Mercedes-Benz EQS: First Drive Review
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The S-Class has long been hailed as the best car in the world. So then, does that make the EQS, which is quite literally the electric S-Class, the best EV in the world?
The EQS joins a long list of Mercedes cars now assembled in India. I start the review with this statement because it unlocks a key element essential for the EQS: It now costs as much as an S-Class, in fact just slightly less (Rs 1.55 crore vs Rs 1.60 crore). And with its claimed range, every potential S-Class customer can realistically opt for it. Today, we find out if they should.
It's a spaceship. As far as radical new EV designs go, the EQS is right up there. And that too with a purpose. The single arch design that goes from front to back makes it super slippery. Hence, this EQS is claimed to be the most aerodynamic production car in the world. This helps it offer better efficiency and performance as well.
Science apart, the way the car looks is also impressive. Its large dimensions (almost as long as the LWB S-Class) combined with the spaceship-like shape make it an alien on the road that people around can get enough of! Deal in the quirky details like the star-studded grille, flush door handles, frameless doors and squiggly taillamps, and you have a car that everyone will take notice of. It's a very mature design, but with youthful elements to help it appeal to buyers of all ages. And of course, it has much more road appeal than the S-Class.
The EQS is as much a spaceship on the inside as it is on the outside. The white leatherette upholstery, the wooden finish on the centre console and the dashboard in the three large screens transcend you to the future of luxury.
The quality all around the cabin is excellent and won't give you a chance to complain. It will feel like home even to an S-Class owner. The leather, door pads, carpets and even the centre console feels premium. There are certain edges which could have been better finished - like the rear armrest lock and the panel interlocks in the dashboard, considering this is a one-and-a-half crore rupee car. But one can easily look beyond these as the centre attraction is big and in your face.
The dashboard is made up of three screens. The ones on either side measure 12.3 inches and the one in the middle a massive 17.7 inches. Now, I am not a fan of large touchscreens in cars, especially the ones replacing buttons, but this setup shows promise. The display resolution on screens is excellent and can easily rival any flagship tablet. The driver’s display has various modes which can be customized to infinity and beyond. Plus the driver also gets the most detailed and vibrant heads-up display I have ever seen in a car.
The display on the co-driver’s seat uses an older Mercedes UI and can only be used if the seat is occupied by a passenger. It controls basic functions like media, navigation and more but is purely a gimmick, as all of these functions can still be performed by the larger central display as well.
Speaking of the larger central display, this has to be the best display ever put in a production car. The screen is bright, the colours are vibrant and the interface is simple to use. It uses navigation as the home display and the other menus over it when required. And there is so much functionality in that one screen that it can easily take weeks to figure it all out. But even with so many menus, the straightforward layout means reaching a particular option is just a matter of logic.
Other features include a 4-zone climate control system; a 15-speaker sound system; ventilated, heated and massaged front seats; gesture control for media and lights; panoramic sunroof; active ambient lighting that travels throughout the cabin like a spaceship; a very powerful air purifier and one-touch biometric authentication for the entire infotainment system. And all of these features work perfectly.
The connected car tech here is also quite advanced. You can schedule the car to start at a particular time each morning and cool the cabin, to charge only at a particular time each day when the charger is plugged in, among all the other usual bits.
However, there are two notable inconveniences. Firstly, the blowers for the rear AC vents are placed just behiend the dashboard, and they can get really loud. Lowering the fan speed meant not enough cooling for the rear seat passengers. And second, the sunroof curtain is a very thin cloth which allows for a lot of heat to come into the cabin. This can get uncomfortable if you are travelling, even for short distances, on sunny days.
To be called the S-Class of electric cars is a really big deal. And while the EQS has the potential to fulfil that, it does fall short in the rear seat experience. The EQS gets the basics all right. The seats are really comfortable, the cabin is very spacious and the quality all around is impeccable. It's even drenched in features like reclining seats, a personal tablet to control media, personal zones for climate control, ventilated seats and a cocoon of ambient lights. And standalone, it's a really good rear-seat experience.
Its shortcoming lies in the name. Particularly the S in the name. Compared to the S-Class, it misses on the extravagance of soft-close doors, massaged rear seats, window shades, sunshade control in the rear tablet, or a “boss button” to adjust the front seat from the rear. And without these, the rear seat department does fall short of the S-pectations.
Like all fastbacks, the EQS can pack in more luggage than you can carry for four passengers. The boot is large, deep and with all the carpet around very well sound insulated as well.
If you want an EQS, you have two options. The EQS 580 is the obvious one with the made-in-India tag and the sensible price. Then comes the AMG 53, which is absolutely fantastic. It packs in everything that the 580 does, and more. But it costs a crore more as well (Rs 2.45 crore vs Rs 1.55 crore)
Range And Charging
The EQS is the longest-range EV on sale in India. The ARAI claimed range stands at 857km and the real-world expectations stand at 600km. This is truly incredible. The 107.8kWh battery pack is massive and makes range anxiety a thing of the past.
It is friendly on the pocket as well because you will only have to take it to the service centre in 30,000km or once in two years. The battery pack warranty stands at eight years and unlimited kilometres.
Motor And Performance
The speciality of electric cars, when it comes to driveability, is effortless performance. Be it from a standstill or anywhere in the speed range, they can accelerate like physics is being kinder to them. The EQS takes it a notch further. It offers exhilarating acceleration when you get on the throttle and can remain calm when you are driving civil. The transition between the two is so seamless that you might often forget what else it is really capable of.
The claimed 0-100kmph for the 580 is 4.3 seconds, which is quite impressive. And if you pay a crore more, the AMG can get you there in just 3.4 seconds! That's supercar territory. And this brutal acceleration is available everywhere till 240kmph. Truly worthy of the AMG badge. All this while, there is no gruffness of the motor, no lag of a gearshift or waiting for the turbo to spool. Electrics are quick but the EQS is a very quick electric.
Ride And Handling
Rear wheel steer has to be one of the most important breakthroughs for these luxury barges. With 9 degrees of angle for the rear wheels, the EQS is surprisingly agile. In the city and especially out of parking spots, it feels as small as a compact SUV. Even taking u-turns takes barely a thought.
Even on a bendy road, the EQS feels agile and nimble. It likes to hug the inside of a corner as the rear wheels steer opposite to the front. Though, with over 2.5 tonnes metal, leather and lithium-ion, there is quite a lot of weight being pulled away by centrifugal force which gets the wheels to start braking some traction when going fast. So while it has to be driven within reason, it is quite fun in that window. On the highways, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front and this adds to the stability.
The EQS also gets air suspension which means it can alter the stiffness and height with the driving modes. In Comfort, the balance is quite impressive. It can take on Indian roads while keeping you comfortable and keeping the body from bouncing on the highway as well. The sportier modes add an underlying stiffness that aids handling but takes away the plushness.
The EQS is really low. And with a long wheelbase, the belly is quite prone to rubs. You can raise the car with a tap of a button and that does help, but it's something that will always make you a little nervous. The good thing here is that you can geo-tag the nasty ones and the car will raise automatically the next time you get there.
One thing that is not at all India-friendly is ADAS emergency braking. At low rolling speeds, the car, in a fraction of a second, jams all the wheels and comes to a dead stop. In our traffic, someone is usually right on your bumper and that can be a recipe for a rear-end contact. The ADAS is not optimised for Indian conditions and runs on European settings. You will have to turn off some settings every time you set off.
The Mercedes EQS, be it the 580 or the AMG, is a car which stands to change the way we look at EVs. There is absolutely no range anxiety for city driving and it can easily take on planned inter-city travel as well. And then comes the performance. The AMG is absolutely bonkers and even the 580 can effortlessly put most luxury cars in the rearview mirror.
There is no shortage of opulence as well. It's big, luxurious, gets plenty of features and is properly comfortable. To be an S-Class, the EQS does fall short on the rear seat experience but if you travel with the full family, it more than makes up for it by being futuristic and entertaining. All of this at a price less than the S-Class! Finally, there is an EV in the market which you can buy without having to worry about the E, and only focusing on the V.