeccably packaged as we’d expect of a flagship EV from Mercedes-Benz.

An electric S-Class in every respect then.

Price: TBC Engine: Permanent magnet, synchronous, rear Transmission: 2-speed auto Combined power: 245 kW Torque: 568 N.m 0-100 km/h: 6,20 seconds*

Top speed: 210 km/h* Energy consumption: 20,4-15,7 kWh/100 km* CO2: 0 g/km Rivals: Audi E-Tron; Jaguar I-Pace; Porsche Taycan

By Gautam Sharma

Article written by

CAR magazine