Home: Motoring > On the road in Mercedes-Benz's flagship electric sedan

Mercedes-Benz EQS580 4Matic prototype: first ride

From:Greg Kable 2021-04-03 07:00:01

About author

Greg Kable, who comes from Stuttgart, Germany, provides test drive manuscripts for several European automotive magazines such as Autocar, Auto Motor Und Sport.

Greg has more than 20 years of experience in automotive evaluation. He once worked as a Porsche professional test driver and represented the Porsche team in many world-class caravan competitions with super-high driving skills.

TEXT:

It is impossible to ignore the significance Mercedes-Benz attaches to the new EQS. Designed and developed from the ground up, the big new luxury sedan is the first model to use the German car maker’s dedicated Electric Vehicle Architecture (EVA) electric car platform.

Up until now, each model in the German car maker’s EQ electric car line-up – the EQC, EQV and EQA - has relied on an existing platform shared with their respective combustion engine siblings, the GLC, V-class and GLA.

The EQS is what Holger Enzmann, the Mercedes-Benz engineer who heads the new upmarket electric car’s test development program and our chauffeur for today, describes as a “new beginning”.

The EVA platform is key to allowing the EQS to break the mould with a highly contemporary profile.

The body, made exclusively of aluminium, boasts smooth surfacing devoid of any hard feature lines, as we’ve seen on the latest crop of more traditional combustion engine Mercedes-Benz models. However, the similarities between the company's traditional combustion engine modela and the first of its dedicated electric models end there. The remainder, including an optional black panel grille with small three-pointed star motifs as well as a fixed bonnet that sites the washer bottle for the windscreen wipers behind a flap within the front fender and the short boot deck, are all distinctly new elements that are set to tone for future four-door sedan EQ models, including the EQE due out later his year.

As I prepare to climb into a pre-production prototype for the first time, it is not the uncharacteristic cab-forward appearance nor the standard-setting 0.20 drag co-efficient that have my attention but the EQS’s sheer size and presence.

At 5210mm in length, it is slightly shorter than the new long-wheelbase S-class. It certainly appears much bolder up close than it does in photographs. The car we’re in wears 21-inch wheels, though 19-inch inch is standard and ranges up to an optional 22-inch. While not regal in the traditional sense as exemplified by the German car maker’s traditional flagship sedan, the visual impact cannot be denied.

Entry is via large frameless doors, which boast the same flush fitting handles as those available as an option on the S-class. They motor outwards automatically on the prototoype we’re in, revealing an interior that combines traditional design elements with new hi-tech elements, including Mercedes-Benz’s high set Hyperscreen which groups three separate digital displays and most of the EQS’s controls within a single panel that forms the dashboard facia. Ahead of the driver is the same steering wheel as that used by the S-class, complete with touch pads to control the various displays.

The extended proportions, exaggerated by a heavily curved roofline, have enabled Mercedes-Benz to provide the latest EQ model with an extremely long 3210mm wheelbase to house its battery together with ultra-short overhangs. The upshot is an interior that boasts greater accommodation than the S-class. We’re riding up front, but a stint in the rear reveals the EQS boasts true limousine-like levels of space thanks, in part, to a near-to-flat floor without a central tunnel. A large liftback style tailgate opens high to reveal a large flat boot that can be extended in capacity to 1760 via a folding rear seat.

It’s impressively lavish with high grade materials and excellent build quality fully befitting the EQS’s upmarket positioning. No S-class owner is ever going to find the new sedan short on fit and finish or luxury.  

The EQS also receives a newly developed driveline with AC synchronous electric motors supplied by German electronics specialist Bosch instead of the asynchronous electric motors found in the EQC -  a set-up that will also be used by the upcoming EQE, EQS SUV and EQE SUV in combination with a DC/AC inverter.

There are two standard drivetrains; a rear-wheel drive system that uses a single electric motor mounted at the rear with 245kW in the EQS 400 and a more powerful 4Matic four-wheel drive system with dual motors and 385kW in the EQS580 4Matic.

It’s the latter that we’re in. Enzmann presses the start button, engages drive and the EQS majestically glides away, feeling every bit as stately as the traditional S-class it has been conceived to succeed from the broad expanse of the front passenger seat.


With up to 828Nm torque, the step-off is very muscular – on par with the strongest of the current crop of four-door combustion engine AMG models though totally silent in operation, and it keeps building in strength, providing the initial top-of-the-line EQS with fleet-footed qualities out on the open road despite its generous size and a kerb weight that’s described as being “well beyond 2500kg”.

Mercedes-Benz is not making any official claims just yet, though expect the most powerful of the standard EQS models to deliver a sub-5.0sec 0-100km/h. Top speed is limited to 210km/h.

There are four driving modes: Electric, Comfort, Sport and Individual. The former allows one-pedal driving with strong deceleration as energy is harvested and stowed in the battery on a trailing throttle. Adjustable in three steps via shift paddles on the steering wheel, Enzmann says the EQS can recover up to 293kW with a good nudge of the brakes depending on the state of charge and temperature of the battery. Of the maximum 5m/s² of deceleration that the new Mercedes-Benz is capable of generating, some 3m/s² of it is dedicated to energy regeneration.

The suspension is via a standard AirMatic system with three-channel plungers at each corner. It’s similar in principle to the arrangement used by the S-class, incorporating a high percentage of aluminium, and features such as self-levelling. At motorway speeds, the ride height is reduced to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

As with its combustion engine sibling, alongside which the EQS will be produced at Mercedes-Benz’s Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, Germany, buyers will get to choose between two different rear-wheel steer systems; the standard set-up provides 4.5 degrees of steering angle to the rear wheels with an optional system capable of providing up to 10 degrees of rear steer assistance.

We’re yet to get behind the steering wheel ourselves, but it feels unusually agile for such a big and heavy car from the passenger seat, both at low speed around town and at high speeds over winding roads. There’s a degree of body roll, but the movement is very progressive even when the EQS580 4Matic is pushed hard in tightening corners. The most impressive aspect of the handling, though, is undoubtedly the overall grip and traction. This can be traced to the electronic 4Matic four-wheel drive and Torque Shift function, which continuously apportions drive between the front and rear axles at a much faster rate than Mercedes-Benz’s mechanical system.  

Enzmann says the new model is unparalleled in terms of refinement. We wouldn’t argue. It’s whisper-quiet and exceptionally well settled, as you’d expect. But even by Mercedes-Benz standards, it is special in this respect. The electric motors operate in a truly silent fashion and the slippery shape contributes to extremely low levels of wind buffeting at typical motorway speeds. The suspension also delivers impressive absorption and is also extremely quiet – impacts are felt rather than heard. On the 265/40 profile 21-inch winter tyres worn by the prototype, road noise is terrifically well suppressed, making for strong but calm progress when the traffic conditions allow.

For those who yearn for some acoustic feedback from the driveline, there is a sound generator. It provides three different themes: Silver Waves, Vivid Flux and Raring Pulse – the latter of which has been conceived to mimic the sound of a traditional combustion engine, with the volume and intensity rising and falling with throttle inputs.

The EQS will be sold with two different batteries, both featuring NCM (Nickel, Cobalt, Manganese) cells. Rear-wheel drive models receive a 90kWh unit in 10 modules, while the 4Matic four-wheel drive model gets a larger 107.8kWh battery with 12 different modules.

They both operate on a 400-volt electrical architecture, with Mercedes-Benz claiming a maximum range of up to 770km on the European WLTP test cycle.

“It’ll do Munich to Berlin in one hop,” says Enzmann, adding, “We think the range will be a key selling point.”

Charging comes via a standard AC on-board charger at up 11kW, though EQS buyers can also opt for optional 22kW AC and 200kW DC systems – the latter claimed to provide 300km of range in 15 minutes in optimal conditions.

There’s a feeling of thoroughness and completeness to the EQS. It starts with the dedicated EVA platform and the packaging advantages it offers and continues with its newly developed driveline and outstanding refinement. The real proof of just how good the EQS is, however, will come in the driving. And on that front we’ll have to wait a little while longer.

Editor:Greg Kable

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