Mercedes EQS hatchback review
"The Mercedes EQS is the first truly luxurious EV with an impressive range, but it's ride comfort can be jarring"
- Incredible range
- Sumptuous interior
- Next-generation technology
- Slightly firm ride
- Polarising design
Until very recently, the all-electric Mercedes EQS luxury car wouldn't have been possible. It's only now that battery technology means the flagship can have a range of well over 400 miles - a target seen as critical for an electric alternative to the iconic Mercedes S-Class.
Mercedes plans to offer an EV in every segment by 2025, before becoming an all-electric brand by 2030, and the EQS is a clear signal of its intent to be a dominant force. While other models like the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S Plaid may be faster, nothing comes close to matching its luxury or sheer opulence.
Not only is it whisper quiet and smooth riding thanks to its electric motors and air suspension setup, but the EQS is also off the charts when it comes to interior materials and build quality. Not only that, but the 1.4-metre wide 'Hyperscreen' infotainment display represents another substantial leap forwards for in-car technology from the traditional manufacturers, in an effort to keep up with Tesla's hardware and software.
To fit its VIP transport brief, the EQS is also spacious, even if it can't quite match the S-Class for rear headroom. Legroom is plentiful, and its hatchback boot is also a surprising 610 litres, giving it more cargo space than the Mercedes EQC SUV. Folding down the rear seats expands storage to 1,770 litres, but we'd probably draw the line at trying to load muddy bikes or sports gear into a pristine EQS.
From launch, two versions are offered, although a faster Mercedes-AMG derived model is expected later on. The EQS 450+ gets 324bhp and rear-wheel drive, along with a 107.8kWh battery for a 485-mile driving range. The more expensive 580 4MATIC comes with 'Hyperscreen' as standard, has dual electric motors for a total of 516bhp, and has a shorter range of around 420 miles because of its extra performance.
Such a large battery means charging using a three-phase 11kW wallbox takes around 10.5 hours, but the EQS can also charge at up to 200kW at compatible ultra-rapid chargers, with a top-up from 10 to 80% taking around half-an-hour.
While the EQS will likely draw comparisons from the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S, in reality it's in a different class with no real direct rivals. The Porsche and Tesla are smaller and more engaging to drive, but the comfort, luxury and space on offer in the EQS make it the world's first luxury electric car for eco-conscious CEO's and oligarchs.
MPG, running costs & CO2
While some manufacturers are content to give their all-electric superminis and crossovers a short driving range in the name of affordable urban driving, the same wouldn't do for the EQS. This is a flagship model, designed to spend much of its life on the motorways and autobahns, bridging the gaps between cities and conveying VIPs from their offices to their weekend retreats sustainably.
A 485-mile range for the rear-wheel drive 450+ version, makes the EQS the first model capable of troubling the Tesla Model S for driving distance between charges. The figure drops slightly for the four-wheel drive 580 4MATIC model, to around 420 miles. The Model S Long Range can manage just over 400 miles, while the Porsche Taycan can top 300 miles.
Part of the reason for the EQS' long range is its slippery shape, with a drag coefficient claimed to be the lowest of any production car to date. It also has a huge 107.8kWh battery, which has more than double the capacity found in a Renault ZOE or Nissan Leaf. A smaller 90kWh version is also going to be available later on.
Both versions will take around 10.5 hours to fully charge using a home wallbox, provided a three-phase power supply is available to make the most of its 11kW on-board charging capability. Away from the home or office, the EQS can charge at up to 200kW using an ultra-rapid charger, providing a top-up from 10 to 80% in as little as 31 minutes.
The EQS should appeal to the business buyers who account for most Mercedes S-Class sales, thanks to its very low Benefit-in-Kind bands. It will also be exempt from tariffs in low-emissions zones, which could represent a significant cost-saving for operators driving in and out of cities like London. The EQS is also exempt from VED (road tax), but its list price is too high for it to qualify for the plug-in car grant (PiCG).
Engines, drive & performance
It's likely more versions will arrive in future, but at launch there are two levels of EQS performance for buyers to pick from. The 'sensible' EQS 450+ has a single 324bhp electric motor for the rear wheels, getting the 2.4-tonne luxury saloon from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds.
If that's too stately, the EQS 580 4MATIC instead has an electric motor for each axle, giving it 516bhp and a 0-62mph dash of 4.3 seconds. This doesn't make it as ballistic as the Porsche Taycan or Model S Plaid, but then the EQS is designed with comfort in mind after all. A more powerful version is also on its way from the Mercedes-AMG performance division in due course.
While there's no denying the EQS is a bruiser of a car, Mercedes has fitted rear-axle steering as standard. This can normally turn the rear wheels by up to 4.5 degrees, but our test car was fitted with an optional version increasing this to 10 degrees. Thus equipped, the EQS has a turning circle only 40cm larger than a Renault ZOE city car, and it feels more agile than you would expect given its size. As if to emphasise its manoeuvrability, the steering is also rather light in its heft.
The EQS also features 'intelligent recuperation', using cameras and its on-board computers to decide when to use the electric motors to decelerate the car and feed energy back into the battery. While it can be caught out, this works well in most situations, automatically slowing the car for roundabouts and the traffic ahead. During our drive we barely touched the brake pedal, which is a further plus given that we're still not huge fans of the pedal feel in Mercedes' large EVs.
Interior & comfort
The Mercedes S-Class is renowned for its sublime ride comfort, so the EQS has a lot to live up to. Sadly, while it's a very comfortable car for the vast majority of the time, it doesn't have the feel of floating just above the road that some Mercedes buyers may want, and its air suspension is occasionally upset by deep potholes.
Refinement really impresses, though, with an almost silent interior ambiance at lower speeds. Head onto the motorway and there's just a hint of wind noise from around the A-pillars, making for a relaxing experience for the driver and passengers.
Perhaps an even bigger wow factor is the interior design itself, with a stunning 'Hyperscreen' infotainment setup as its centrepiece. This is standard on the 580 4MATIC, but is expected to be an option costing around £8,000 on other versions. Measuring 1.41-metres wide, it consists of a huge piece of curved glass with a 12.3-inch driver's display, a 17.7-inch infotainment screen and a 12.3-inch screen for the passenger. This provides an exceptional user experience, controlling everything from entertainment to the seats and safety systems. The passenger display shows a decorative image when the seat is empty, and activates when it senses a front occupant.
Mercedes has also worked hard on making it simple to use, so there's a home button to get back to the main interface, and a favourites bar that quickly learns your most-used features. Mercedes calls this a 'zero-layer' system, designed to avoid having to dig through menus and sub-menus. A driver attention camera will also detect if the driver is becoming too distracted by all the information on offer. To help users avoid having to prod the screen at all, the "Hey Mercedes" voice assistant has also been improved and can even be used by rear passengers. A rear seat entertainment system is also offered, with a pair of 11.6-inch displays with the option to share content around the car.
Interior materials are class-leading, no matter where you look inside the EQS. It's solidly built too, and while the layout of controls will be familiar to Mercedes drivers, everything has been adapted for this flagship EV to feel exclusive.
Practicality & boot space
The Mercedes EQS is a huge car, measuring 5.22 metres long and 1.93 metres wide, so it should come as no surprise that interior space is generous. Legroom is no issue for tall adults front or rear, but the sleek roofline does mean there's only just enough headroom for six-foot adults to be comfortable in the back. The Mercedes S-Class still offers more rear seat room, but the EQS does benefit from a completely flat floor thanks to its lack of a transmission tunnel, providing lots of legroom.
Unlike the Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT, the EQS doesn't have a 'frunk' storage area under its bonnet, but makes up for it somewhat with a huge 610-litre boot. It's also easier to access than a few of its rivals, thanks to a hatchback boot that creates a large loading aperture. Fold down the back seats and space increases to an estate car-like 1,770 litres.
Reliability & safety
Theoretically, a powertrain using a battery and electric motors should be simpler and more robust than a combustion engine or plug-in hybrid setup. But, this is bleeding-edge technology for Mercedes, so only time will tell just how reliable the EQS will be. One positive sign is the fact the marque rose to 13th out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, which is far more encouraging than its 28th-place finish in 2020. Of the owners who responded, 19% reported a fault within the first year of driving, compared with 42.6% for Tesla, but just over 14% of Porsche customers. Mercedes drivers told us they loved their interiors and build quality, along with interior space and infotainment. The driving experience was also praised, with strong rankings for acceleration and refinement - areas where the EQS is particularly adept.
Along with Volvo, Mercedes is one of the leading lights for safety tech, and the flagship EQS is at the forefront of its programme. Active Steering Assist can keep the Mercedes in its lane on the motorway at up to 74mph, and the EQS can also help the driver change lanes when safe to do so. It's also bristling with anti-collision sensors, to avoid a bump while driving and parking. Try to exit the EQS as a bicycle or car approaches, and an exit warning will trigger.
At up to 37mph, Mercedes' Drive Pilot can even allow Level 3 autonomous driving, with hands off the steering wheel. At least it can in some markets, but this technology isn't yet permitted by UK regulations, so won't be activated for the time being. If it is, it can allow drivers to relax or check emails in slow-moving traffic.