Mercedes-Benz EQS Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz EQS review

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Published: 18 Aug 2021
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Mercedes has resisted what must have been a sizeable temptation to reimagine how to operate a car. Unlike a Tesla or a Polestar, there is an actual on/off button to wake the EQS up – hold it to activate the powertrain. Drive or reverse is selected by a (somewhat cheap-feeling) stalk behind the steering wheel, like every other Mercedes. 

Metal paddleshifters behind the impossibly supple steering wheel dictate the regenerative braking. There is nothing here that’s unfamiliar or gimmicky. 

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What settings have I got to play with?

Driving modes too are standard Benz procedure: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual. One presumes the AMG version will have a Race or Sport+ function. But mostly, you’ll leave it in Comfort, where the ride – even on 21-inch AMG rims – is more pliant, quieter and just downright better than an S-Class’s. Yet because the centre of gravity is low-slung, the EQS doesn’t feel ungainly as it sweeps into a bend. 

There’s body roll, no meaningful ‘feel’ from the steering and despite the best efforts of the air suspension, that near 2.5-tonne inertia is ever-present. But somehow, it’s less barge-like than the luxury limos we’ve been brought up on. And it feels less loose on its springs and generally less fidgety than a Tesla Model S.

It feels, frankly, more like a proper limousine. It’s not a sports saloon like a Taycan, neither is it billed as one. 

So is it truly the S-Class of EVs?

It’s hardly original to suggest that luxury cars will suit EV motoring to a tee, what with deluxe barges already being heavy, majoring on quietness and depending on a torque delivery apparently supplied by honey being poured out of a jar. 

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But the EQS does a bloody good job of proving that when all of these elements are maximised, the result is less a car, more a business class isolation chamber. Performance is swift and unabated, but never breathtakingly quick. It's uncannily quiet, right up to truly range-decimating speeds, where the mirrors whistle just a little in the breeze. We’d sooner have that than cameras doing their job (badly) instead.

The powertrain is of course silent too. No detectable motor whine to speak of. Mercedes has built augmented sound profiles into the car’s menu matrix that pipe in V8-aping or future-esque warbles, but they seem to rather spoil the effect the experts have slaved for, like dumping squeezy-cheese on a Michelin star’d buffet. 

In the latest S-Class, which is a remarkable express, there is merely a hint of fuel being burned in the distance, or pistons reciprocating and a transmission engaging. In the EQS, it’s seamless. It has that Rolls-Royce-like sense of being impossible to drive erratically, as if every input is chamfered, damped and signed off before being allowed to affect the car’s impeccable behaviour. 

It turns a lackadaisical chauffeur into a model one, and can actually slow the EQS better than the driver, thanks to an automatic recuperation mode that uses sensors and GPS data to decide how much re-gen to employ for the smoothest, most efficient stop. Similar tech has appeared in other electric Mercs, but this is its best application yet. 

Will I suffer from range anxiety?

As a luxury saloon then, the EQS is world-class. As an EV, it’s good, but not entirely anxiety-proof if you’re a very high-mileage driver, but having the biggest battery of any EV yet means you're hardly likely to be threading extension cables through a stranger's window.

We found real-world range to lie between 370 and 410 miles in the EQS 450+, depending on how much motorway cruising (at motorway speeds) you intend on, and how hard you’re working the scented air-con and so on. The official claim is 484 miles, though 21-inch wheels on the test car (optional on AMG-line spec) put a dent in that.

Our pre-production prototype test car averaged a reasonable 3.6 miles per kWh, meaning from the useable battery capacity of 107.8kWh, a maximum endurance of 388 miles, which tallies exactly with what we got on a 70mph southbound cruise from Edinburgh towards London on a hot day: 379 miles covered with 9 left on the clock. 

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