Even as the overall U.S. automotive market struggles, EV sales are booming. They’ve grown from 1% of new vehicle sales in 2019 to 7.5% in recent months, and the upward trend is only expected to continue. One of the key reasons is the rapid increase in available product options. A year ago, buyers had barely 15 long-range EVs available in U.S. showrooms. By early 2023, that is expected to reach about 50.
That includes an assortment of new offerings from Mercedes-Benz which only launched its first long-range model, the EQS sedan, a year ago. It has since added the compact EQB crossover and will bring even more options to market in the months ahead. That includes the new EQE sedan, as well as an SUV version of the EQS line.
TheDetroitBureau.com jumped at the chance to check out the latter model, the electric answer to the familiar, gas-powered GLS. I caught a flight to Denver for a couple days of driving the three versions of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS that will begin rolling into dealer showrooms before the end of this year.
The Mercedes EQS SUV has plenty in common with the original EQS sedan. They share their underlying platform, the Electric Vehicle Architecture. And both pick up on the German automaker’s highly aerodynamic “one-bow” design language” — though the SUV, obviously, adopts a taller and slightly more conventional roofline allowing it to squeeze in a third row.
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 weighs in at around three tons — they proved surprisingly nimble on Rocky Mountain roadways.
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 more than $100,000.
Automakers tend to go in one of two directions with their all-electric vehicles: opting either for sci-fi shapes or sticking close to the look of their conventionally powered line-up. Mercedes has been fluttering back and forth. The recently launched EQB crossover doesn’t stray far from the look of the classic GLB line, while the EQS sedan launched last year introduced an edgy design language the German automaker dubbed “one-bow.”
Essentially, a single curve flows over the roof, from bumper to bumper — yielding a drag coefficient of 0.20, the lowest number of any automobile now in volume production. That translates into better range, improved performance and a notable reduction in wind noise.
The new 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 BEVs, there’s no need for 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 vehicle.
The overall design of the EQS SUV is distinctive, though not quite as edgy — or controversial — as the original EQS sedan.
Slip inside and you’ll discover the EQS SUV hews closely to the design and 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.
The diamond-stitched seats in the 580 4Matic are plush and comfortable, even after a long days 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 which has a less aggressive 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.
Easily my biggest complaint is the way the digital gauge cluster 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 coming to the U.S. market, starting with the EQS 450+. It’s a single-motor package. Mounted on the rear axle it produces 355 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. The mid-level alternative is the EQS 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 lb-ft of torque 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.
While it uses a 400-volt electrical architecture it charges up reasonably quickly. That’s especially true when you plug into a public quick charger capable of delivering at least 200 kilowatts of juice. That will let you go from a 10% to 80% state-of-charge in just 31 minutes. Plug a fully drained battery into a 240-volt, 32-amp home charger and you’ll need 12.5 hours to get to 100 percent.
As with all battery-electric, 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.
My preference is 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. My one 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.
As previously mentioned, to get a sense of what it’s like to drive the new Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV I went to Denver where the automaker offered up keys to all three versions. I chose to begin my adventure with the base EQS 450+. On paper, this model’s specs don’t seem all that impressive, but one thing you quickly learn driving the latest-generation EVs is that the numbers can be misleading.
The lightest of the three SUVs, the 450+ is still a hefty beast 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. And the drivetrain didn’t let up as I headed out onto I-70 and into the foothills of the Rockies.
With limited time, I chose to next take out the top-line EQS 580 4Matic. Even beefier, at 6,228, the added horsepower and torque immediately came into play, cutting the 0-60 launch time 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.
The real test came as I exited off onto one of the windy mountain passes leading up towards the Rockies. 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 notably dropping the center of gravity compared to a GLS crossover — while helping provide a near 50:50 weight distribution.
The 1-Pedal drive mode also helped. By simply modulating my foot on the throttle I found I needed to tap the brakes only occasionally, mostly when approaching a particularly sharp corner after blasting down a long straight. It takes time to learn how to use this feature but, personally, I wouldn’t buy an EV that didn’t offer 1-Pedal driving.
The real surprise came about 90 minutes out from Denver where I caught up with a Mercedes guide and turned off onto a back trail normally used by a local adventure company. Switching to Off-Road Mode, the electric 4Matic system made easy work of the loose soil, steep, rubble strewn hills, moguls and sharp turns.
At nearly 202 inches, nose-to-tail, with a 126.4-inch wheelbase, it could be difficult to maneuver an SUV like the EQS around a deep-woods trail. But that’s where the rear-wheel-steering system proved its worth. It normally allows 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 so nimble on the road.
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 SUV Specifications
|L: 201.8 inches/W: 77.1 inches/H: 67.8 inches/Wheelbase: 126.4 inches
|Front and Rear Axle Permanently Excited Synchronous Motor with 400 kW Output
|79 MPGe city/74 MPGe highway/77 MPGe combined
|536 horsepower and 633 pound-feet of torque
|As tested: $125,590, plus $1,150 destination and delivery fee
Determined to lock down its presence in the emerging EV market, Mercedes plans to accelerate its product rollout. The original EQS sedan was its first step and generally moved in the right direction — though the one-bow design has proved quite controversial. I expect the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV to have broader appeal, if for no other reason than the fact that utility vehicles now dominate the premium luxury segment.
But there are plenty of other reasons to appreciate the new offering. The higher roofline resolves the sedan’s rear headroom problem — and adds 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 EQS 450+ SUV starts at $104,400, jumping to $107,400 for the EQS 450 4Matic. And the top-level EQ comes in at $125,900. Add $1,150 the delivery fee. And, at least in the months ahead, there’s a good chance dealers will add a markup to those numbers.
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 price tax of the electric SUV.
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV — Frequently Asked Questions
How much will the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV cost?
There are three versions of the EQS SUV, the bas EQS 450+ starting at $104,400. That jumps to a starting MSRP of $107,400 for the EQS 450 4Matic. And the top-level EQS comes in at $125,900. Add another $1,150 for delivery fees.
How many miles can the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV travel on a charge?
The base EQS 450+ SUV has the best range at 305 miles per charge. The EQS 450 4Matic SUV and EQS 580 4Matic SUV manage EPA ratings of 285 miles per charge.
What electric platform is the Mercedes EQS SUV built on?
It’s based on the same EVA, or Electric Vehicle Architecture, used for the EQS sedan, the upcoming EQE sedan and SUV and other all-electric models to come from the German automaker. It’s a skateboard-style design placing batteries and motors below the vehicle load floor.