The electric car has finally reached the top: Mercedes has unveiled a battery-powered version of the S-Class, the limo that has been the go-to luxury choice around the world for decades.
Mercedes‑Benz EQS reinvents the luxury car
The EQS doesn’t look like an S-Vlass, on the inside as well as the outside, and it promises not to feel or drive like one, either. It’s a reinvention where all aspects of luxury motoring have been re-evaluated for an electric age. As such it promises to be just as influential as the regular S-Class, previewing features and systems that might be exclusive today but which in time will filter down to all cars.
Some things don’t change though and the EQS promises to be just as roomy, quiet, comfortable, opulent and fast – there’s one version on its way with 750PS (560kW). That’s official by the way, confirmed by Mercedes-EQ, the new brand charged with selling the three-pointed star’s electric dreams.
The EQS’s uniqueness among Merc’s or anyone else’s range starts with its design. A short clamshell bonnet, raked-back screen and roofline that extends in one sweeping arch to the tip of the taillights flies in the face of the traditional three-box luxury car. First surprise then: this is a sleek hatchback, though Mercedes prefers the word “fastback”. A five-door S-Class with fold-down rear seats and 1,700 litres of boot space? That’s a first.
It will come as no surprise that the reason the EQS looks so seamless is to cheat the wind. The arching shape, flush surfaces, smooth underside and dearth of body creases and protrusions – even the number of panel gaps has been brought down – have all been designed to cut wind resistance. The result is impressive: a Cd of 0.20 makes this the world’s most aerodynamic production car, according to Mercedes.
The EQS needs all the help from the wind it can get, for while you can stuff a car like this full of batteries – and with 107.8kWh worth of cells under the floor, the EQS is pretty well stuffed – getting the most out of them in terms of range requires something other than barn-door aerodynamics. So thank that Cd 0.22 for the EQS’s impressive range: 478 miles at its best, or 770km, according to the WLTP protocol.
Mercedes calls this cab-forward fastback body the “one-bow” look and as you might imagine it relies on equally new under-the-skin architecture. True, the suspension is from the latest combustion-engined S-Class, and many of the car’s safety and convenience systems will be familiar to S-Class owners, but the platform is entirely new.
This bespoke electric architecture is modular and scalable and is set to play a huge part in Merc’s future luxury-car range. Versions of the platform will soon be used for the EQE executive saloon and an EQ version of the GLS SUV. And they are only the cars Mercedes is confirming; there are sure to be others in time.
As platforms go it conforms to what is now a familiar layout. The huge battery pack is built into the car low down in the chassis and within the confines of the EQS’s long wheelbase. Every version of the EQS has a motor on the rear axle and the 4Matic all-wheel-drive versions have a motor on the front axle as well.
The first model to arrive will be the entry EQS 450+ with 329PS (245kW) and 568Nm for 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds. Due at the same time is the dual-motor EQS 580 4Matic, which can call on a total of 516PS (385kW) along with 855Nm of torque, for an altogether brisker 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. The top speed of both is limited to 130mph. The later-arriving EQS with 750PS (560kW) should be an abolsute rocketship.
Mercedes says all models offer the option of one-pedal driving – where braking to a standstill can be achieved just by lifting off the accelerator – as part of an energy recuperation strategy that is another key element in delivering that 478-mile range. As offered on other EQ Mercs, different levels of energy recuperation can be set by paddle-shifters on the steering wheel.
The 107.8kWh whopper of a battery (a smaller one will likely be available too) can be plugged into the most powerful 200kW fast-chargers which can give the car enough juice for 186 miles in 15 minutes. You need to find that fast-charger first of course, and here the sat-nav has been programmed to do the searching for you.
The battery itself has a service life of 10 years or 155,000 miles and after it’s served its purpose in the car can get a second life in a Mercedes energy storage system – feeding power into the German national grid.
A lot of batteries mean a lot of weight but at 2.48 tonnes for the single-motor model, or 2.58 tonnes for the 4Matic, the EQS isn’t much heavier than a combustion-engined S-Class. The cars are about the same size: at 5.2m long, the EQS is between standard and long-wheelbase S-Class models.
It’s a big car then but with a neat trick to aid manoeuvrability. Like the latest petrol S-Class, launched only six months ago, the EQS comes with 4.5 degrees of rear steering, aiding agility as well as stability at higher speed. But here’s the clever thing: in the EQS you can boost that 4.5 degrees to 10 degrees by activating an over-the-air update. With one online instruction, you can tighten the car’s turning circle by 1m to 10.9m, better than a C-Class’s.
There’s lots more that’s clever here. The car can drive itself (where allowed), park itself and is loaded with safety systems, including frontal airbags for rear-seat passenger and a mind-boggling array of electronic “assistants”.
The door handles deploy automatically when you walk up to the car and the frameless doors can be activated electrically Rolls-Royce style. It is neat that Merc uses the blind spot monitor to ensure the doors can’t open into the path of a cyclist or other car.
The wheels (up to 22 inches) are flush aero designs and the EQS’s lights are fancy in the extreme; rear lights that mimic the shape of the electric heating element are sure to become an EQS design cue. Another is the Black Panel front grille: not just an electronic force field (with a multitude of sensors behind it) but also a stylistic feature with the optional Electric Art Exterior and 3D pattern of stars based on a heritage Mercedes logo.
But if you really want to be wowed, step inside. We have already previewed the new “zero layer” operating system and massive (though optional) Hyperscreen display, but seeing it all in a cabin swathed in soft blue light is certainly something special.
From bespoke audio “soundscapes”, Hepa-filtered air, haptic touch controls and a new olfactory programme (EQS signature fragrance: a fig lying on a piece of linen), the EQS cabin aims to provide a treat for all the senses. And all that’s before you get into conversation with digital assistant and explore the extensive possibilities available with the latest MBUX control interface.
”The EQS is designed to exceed the expectations of even our most demanding customers,” Mercedes chief executive Ola Källenius tell us. Yep, it sure does look that way. But on looks, we have one question: what does the EQS look like in a single colour, without the (rather heavy-handed) two-tone body?
Nine clever things the EQS can do
- Wake you up after a “power nap” while the car is charging by automatically opening the blinds, raising the seat and pumping lights, music and fragrance into the cabin. You also get a massage – but no cup of tea.
- Tell you how dirty the air outside the car is by displaying external particulate levels on the display screen; the air inside the car can be set to be filtered automatically before you get in.
- Restrict top speed to 75mph and disable sport mode for “beginner” drivers with an over-the-air update; there’s also a valet setting.
- Tighten its turning circle (to a compact 10.9m) by an over-the-air update that cranks up the rear-axle steering.
- Create a “unique night-time ambience” with light-up piping that outlines each seat.
- Allow you to top up windscreen washer fluid without opening the bonnet – that can only be done by a workshop.
- Tell you not just where the charging points are on your planned route but also what the cost of a charge-up will be – and whether or not you will make the journey and back again without any charging up.
- Monitor the driver’s rate of blinking for the new Attention Assist system to guard against falling asleep at the wheel.
- Offer a range of ecologically-inspired “soundscapes” in lieu of engine noise: choose between programmes called Forest Glade, Sound of the Sea and Summer Rain, while for petrolheads there’s a more extrovert programme that’s “reminiscent of powerful machines” (that’ll be the one for us then).
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