After a slow — and reluctant — entry into the emerging market for battery-electric vehicles, Mercedes-Benz is determined to carve out its place in the luxury EV segment. Since introducing its first long-range model, the EQS sedan, in late 2021 it is rapidly growing the family of dedicated EQ-badged offerings.
That includes an SUV version of the flagship EQS nameplate which is rolling off Mercedes’ big assembly line in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Not surprisingly, the EQS SUV has much in common with the sedan, including the German marque’s underlying Electric Vehicle Architecture. It also adopts the distinctive “one-bow” design language — though, in SUV form, it’s a bit taller and little less radical looking.
And that’s a good thing, as I learned after spending a week behind the wheel of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.
Where the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS sedan serves as the all-electric equivalent of the German brand’s four-door flagship, the S-Class, the EQS SUV is the battery-powered alternative to the big Mercedes GLS.
The two EVs have much in common, but there is one key difference. The SUV’s higher roofline, I found, makes it all the more compelling by improving the second row’s headroom. The addition of a third row is a bonus.
As with the sedan, the EQS SUV offers a choice of electrified powertrains, from the base 450+, with its single rear-mounted motor, to the more powerful, twin-motor 580 4Matic. As I discovered on the road, all three deliver the distinctive launch feel that only electric motors can provide. And, despite their size and mass — even the base model weighing in at around three tons — they proved surprisingly nimble and fun to drive.
Of course, the EQS SUV line also delivers the sort of creature comforts and refined materials and features you’d expect of a luxury vehicle starting at over $105,000 — including delivery fees but before factoring in options.
We’ve begun moving away from the days when EVs had to look like they rolled off the set of a sci-fi flick. That said, automakers have learned, when it comes to battery power, aerodynamics trump all. Wind-cheating designs translate into marked improvement when it comes to range, as well as performance.
While Mercedes stuck with a relatively conventional shape for its compact EQB crossover, it has gone with a far more radical look with the EQS model. The “one-bow” design language adopts what is, essentially, a single curve flowing over the roof, from bumper to bumper. The payoff with the sedan is a near-record drag coefficient of 0.20, the lowest number of any automobile now in production. As one might expect, the EQS SUV strikes a balance. A one-bow curve rises off the nose, though the roofline becomes a bit more conventional, tapering into a high-mounted spoiler and steeply raked tailgate.
Like most new EVs, there’s no need to force air under the hood, so the traditional grille has been replaced by a solid fascia, buyers given a choice of a simple black panel or one highlighted by dozens of small, backlit Mercedes tri-stars. There are small air intakes below the bumper bringing cooling air to the EQS electric drive system mounted below the load floor. Every exterior detail has been fashioned in the wind tunnel — including flush door handles that pop out only when you’re ready to enter the big sedan.
The EQS SUV cabin hews closely to the layout of the original electric sedan. That starts with the base, two-screen instrument and infotainment system, as well as the Hyperscreen upgrade with its combined 56 inches of digital displays. There’s no escaping it, short of closing your eyes, even if you’re riding in the front passenger seat. For those who want still more screens, you can outfit your EQS with a large head-up display that provides an augmented reality, or VR, projection of arrows, seemingly floating off in the distance, to help point out your path when using onboard navigation.
Once you get past the Hyperscreen’s sheer, visual dominance you discover more classic Mercedes details worthy of a GLS alternative. The familiar, turbine-style air vents are relegated to the corners of the IP, with thin horizontal louvers doing most of the work of climate control system.
My favorite feature of the EQS SUV has to be the pillows built into its headrests. The diamond-stitched seats in the 580 4Matic are plush and comfortable, even after a long day of driving. And they’re supportive enough to keep you in place when you mash the throttle and feel the sedan’s instant torque. There’s also a “wellness” system that will occasionally adjust the seat to reduce fatigue.
With no driveshaft tunnel, Mercedes designers found extra space to play with, coming up with a floating, two-level center console providing plenty of extra storage space.
There are a few key differences between EQS sedan and SUV. The one-bow design does have its drawbacks, especially with the four-door, as it cramps rear seat headroom. That’s less so with the big ute, thanks to the taller roofline. There’s plenty of room in the second row — though the power split-fold third row does fall into the “penalty box” category for anyone out of their early teens. Storage is quite ample, especially if that back bench is folded down.
As with the EQS sedan, my biggest complaint is the way the digital gauge cluster is positioned. It tends to get cut off by the steering wheel. As with the sedan, I found myself having to strike a compromise between where the wheel felt most comfortable and where it was easiest to read the instrumentation.
Three different versions of the EQS are now available, starting with the single-motor EQS 450+. Mounted on the rear axle, the drivetrain produces 355 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. The mid-level alternative is the EQD 450 4Matic which mounts a second motor on the front axle. While its pony count is the same as the 450+, the 4Matic jumps up to a combined 590 horsepower using an electric version of the Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
For those demanding serious power, there’s the twin-motor EQS 580 4Matic SUV that hammers out 536 ponies and 633 lb-ft. It can hit 60 in a mere 4.5 seconds, a full 2 seconds faster than the “base” 450+.
All versions of the EQS SUV are powered up by a 108.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. With the 450+ it will deliver an EPA-rated 305 miles between charges. Surprisingly, the 450 4Matic and more powerful 580 4Matic have earned the same 285-mile rating. By comparison, the lighter and more aerodynamic EQS sedan can yield up to 350 miles per charge, depending on the package.
Current versions of the Mercedes Electric Vehicle Architecture use a 400-electrical system. Expect to see the German automaker migrate to a more advanced, 800-volt system over the next several years. It’s more costly but offers several advantages, starting with quicker charging. That said, you can still plug into a public charger delivering at least 200 kilowatts of juice and jump from a 10% to 80% state-of-charge in 31 minutes under ideal conditions. Plug a fully drained battery into a 240-volt, 32-amp home charger and you’ll need 12.5 hours to get to 100%.
As with all battery-electric models, Mercedes uses brake regeneration to maximize range once you’re on the road. It recovers energy normally lost during braking and coasting, sending it back to the battery. Using paddle shifters on the steering wheel, a motorist can adjust the level of regen.
Unfortunately, Mercedes doesn’t allow for the most aggressive form of regen known as 1-Pedal Mode. It’s like downshifting a manual transmission several gears, allowing you to speed up or slow down — even come to a stop — simply by modulating the throttle. I’d like to see it add that feature at some point. Another complaint: all EQS models default to a less aggressive regen mode each time you shut the vehicle off.
Safety and Technology
As you’d expect of a new Mercedes, the EQS SUV is loaded with high-tech features. Visually the most dramatic, the Hyperscreen is optional but has proven to be extremely popular with those buying the original EQS sedan. The system places separate large digital gauge and infotainment displays, along with a smaller screen for the front passenger, behind a sheet of darkened glass stretching from pillar to pillar. The standard package comes with twin screens.
The infotainment system relies on the MBUX operating system, an Amazon Alexa-style voice assistant that can control virtually all vehicle functions and even respond to other queries, like weather. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. So is a wireless smartphone charger, as well as plenty of USB ports.
The 580 4Matic comes with an assortment of tech features optional on other trim packages. That includes a “wellness” system that can alternately “energize or calm you down with music, ambient lighting, massaging seats and even a scent diffuser.
The SUVs also offer two “soundscapes” that can be activated to give you artificial audio meant as a sort of alternative to a traditional engine exhaust note. And, speaking of sound, the optional Burmester audio system uses Dolby Atmos to create a 3-dimensional soundstage.
There’s a long list of advanced driver assistance technologies, including ones that all but let you take hands off the wheel when cruising the highway. And on models with a head-up display, the built-in navigation system uses augmented reality to project a set of arrows seemingly 20 feet ahead of the vehicle to signal when and where to make a turn.
I had my first, albeit brief, opportunity to drive the Mercedes EQS SUV last September during a media event in Denver. That provided the chance to put the crossover through its paces on a variety of different, and occasionally challenging, roads. My week behind the wheel was spent in Michigan, where I clearly didn’t have any mountain passes to tackle. Nonetheless, with access to my favorite route through the quaint village of Hell, I still had ways to push the electric SUV hard.
A bit of background: out in Colorado I started out with the 450+ model. Even in this base configuration it’s a hefty beast, weighing in at 5,963 pounds. Yet it proved surprisingly quick off the line, launching to 60 in just 6.5 seconds. Credit the fact that electric motors deliver maximum torque the moment they start spinning.
Back in Michigan, I spent the week behind the wheel of the even beefier, 6,228 EQS 580 4Matic. And the added horsepower and torque immediately came into play, cutting launch times down to a factory-rated 4.5 seconds. Impressive enough, but the power became even more obvious executing high-speed passes out on the Interstate.
Blasting along my route in and around Hell was a real eye-opener. The EQS responded admirably as I began to flog it around tight corners, the steering proving both responsive and predictable. There was only a modicum of body roll. For that, credit the SUV’s standard Airmatic air suspension and adaptive damping system. There’s also the low mounting position of the battery pack which drops the center of gravity several inches when compared to a GLS crossover. The EQS SUV also boasts a near 50:50 weight distribution.
The lack of a true 1-Pedal mode was a disappointment, though one most drivers likely won’t notice, especially those new to EVs. But I’d certainly appreciate Mercedes adding it using the SUV’s over-the-air update capabilities. Personally, I wouldn’t buy an EV that didn’t offer 1-Pedal driving – which allows you to speed up or slow, even stop, simply by modulating the throttle. Under most conditions you don’t have to jump back and forth from throttle to brake.
To wrap up my overview I have to refer back to my brief drive in Colorado. About 90 minutes outside Denver I had the opportunity to take the big SUV out on some back trails. That particular model was equipped with the optional off-road package which made surprisingly easy work of traversing loose soil, steep, rubble strewn hills, moguls and sharp turns.
At nearly 202 inches, nose-to-tail, with a 126.4-inch wheelbase, it should have been difficult to maneuver an SUV like the EQS through deep woods. But that’s where the rear-wheel-steering system proved its worth. With the stock EQS 580, the EV’s back tires to turn up to 4.5 degrees, though that jumps to 10 with the off-road package — or with an optional, over-the-air upgrade.
At low speeds, the rear wheels turn counter to the front, resulting in a tighter turning radius. At higher speeds, they turn in sync with the front tires, another reason why the EQS 580 4Matic proved surprisingly nimble on the road.
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 SUV Specifications
|Dimension||L: 201.8 inches/W: 77.1 inches/H: 67.8 inches/Wheelbase: 126.4 inches|
|Powertrain||Front and Rear Axle Permanently Excited Synchronous Motor with 400 kW Output|
|Fuel Economy||79 MPGe city/74 MPGe highway/77 MPGe combined|
|Performance Specs||536 horsepower and 633 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||As tested: $125,590, plus $1,150 destination and delivery fee|
|On-Sale Date||Q4 2022|
After clocking my second run behind the wheel of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV I find it a reasonably impressive package. And while I lament the fact that so many buyers have walked away from sedans in recent years, there are plenty of reasons why the EQS SUV is a better package than the four-door version of the EV. The most obvious is that its higher roofline resolves the sedan’s rear headroom problem — while providing space for a third row, as well.
And, with three different trim levels, buyers can find the package that perfectly fits them. The EQS SUV won’t come cheap, however. The single-motor EQS 450+ at a base $105,650. You’ll pay another $3,000 for the all-wheel-drive version. The twin-motor EQS 580 4Matic jumps to $124,200 before options. Those prices include $1,150 in delivery fees.
All versions of the 2023 Mercedes EQS are produced at the automaker’s Alabama assembly plant. Unfortunately, buyers won’t qualify for tax incentives under the new Inflation Reduction Act due to the cost of the electric SUV which exceeds the $85,000 price cap. But for the sort of buyers looking for an all-electric GLS alternative, that’s not likely to make much of a difference.
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV — Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Mercedes-Benz EQS equivalent to?
Where the EQS sedan serves as the all-electric counterpart to Mercedes’ familiar S-Class flagship sedan, the EQS SUV does much the same thing in the sport-utility segment. It’s essentially a battery-powered alternative to the Mercedes GLS.
How much does the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV cost?
There are several different versions of the electric crossover, starting with the single-motor EQS 450+ at a base $105,650. You’ll pay another $3,000 for the all-wheel-drive version. The twin-motor EQS 580 4Matic jumps to $124,200 before options. Those prices include $1,150 in delivery fees.
What is the range of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV?
In its single-motor form, the EQS 450+ gets an EPA rating of 305 miles per charge. The all-wheel-drive EQS 580 4Matic is rated at 285 miles before needing to plug back in.