The Mercedes EQS SUV sets the standard for a whole future era of high-end full-electric large luxury Crossovers. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
If you want the ultimate large luxury SUV and it has to be all-electric and it has to seat seven, then you have to look at this car, the Mercedes EQS SUV. It's a lot more than just an EQS on steroids. The cabin is suitably futuristic, the drivetrains are potent, the technology's impressive -and of course, the prices are high.
Having already developed the EQS full-electric large luxury saloon, you might think that it would have been pretty straightforward for Mercedes to create a trendy SUV version of the same design. Not a bit of it. Development of the EQS SUV took six years and 80% of the work that went into creating it was unrelated to the car's all-electric drivetrain. That of course was carried over unchanged, as was the basic EVA platform that all EQS and EQE models share. With everything else though, there was a lot of work needed to make a powertrain and structure designed for boardroom saloon work equally well for a higher, heavier 4WD SUV with up to seven seats.
To create it, Mercedes leaned heavily on lessons learnt in the creation of their combustion powered GLS model. Blending this with EV technology developed for their EQXX concept car, which is based around the MMA platform that will underpin the next generation of all-electric Mercedes models. In the EQS SUV, the end result of all this is a more significant car than you might think, the first of what will be quite a few large exclusive SUVIP crossover high luxury models from the premium brands. Basically, this is the next stage on from a BMW iX. Perhaps a stepping stone to a Rolls-Royce Spectre EV. Got the picture? Here's the detail.
This car is prodigiously heavy - up to 2,735kg for the 536hp EQS 580 4MATIC, which is the faster of the two mainstream variants; the other is the 355hp EQS 450 4MATIC. Both EQS SUV 4MATIC models claim a range of around 365 miles from the sizeable 108.4kWh battery that is common in either case. Performance on both versions is as you would expect from a premium electric SUV. For the EQS 450 4MATIC, that means a 0-62 time of just 6s, while the EQS 580 4MATIC is even quicker at 4.6s. To top Mercedes-Maybach EQS 680 SUV takes only 4.4s.
You might not expect the 4WD system to take this car far off piste; you'd be wrong actually. With the optional 'off-road' driving mode fitted, the air suspension rises by 25mm and primes the 4MATIC system for slippery terrain. The 360-degree camera system can also provide off-road graphics - and special images like the so-called 'transparent bonnet view', ideal when driving over rocky surfaces.
There's four-wheel steering too, with the rear wheels able to turn by up to 10-degrees. Which at parking speeds means an extraordinarily tight turning circle for a large SUV. Go faster and you should find that the car's ability to vary the amount of drive to each individual wheel depending on the grip available makes it feel more agile through the turns than the huge kerb weight would lead you to expect it to be. When cruising, the air suspension's ride height falls at above 74mph, which improves aerodynamic efficiency and ups the driving range. Refinement and luxury are central to the EQS SUV, which means special acoustic foams as well as rubber insulation of the electric drive units have been used to reduce interior cabin noise to a near whisper.
Design and Build
The EQS SUV is certainly a more imposing thing than the EQS saloon, but it's not Mercedes' largest SUV. Measuring in at 5,125mm in length, 1,959mm in width and 1,718mm in height, it's 82mm shorter than the brand's GLS. But it's 3mm wider than that car and, more significantly, the wheelbase is 75mm longer. Styling cues borrow from the EQC SUV and of course from the EQS saloon. As there, the car has a clamshell bonnet designed to be opened only during servicing, but what's different with the EQS SUV is that unlike the EQS saloon, the doors are framed.
Inside, you do of course sit higher than in an EQS saloon, but the dash display is much the same. Which means as standard, you get a 12.8-inch portrait-style central infotainment monitor paired with a 12.3-inch digital instrument screen. As an option (or as standard on the plusher EQS 580 model), there's the 1,410mm-wide Hyperscreen, a signature EQS feature, which uses an 8-core processor and offers 24GB of RAM. The Hyperscreen set-up includes a 17.7-inch centre screen flanked by a 12.3-inch instrument display and a further 12.3-inch front passenger-side screen. Second row passenger space is generous. The third row seating (standard for our market) is a different matter; you'll certainly find it more squashed at the very back than in a GLS. And with all three rows in place, there's only 195-litres of luggage space. That increases to 565-litres with the third row folded - and to 2,020-litres with the second row folded too.
Market and Model
You're going to need to think in terms of a price starting point of around £129,000 for EQS SUV ownership; that's for the base EQS 450 4MATIC model. Obviously, you'll need significantly more for the faster EQS 580 4MATIC variant. Both come with seven seats as standard. Two trim levels are available with both powertrains: first, 'Premium Plus', which includes 'Digital Light with Light band' handlamps, a panoramic roof, 21-inch alloy wheels, Nappa leather and a Head-up display. Plusher 'Business Class' includes an MBUX Augmented Head-up display, a rear entertainment system and the brand's Energising Comfort Package. At the very top of the range is the exclusive Mercedes-Maybach EQS SUV, which only comes in '680' form with the same powertrain as the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC.
Whatever trim level you select, you'll need more again if you want to upgrade the base '450' version with the digital MBUX Hyperscreen set-up almost all EQS customers want. We'd want our EQS SUV equipped with the brand's sophisticated 'ENERGIZING AIR CONTROL Plus' set-up, a system is based on filtration, sensors, a display concept and air conditioning. The HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter it uses has a very high filtration level to trap fine particles, microparticles, pollen and other substances entering with the outside air.
Don't decide upon any of this before you've considered leaving some budget aside for the optional 'Dolby Atmos' sound system, which claims to take the audio experience in the EQS SUV to a different level. With this, individual instruments or voices from the studio mix of the track you're listening to can be directed all around the cabin and a new kind of sound animation so becomes possible: This is because while conventional stereo systems usually have a left-right dynamic, the Dolby Atmos' system can use the entire space and create a 360-degree experience. It can also be paired in with another option, the Rear Seat Entertainment system, which gives you twin seat back screens in the second row.
Cost of Ownership
SUV downsides in terms of weight and bluffer aerodynamics are well illustrated here. Whereas the EQS in 450 saloon form will cover 453 miles from a single charge, basically the same battery in the EQS SUV 450 4MATIC will take you only 365 miles, with much the same range applicable to the 580 4MATIC version. In other markets, there's an EQS SUV 450 rear-driven model that manages up to 660 miles of range. Expect forthcoming segment rivals to better these showings pretty quickly.
Still, ultimate range may not matter too much if charging can be completed quickly. Here again though, the figures look fine but will need considerable update in the long term. That's because the EQS SUV, like its saloon and EQE counterparts, hasn't adopted the 800V electronic architecture that top Audi, Porsche and Genesis EVs use to charge at up to 350kW. Instead, there's an older-tech 400V system that offers up to 200kW DC rapid charge capability. Still, as we just said, at the current time when chargers capable of working at up to 350kW are rarer than unicorns, the EQS stats look just fine. A 10-80% charge in both versions of this car will take only 32 minutes. And Mercedes claims that up to 186 miles of range can be added in as little as a quarter of an hour with the EQS 450 model.
As standard, you get an 11kW AC on-board charger, though a future option will allow customers to pay extra for a more powerful 22kW unit. Using an AC charging point, the 11kW on-board charger tops up the car from 10-100% in 10 hours. If you use a 7.4kW wallbox, you'll be looking at 17 hours and 15 minutes for a complete charge; so full replenishment will need a couple of nights of sleep then.
The Mercedes S-Class was never - could never - have been developed into the GLS SUV. Both are very different designs. And in considering that, you get some idea of the scale of the engineering task involved in using just about everything from the EQS saloon - basically the S-Class of the future - to create the EQS SUV. Which is why development of this exclusive SUV took so long.
What's been achieved here as a result is a very satisfying car indeed. Whether it's worth nearly twice as much as a BMW iX is another question. But this car has the advantage of seven seats and it's a bigger SUV that makes a bigger statement. If that's enough for you, you won't be disappointed.