Mercedes-Benz released a ton of new cars in the past few years, but none are more important to the brand's image or its future than the EQS. This luxury sedan is Mercedes' first EV sold in the US that's been designed from the ground up and it's pitched as an electric equivalent to the S-Class. After spending time with an entry-level EQS450 Plus I can assure you that Benz's new flagship lives up to the brief.
The EQS450 Plus has a single electric motor at the rear axle that puts out 329 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque and, like most other EVs, it has a single-speed transmission. With a claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds the EQS450 doesn't have the gut-punch acceleration of a Porsche Taycan or even a Polestar 2, but its surge of instant torque is satisfying and befit of a luxury car. There are also two different 'soundscapes' that pipe in noises through the speakers; they don't try to mimic internal combustion engines, instead going for sounds that remind me of spaceships in the Jetsons.
Acceleration isn't really the point of the EQS anyway -- though if you really do need more performance Mercedes offers the dual-motor EQS580 with 516 hp or the upcoming 751-hp AMG version. The EQS450 isn't a corner carver, either, though its standard 10-degree rear-wheel steering does make the car feel more nimble than its size and heft would suggest. No, where the EQS450 really shines is in its serenity and comfort.
Every EQS has an adjustable air suspension with adaptive dampers that provide an exceptionally smooth ride, helped by the thicker sidewall of the tires wrapping my test car's 20-inch wheels. (Those wheels, by the way, have an aero-optimized design with dozens of little Mercedes stars on them. They're awesome.) The Sport drive mode barely stiffens up the suspension and the EQS soaks up all manner of road imperfections. It's also supremely quiet, with only a tiny bit of wind and tire noise entering the cabin thanks to glass that's insulated against heat, noise and infrared light. On a long road trip along the California coast It feels exactly like an S-Class should.
If there's one downside to the EQS' driving experience it's the brakes. The EQS has three levels of regenerative braking, the strongest of which isn't a legit one-pedal mode, though it's still strong enough to bring the car to a full stop in some situations -- as long as you turn off the car's creep mode. With the regen on high it's easy to modulate the throttle to decelerate, but the problem lies with the brake pedal itself. Under regen the pedal physically moves as if the driver applied pressure with their foot, so when I need to actually hit the brakes the pedal isn't always where I think it should be. It's very unsettling and hard to get used to.
Both versions of the EQS use a 107.8-kilowatt-hour battery pack, with the Plus in the EQS450's name implying that we could see a smaller battery size offered in the future. The EPA estimates a 350-mile range for the EQS450, far off from Mercedes' initial estimates, but it's a different story in the real world. With a 70% charge the EQS shows an estimated 320 miles of range left and even at a 20% charge it still shows a range of nearly 100 miles. Getting 400 miles out of a full battery should be a cinch even without hypermiling.
I don't think the EQS' range matters at all, though -- not when its charging capabilities are so good. Mercedes says the EQS450 can charge from 10% to 80% on a 110-kW DC fast charger in 31 minutes, while plugging into a 240-volt wall charger takes a bit under 12 hours to go from 10% to full. But the EQS can accept as much as 200 kilowatts of charging, with Mercedes claiming it can gain 186 miles of range in only 15 minutes. Plugged into a 150-kW fast charger I got the EQS from 13% to 60% in 20 minutes, adding 208 miles of range. At that point, who cares about the full range estimate?
A big reason the EQS has such a long range is its super slippery cab-forward body, which has the lowest drag coefficient of any production car. It seems I'm one of the few people that genuinely loves how the EQS looks; I'm into the blobby and smooth styling, and it has some really cool details like the star-pattern 'grille' and helix-shaped LED taillights. White isn't exactly the best color for the EQS and without the AMG Line appearance package the air intakes on the front end give it a fishy mouth, but I'm into it overall. The EQS reminds me of concept cars from the 1990s in the best way.
Unlike the S-Class or competitors like the Lucid Air and Porsche Taycan, the EQS has a large powered hatch at the rear instead of a traditional trunk. Cargo space is absolutely massive and the rear seats fold nearly flat, though there's a bit of a bump where the seats meet the trunk. One downside of the hatch and the EQS' standard panoramic sunroof is how much they cut into rear headroom. The EQS' back seat has a good amount of legroom and the flat floor is a boon, but taller passengers could find themselves hitting their heads against the headliner -- something that wouldn't happen in an S-Class. Powered rear seats with heating, ventilation and plush headrests are available, at least.
The EQS450's standard dashboard setup is similar to that of the new S-Class, with an expansive trim panel spanning the width of the cabin, a 12.8-inch touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Setting the EQS' cabin design apart from the S-Class is a wing shape to the dashboard surround, awesome turbine-style air vents at the corners, slim vents running across the top, a ton of open space underneath the center console and unique door panel designs. I think the EQS' cabin looks best in a light color, though my test car's Sable Brown leather accents and $1,515 "yacht-design" matte wood trim spice it up a little.
This test car has Mercedes' vaunted Hyperscreen, which is standard on the EQS580 but a $7,230 option on the EQS450. It replaces the entire dashboard with a massive 56-inch Gorilla Glass panel that houses three separate displays: a 12.3-inch gauge cluster, a 17.7-inch central OLED touchscreen and a 12.3-inch OLED touchscreen in front of the passenger. If the light hits the glass just right there's a bit of glare and the gaps between the screens are visible, but otherwise it looks pretty seamless. The Hyperscreen is one of the EQS' standout features and it's truly a marvel.
The MBUX operating system's zero-layer design means no matter what menu, app or setting you open, the main home screen is just one tap away and the climate controls are always in a bar at the base of the screen. The massive navigation map acts as the home screen itself, with a number of floating widgets appearing in the corners depending on what you have turned on, like music or the seat massagers. Mercedes' augmented-reality nav feature is fantastic on the Hyperscreen, as the front-camera display is able to be shown alongside the top-down map with directions. Another bonus of the center screen is the biggest display for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto I've ever seen, both of which have wireless connectivity, as well.
A ton of features are controlled through the Hyperscreen, but I find that it's easy and quick to navigate once you get acclimated to the system. Plus, it has a configurable favorites menu that can house all manner of functions. The "Hey, Mercedes" voice assistant is finally worth using regularly, too. It can recognize multiple voices and knows where you're sitting, so if the front passenger says "turn my massage on" the car will switch it on for just that seat.
The passenger screen can do a lot, too. It uses eye-tracking cameras to prevent the driver from being able to use it, even dimming the screen when it spots you looking. Passengers can see driving data, play their own music through headphones, adjust the climate controls, set navigation routes and send them to the center screen and even play games like Tetris. The display can also be turned off completely or set to a number of screensavers, one of which has an animated star motif along with three that feature the Vision AVTR concept. With the screens at max brightness and the ambient lighting at its most crazy settings I don't find the EQS' displays to be overwhelming even at night, though for those who don't want a Berlin nightclub aesthetic everything can be dimmed or turned off completely.
As you'd expect from an S-Class-equaling car, the EQS doesn't skimp on features. My test car is the 'base' Premium trim, which starts at $103,360 including a $1,050 destination charge -- meaning the EQS450 is $7,490 cheaper than a base S500, though the S comes with all-wheel drive and a few more standard features. The EQS450 Premium includes a Burmester 3D sound system, 64-color ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, parking assist with a 360-degree camera, six USB-C ports, a fingerprint recognition system and a full suite of driver-assist features that includes adaptive cruise control with steering assist and stop and go, automatic lane changes, lane-keeping assist and a lot more. And speaking of the auto lane changes, when you activate that feature at night the EQS' LED headlights project a beam of light onto the road that indicates where the car will be merging and going. It's Mercedes' first real implementation of its wild headlight projection tech in the US, and it's very cool.
Added onto my EQS450 are $1,100 massaging front seats (included in the midrange Exclusive trim), $450 rapid-heating front seats, fabulous $590 active ambient lights, the $450 HEPA air filter, a $250 110-volt charge cable and the $350 MBUX interior assistant that uses motion sensors to turn on lights or bring up recommended screen functions. There are only a couple features offered on the S-Class that are unavailable on the EQS, mainly to keep at least a few reasons for buyers to be glad they went with the traditional flagship choice. You can't get the S-Class' awesome 3D gauge cluster, even if you do without the Hyperscreen, and the EQS also can't be had with the incredible Burmester 4D stereo setup.
All in my EQS450 comes out to $115,245, undercutting the base EQS580 by $5,365 and the S580 by $2,105. And a fully loaded EQS450 comes in at around $130,000, which to me feels more than worth it. The EQS450 is serene, cosseting and tech-rich without being overwhelming. It has mega range and charging capabilities, and serves as a great ambassador for Mercedes' electric efforts. Most importantly, it feels like the future. I'd have the EQS over an S-Class every day.