Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here

Published:06 April 2021

Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here
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By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel

► Our first taste of Merc’s luxury EV
► First car on the brand’s new electric platform
► Tested in upcoming EQS 580 guise

Our Mercedes EQS test car is totally shrink-wrapped in star-studded silver and blue over matte black camouflage foil. No, this is definitely not your father's Benz. Instead, the new luxury whisperliner dares to be remarkably different.

The unusual proportions are highlighted by a very short front overhang, looong arc-shaped roofline, stubby rear with neatly integrated tailgate, substantial wheelbase which matches the extended S-Class and large-diameter wheels and tyres sized up to 22 inches. What’s not to like?

Well, the ungainly black triangle at the foot of the A-post, the vertical segmentation of the sleek greenhouse into five busy elements, and the déjà vu horizontal light bar which connects the tail lights. The base model is arguably the cleanest and best-looking of the lot. While the AMG bodykit borrows too many design cues from its petrol-fed siblings, the chintzy two-tone First Edition smacks of a leaked Maybach spin-off...

Mercedes' electric plans revealed: everything from EQA to EQS

eqs rear static

How does the EQS compare to an S-Class?

Christoph Starzynski is in charge of the Mercedes EQ sub-brand, and is one of the fathers of the EQS: ‘Even though they address different clienteles and apply different technologies, they share certain segment-defining halo elements, they are emphatically premium through and through, and they both set new standards in terms of safety, connectivity and driving experience.’

He pauses, grins, then adds: ‘Dynamically, however, they are not the same at all because their interpretation of luxury is achieved by very different means.’

Sounds intriguing, so let’s hit the road in the top-of-the-line version which is allegedly less expensive than its V8-engined counterpart – unless the customer chooses to specify the five-figure full-width 'hyperscreen' which can be digitial overkill or black-panel passive, depending on how many tricks the driver and the front-seat passenger would like to extract from the vast curved centre display and the two monitors on both sides of it.

eqs interior

Out of the zillion functionalities, the first surprise features which pop up as soon as the authorised user approaches the vehicle are the automatic door opening device and a choice of road music themes – Silver Waves or Roaring Flux – intoned by the external sound processor. Not to your liking? Then different road sounds can be bought over the air, just as you can extend – at cost – the angle of the rear-wheel steering from 4º to 10º.

Opinion: ‘The uncomfortable age of in-car upgrades has begun’

Although the virtual accessory shop is full of retrofit seductions, the fantasies of the marketing squad end where type approval violation begins. The popular OTA range extension service is for instance legal in some US states but a no-go in Europe. At 5220mm from bumper to bumper, the EQS sits dimensionally right in the middle between CLS and S-Class models. Since the only tenant of the small frunk is the AC unit complete with aerosol filter, bacteria eliminator and virus trap, the cabin space is quantifiably superior in length and width. Despite reclining backrests in row two, rear headroom is however somewhat compromised by the sloping roof and the tailgate mechanism.

I need some performance specs…

The first version to roll off the line is the all-wheel-drive EQS 580, which entertains a 108kWh battery to power two e-motors rated at a combined 516bhp – 181bhp on the front axle, 335bhp on the rear, with aggregate torque being a feisty 631lb ft. Then comes a rear-drive 90kWh EQS 450 (328bhp, 419lb ft).

eqs front static

For the EQS 580, even though the kerbweight hovers around the 2.5-tonne mark, the flagship’s 0-62mph acceleration time is a brisk 4.3sec, with top speed limited to 131mph. But numbers blur when the chauffeur puts his foot down and oodles of instant torque are bound to take your breath away, again and again. While the five senses are still busy sorting themselves out, the brain slowly starts evaluating the ride quality, mid-range grunt, stopping power and the way this heavyweight handles and holds the road.

So? How does it all feel?

Shod with 21-inch summer tyres all-round (22-inch wheels are optional), our pre-production specimen was not quite as compliant and cossetting as expected. Even minor vagaries were promptly telegraphed to the steering wheel, the seat and the floorpan; manhole covers were acknowledged by a unilateral seismic blip; sudden transverse irritiations even briefly bothered the rear wheels.

That’s not good enough, Herr Starzynski.

eqs rear tracking

The answer came back like a shot. ‘I absolutely disagree. We wanted the EQS to feel that little bit tauter as well as more firmly tied down than the S-Class. It also corners more flatly and turn-in is a touch brisker. Of course, the larger wheel diameter and the tyre size contribute to the crisper overall set-up.’

Although the extra dash of chassis stiffness may in isolation be quite modest, its disturbing effect is emphasised by the near absence of mechanical noise, wind noise, tyre noise – in fact noise in general. Sporting a record-breaking drag coefficient of 0.20Cd, the EQS gives the term 'splendid isolation' a whole new meaning, ignoring potential spoilsports like frameless windows, conventional door mirrors and no aerodynamic aids bar a tiny lip on the bootlid.

Even the air-con seems to whisper rather than hiss, the cabin air is expertly purified or lightly fragranced on request, the heating is now wall-to-wall, and the choice of massage treatments is liable to put the Oriental Feelgood Parlour round the corner out of business for good. The car’s natural vocation for pampering is also reflected in the choice of exquisite materials, the remarkable craftsmanship and the interactive talents of the MBUX voice control system which can even decode dialects, cope with linguistic handicaps and identify every occupant by that person’s pronunciation.

I need range stats…. Stat!

Depending on tyre size, the WLTP consumption varies from 3.2-3.8 miles/kWh (EQS 450+) and from 3.1-3.7 miles/kWh (EQS 580). Find a 200kW DC charger, and it only takes half an hour to boost the state of charge from 10 to 80%. The ongoing evolution is going to yield more charge power, higher voltages, bigger batteries, more efficient cell chemistry – you name it.

True, the upcoming Tesla Model S Plaid + more than doubles the output of the big electric Benz. But there is more to a complete EV hyper-saloon than unreal straight-line performance. Like riding the perfectly balanced torque surf from one corner to the next, part-throttling this brontosaurus rex with scalpel-like poise through roundabouts, clipping apexes like a pro totally devoted to the flow, and braking late enough to turn the four discs into XXL hotplates.

eqs side pan

‘There are three recuperation programmes at your disposal,’ elaborates Christoph S. ‘One equals the so-called one-pedal feel, two is very much like lift-off in a conventional car, and three equals coasting.’ Efficiency nerds will likely choose the latter, even though the massive inertia needs to be reeled in more firmly than in an S500. As you would expect, there is no Sport Plus drive mode, but we would vote for a Comfort Plus programme to lift the ride quality to a cushier level.

Mercedes EQS: prototype impressions

Mr EQ freely admits that there is still some fine tuning to be done.

Expect a modified algorithm for the rule of brake travel, pressure and response; another look at the tyre pressure regimen; and more flippancies like the self-opening doors which automatically close when the drive steps on the brake.

In addition to an entry-level model, the EQ division is preparing a decidedly sportier AMG variant which may feature a different type of battery and one extra motor. While the EQS spearheads the second phase of the brand’s electrification at a rate of up to 30,000 units a year, more growth can be expected from the less pricey EQE (55,000 units) and the two SUVs derived from the same modular electric architecture (MEA, 75,000 units). All MEA derivatives run on 400V and can be fast-charged with 200kW for a WLTP range of up to 435 miles.

Now, let's have the keys, please, because the proof is in the pudding.

Read more Mercedes reviews here


Price when new: £100,000
On sale in the UK: Summer 2021
Engine: Twin e-motors, 516bhp, 631lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.3sec 0-62mph, 131mph, 300-mile range (est), 0g/KM
Weight / material: 2500kg (est)
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm):

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  • Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here
  • Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here
  • Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here
  • Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here
  • Mercedes EQS (2021) prototype review: electric luxury starts here

By Georg Kacher

European editor, secrets uncoverer, futurist, first man behind any wheel