The Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC is the three-pointed star’s first real attempt at an all-electric flagship in its 100-plus year history, and its importance to the brand cannot be overstated. Simply put, Tesla is already beating Mercedes-Benz, and the upstart, 500-mile range Lucid Air isn’t going to pull any punches, either. The EQS must come out swinging, then, and it absolutely cannot fail to deliver on the promise of that “S”.
I recently had a chance to take an extended test drive in both the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ and 580 4MATIC models at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and the experience was – let’s say “not what I expected”.
THE LAND YACHT
Back in the days of the W126 – a car some would call a high point for S class Mercedes – the big luxury cars from Lincoln or Cadillac were decidedly boaty. They isolated you from the road with their soft suspensions and high sidewall tires. The steering, too, had a nautical sort of feel. The Mercedes, however, did not. The W126 felt planted and secure. It was soft, yes, but the suspension felt capable. You weren’t isolated from the road and all its potholes and imperfections – you were shielded. The stiff chassis and expertly tuned suspension were in a different league than the Fleetwood or Town Car, and you could even hustle the grosser MB well enough, if you were so inclined.
In Comfort mode and on the elevation-changes surrounding COTA, the new EQS 580 4MATIC is eerily reminiscent of those old cars … just not the Mercedes ones.
“This is terrible,” I said to my co-pilot, a young-ish MBUSA product specialist that came along on the extended test ride who invited me to “stretch the car’s legs”. “I can’t feel the road,” I told her. “I can’t even tell where the front wheels are pointing.”
“Hmm,” she said. “Let me put it into sport mode for you.”
“Is that going to make a big diff—oh!” I said, genuinely surprised at the noticeable difference from just a few moments ago. “Oh! OK, here we go.”
In about the same 30 seconds it took you to read those last few paragraphs, my impression of the new Mercedes-Benz EQS went from, “This is a disaster,” to “I can’t imagine anyone buying a Tesla after driving one of these.”
WHY WOULD YOU
Mercedes-Benz claims the new EQS 580 4MATIC sedan will sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.1 seconds, thanks to the 516 horsepower and 631 lb-ft of combined torque available from its Dual Permanently Excited Synchronous Motors (PSMs). I tell you that I am no stranger to fast Mercedes, so believe me when I tell you that the 580 feels even quicker than that. It wasn’t the cars’ straight-line speed or instant-on handling at the flip of a switch tap of the screen nature that were most impressive to me, though, having just spent three days in an equally quick dual-motor Tesla Model 3. It was the quality of the thing.
Despite the fact that these EQSs were early production cars – I’d never seen one in person, prior to arriving at the Electrify Expo Industry Day in Austin – it’s clear that Mercedes-Benz has laser-focused its attention on Tesla’s quality control issues and decided to launch an attack on Elon’s young carmaker on that front.
They’ve scored a direct hit. Everywhere you look on the big Benz, you see the attention to detail and focus. The shut lines are uniform. The doors, fenders, and hood all perfectly aligned. Inside, all the pieces fit as they should. Mold lines are invisible. Leather, MB-Tex, recycled carpets, glass, and aluminum all come together as designed, without a stitch or seam out of place. Shut the door hard in the Benz, and that sound, too, is utterly satisfying – something I couldn’t say of the Model 3.
And, I know – the base Model 3 is about a third of the price of the $130,000-plus EQS 580 4MATIC I drove, and a better comparison would probably be the $129,990 Model S Plaid. I’d be inclined to agree with you, except that I’m trying to give Tesla a chance here.
BRAND NEW MODEL S PLAID – QUALITY ISSUES
In contrast, none of the EQSs I had to choose from had any of those issues. The paint on the darker colored cars, in typical Mercedes fashion, was a bit orange-peely, but it was deep and rich with a heavy flake and lots of flop. What’s more, there wasn’t a single panel on any of the Mercedes that you could say needed a re-spray. The rocker panels and wheel well liners fit snugly, and those wheel wells were filled nicely by aerodynamic wheels on both models.
ELON’S INFLUENCE ON THE WORLD’S CLASSIEST HOT HATCH
You might think that the biggest influence the Tesla Model S had on the new Mercedes-Benz EQS has something to do with the fact that it’s electric, or that it has features and capabilities that, as on the Tesla, are software-locked. Heck, it’s not even the “vegan leather” option. You could make a good case for any of those things, but I’m saying it’s this …
… that’s right, kids – the all-new, all-electric, flagship Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC sedan is, for the first time in Mercedes history, a hatchback.
A hatchback, just like the Tesla Model S.
Say what you will about Tesla and Elon Musk (I know I have), but you have to hand it to the guy. He made the Teutonic titans at Mercedes-Benz question themselves so deeply, and so profoundly, that in addition to more-or-less making the electric = premium equation balance out almost entirely on his own, he got Mercedes-Benz to turn the S class into the world’s classiest hatchback.
Bruno Sacco is spinning in his grave (if he’s dead – I didn’t look it up). Ed. note – I looked it up and he is very much alive.
JUST ABOUT PERFECT
In the end, I may be the only person who finds the hatchback Benz thing funny – and that’s fine. The reality is that the new Mercedes EQS sedans, both of them, are incredibly well-conceived automobiles. They’re quiet, solid, fast, and can tailor themselves to their drivers’ wants and needs in just about real time. For example, to adjust my seat, I entered my height. It weighed me, I think, then adjusted my seat accordingly. The computer got my very nearly into my preferred seating position on the first try. Even the massaging seat rollers (of course it has massaging seats) seemed to know where they were wanted.
It’s hard to argue against the thing. And, no – it’ll never handle like an E30 BMW, or even a Polestar 2 – but I’d bet the new grosser could hold its own against anything this side of an Alpina B7. Until BMW has something electric in this size class, though, I think the EQS stands alone.
[Images © 2021 Jo Borras/TTAC.com, Timothy Cain/TTAC.com]
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