In a pre-COVID world, being offered a chance to ride with a development engineer in a preproduction vehicle usually entailed a redeye to Germany followed by an hour or two of PowerPoint slides before slotting in for a suburban loop in the passenger seat of the car in question. That’s a little more complicated these days, thanks to travel restrictions, and so my first opportunity to ride shotgun in the upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS happened virtually. A Zoom test drive? Not quite, but close. I followed along through a half-dozen different perspectives, chatting with the engineer for a very vicarious experience. Less engaging? Sure, but I didn’t need to be there in the flesh to see just how impressive the EQS is.
And it needs to be. The S-Class has long been M-B’s flagship, and while the EQS is not a replacement, it must be held to the same standards. From what I could see through my multiperspective, livestreamed ride, it seems to hit all the right marks.
Since so many EV aficionados focus on the numbers, let’s get those out of the way. The EQS packs a 107.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack, almost 10% bigger even than Tesla’s. The result is an impressive 480 miles on the European WLTP cycle. The harsher EPA test cycle will probably come in right around the 412 miles offered by Tesla’s current Model S Long Range.
Helping that range is a 0.20 drag coefficient, making the EQS the most aerodynamic production car on the planet. You can have it with a single electric motor mounted at the rear axle, which makes 329 horsepower, or add a second motor up front, bumping the output to 516 hp. Torque is a healthy 406 pound-feet with that configuration, and all that thrust is ready and waiting right from a standstill.
Those electric motors have been extensively isolated from the chassis to reduce the typical EV whine, while double-pane glass and foam-filled body panels will ensure the kind of whispery ride you’d expect from an S-Class. However, for those craving acoustic flavor, Mercedes-Benz will offer a series of “Sound Worlds” with bespoke tones for acceleration, regen and startup. My brief sampling wasn’t enough to tell whether these will actually enhance the experience or just be forgotten as gimmicks, but it certainly shows the attention to detail.
It should come as no surprise that the EQS is a large car, over 17 feet long. That’s about the same as a current S-Class sedan but, thanks to standard rear-wheel steering, it turns tighter even than a C-Class. And, with its standard air suspension, it’s safe to say the EQS should have a polished, posh ride.
The interior will certainly back that up. Mercedes’ 56-inch Hyperscreen OLED dashboard dominates the scene and is flanked by 15 speakers from Burmester. That dashboard is actually three separate curved displays, all unified under glass to give both driver and passenger their own interfaces.
The effect is stunning to say the least, but exactly how it’ll all shake out in execution remains to be seen. Infotainment systems really need to be experienced while driving, not streamed while typing, so I’ll hold judgement for now.
Another aspect of the car that remains unsettled is the look. So far, Mercedes is keeping the business ends of the EQS under vinyl wraps. What I can see is, well, unfamiliar when compared to the current S-Class. The long, sweeping A- and C-pillars give me ’90s Chrysler cab-forward vibes, but I have a feeling things will come together once the final sections of camouflage are peeled away — though it’s going to be awfully hard to .
Regardless of the look, the power, range and luxury of the vehicle are plain to see. Add to that a 200-kW charging system capable of adding 186 miles of range in just 15 minutes and you have what looks to be a winner in every department. That just leaves one final question: How much is it going to cost?