On Thursday, Mercedes-Benz revealed its new EQS electric sedan. In many ways, it’s the company’s first truly serious electric vehicle. Built on a dedicated EV platform and optimized to be an EV (and nothing else), it appears that it could be a Tesla-level experience for drivers.
Normally, when I write about a vehicle, I focus on propulsion first. This time, though, things are a little different. Some details on the vehicle were released a couple weeks ago (as my colleague Steve covered here), and the whole internet (including readers I know) has been abuzz about the big set of screens in the EQS. For that reason, I’m going to cover it first — it’s what readers have found most interesting.
Unlike many infotainment systems, Mercedes-Benz put some real power behind theirs. In fact, it’s almost as powerful as my rendering computer I use for 4K video. It has 8 CPUs (I’m assuming they mean processor cores here), 24 GB of memory, and 46.4 Gbps of memory bandwidth. I saw several people comment on YouTube that they now felt embarrassed that the Mercedes infotainment system outclasses their custom gaming PC.
Impressive hardware is nothing without decent software, though, and we haven’t been told much about that as of this writing. We do know that it will feature a route planner that factors in needed charging stops, weather, and terrain, but we don’t know at this point whether it will be as good as the Tesla route planner or if it will exhibit bizarre behavior like the early Volkswagen ID.4 trip planners.
To avoid complex “menu diving,” Mercedes-Benz says it has implemented AI features to predict what the user is going to do next so they don’t have to dig for things. Once again, we’ll have to see this for ourselves before we can say it’s awesome or a dud. If it performs as promised, it definitely sounds like a great feature.
The infotainment system can make sci-fi style engine noises while you drive, be completely silent when driving, or focus more on music than driving sounds. This is a seemingly silly feature, but the user experiences so far with the Ford Mach-E seem to indicate that new EV drivers like having some audible feedback. The ability to turn this on or off is probably the best part, as drivers can choose for themselves whether they want it.
During the presentation, Mercedes-Benz says that it put a big infotainment system all over the interior of the vehicle because it expects autonomous features to leave people in the vehicle with nothing to do. Not only is the big Hyperscreen up front, but there are headrest screens facing the rear for people in the back, so everyone can be entertained by the infotainment.
Mercedes-Benz didn’t tell us what it is calling the autonomous systems, but it did say that the vehicle will offer SAE Level 3 autonomy. This means that driver attention for immediate takeover will not be required the way it is for Level 2 systems, but the driver must be ready to respond to a vehicle notice that they will need to take over soon (sort of like the self-driving truck in The Sixth Day). Unlike what Tesla promises with FSD, a Level 3 system won’t work in all places and all conditions, so the vehicle would likely tell you to take over in the event that it’s leaving a mapped area, or weather/traffic conditions are becoming untenable for the system.
Because even the driver doesn’t have to pay attention with a Level 3 system, Mercedes says the big Hyperscreen could serve as a mobile theater for the occupants.
Propulsion & Range
The big thing with this vehicle is that it’s built on a dedicated electric platform. Instead of trying to share platforms with gas vehicles (which led to a disastrous result with the EQC), Mercedes optimized everything for electric drive. Options will include rear- and all-wheel-drive, with the ability of the vehicle to shift power to the front or rear drive systems depending on conditions, to maximize range (sort of like Tesla’s Range Mode). This probably means that the front and rear drive units will have different gear ratios, which effectively gives the vehicle a virtual two-speed transmission.
Mercedes says the normal version of the vehicle will have 385 kW (516 horsepower) with the dual motor AWD option. An upcoming performance version will offer up to 560 kW (about 750 horsepower). Whichever version you opt for, the motors will be fed by a battery pack with up to 108 kWh of usable capacity, which puts it in the ballpark of many of Tesla’s offerings. Presumably, there’s some battery buffer on top of that for longevity, but not usable for driving.
EPA range numbers aren’t available, but the company says it will offer 770 km of WLTP-tested range. That would equal a 478-mile range, but keep in mind that the WLTP test is very generous and easy to get big range numbers with compared to EPA testing. Expect both EPA and real-world numbers to be a good bit below 478 miles — probably somewhere around 400 would be my best semi-educated guess. Even at 400 miles, that’s still a respectable range figure in today’s EV market.
The company says that the vehicle can charge at a maximum of 200 kW. That puts it ahead of many EVs, but the figure is still low compared to the best offerings of Tesla and even Porsche. They say it can add up to 300 km (186 miles) in 15 minutes, but keeping tapering in mind, that’s probably a 10%-60% charge under good conditions. Don’t extrapolate this and expect to get a full battery from nearing 0% in 30-40 minutes — that’s just not going to happen unless you want the car to go up in flames.
Efficiency & Environmental friendliness
Appearance-wise, the vehicle is pretty similar to the Model S. I know some will accuse Mercedes-Benz of copying Tesla’s design, but keep in mind that there are only so many aerodynamic shapes. When you aim for the .20 drag coefficient that Mercedes claims, the good shapes for a sedan are going to all be pretty much the same. To get decent range figures, there’s just not a lot of room for stylistic differences.
Unlike Tesla, Mercedes is still doing the faux grille thing in the front. It’s not an actual grille that takes in air for cooling, but it’s a dark color up front that mimics ICE vehicles’ need for massive cooling systems. This isn’t necessary, but in reality it’s just a stylistic difference. Different strokes for different folks.
When it comes to environmental friendliness, Mercedes put a lot of work in there, too. The EQS will be manufactured in Germany, in carbon neutral factories. Going forward, the company wants to do this with all of its EVs so that it can reach Paris climate agreement goals ahead of schedule. Part of the carbon neutrality comes from the use of recycled and regrown materials whenever possible.
Finally, the company is offering a “green charging” feature. If you enable it (and this may cost you something), Mercedes will make sure that whatever electricity you use gets offset elsewhere on the electrical grid with renewable energy. However you choose to charge, Ionity charging stations will be free for a year.
This Might Be a Legit EV
We won’t know for sure until Mercedes-Benz lets us drive one, but from what I’ve seen thus far, the vehicle might be a decent EV. I never use the term “Tesla killer,” because that completely ignores the fact that Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy. When another manufacturer makes a decent EV that people want to buy, that’s not something that kills Tesla. It’s actually means Tesla is winning.
If the dedicated EV platform handles well, the electronics (especially the Hyperscreen) are decent and run well, and the company makes good on all of the other promises it has made with the EQS (best interior room, best aero/efficiency, leading quality/safety/comfort), then expect something that’s on par with Tesla. No matter who you’re a bigger fan of, that’s a great thing.
The only big piece of the puzzle we haven’t seen is pricing. That’s going to make a big difference in how decent the EQS is.
Featured image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
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