In a recent story, I said that the Mercedes-Benz EQS appears to be the first truly serious EV offered by the company. It seems from the comments that many readers agree, and are happy to see that the vehicle looks to be a decent offering. We won’t truly know until Mercedes-Benz gives us some wheel time with it, of course, but most of us seem to be cautiously optimistic.
In this article, I wanted to explain a bit more about why I think the EQS is the first serious offering from Mercedes. It’s not that the company hasn’t made any EVs, but the quality and electric-first optimization of the EQS is far better than the company’s previous offerings.
What may be the best example of this is another Mercedes EQ vehicle: the EQC. The company decided to not offer it in the United States, despite the fact that crossovers are big sellers and have seemingly good numbers. Why?
The EQC’s Specs Seem Decent On The Surface
In theory, the vehicle looked like it could be a decent market entrant. If numbers and specs are the whole game, the vehicle should be a big winner.
- Dual Motor, all wheel drive
- 80 kWh battery pack
- 220–250 mile range (not great, but will get you most places with Electrify America)
- 400 horsepower, 560 lb-ft torque
- 5 Star Euro NCAP
A dual-motor vehicle means that all-wheel drive is possible rather than a vehicle simply being front- or rear-wheel drive. Not only can you get the advantages of both, but you can get better performance by splitting the power over four tire contact patches instead of just two. Looking good so far!
The 80 kWh battery pack is a decent number. It’s comparable to what the Tesla Model Y has — so, in theory, the vehicle could have great range. At minimum, it should be better than an old Nissan LEAF and maybe better than the Chevy Bolt. In practice, though, efficiency is also mathematically important. The EQC expends the whole 80 kWh in only 220–250 miles, so it’s not very efficient.
I know that the range figure isn’t impressive, but such a vehicle should be at least usable and get you to most places. The number of CCS charging stations has grown quite a bit in the last few years, particularly in the U.S. with Electrify America. 200+ miles of range means you can almost always get to the next rapid charger, so you can get across the country and to most of it. More range is, of course, better, but this is enough to be usable.
The vehicle also would likely be a lot of fun for someone who likes Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Vehicles from a manufacturer tend to have a similar driving feel, and that can often translate over to electric if they’re serious about the brand. This means that the EQC should have the feel of a Mercedes-Benz and please people who owned their gas or diesel-powered offerings, right?
Execution … Not So Much
The problem with judging everything by numbers is that they don’t tell the whole story. Quantitative thinking has been great for humanity. It took us to space, among many other great things. However, you can’t judge everything by numbers. The qualitative things, like how the vehicle feels when you drive it and how it behaves under more extreme conditions, can completely ruin the good numbers if things are off.
Rory Reid at AutoTrader doesn’t live in the States, so he had a chance to put the EQC through its paces and see what the actual experience is riding atop the reasonably okay numbers.
To build the EQC, Mercedes-Benz basically took the guts out of the Mercedes GLC and swapped them out for electric. For a company that mostly still builds gasoline-powered vehicles, that makes a lot of sense in theory. By being able to share parts and platforms between gas and electric cars, they can transition to EVs without going totally broke reinventing everything.
When it comes to interior space (if you ignore the lack of a frunk), comfort, and luxury items, it’s a decent vehicle. People can do most anything in the EQC that they can do in the GLC. As you’d expect with any MB vehicle, it’s got premium materials, it’s got a decent layout, and it’s a luxury vehicle. It even has a halfway decent infotainment system and, like most luxury cars, is very quiet and comfortable on the road.
It’s also reasonably fast and has enough range to get to most anywhere. The numbers told us it would be this way, and it is.
But that’s where the good ends. Mercedes had an opportunity to make a very nice dual-motor vehicle that gives good handling and performance, but it instead chose to mostly use the front motor to move the vehicle around, only calling on the rear motor for full-throttle and other edge situations. So, you’ve got a very heavy vehicle that’s front-wheel drive most of the time and doesn’t have things as low as they could be if the vehicle had been a dedicated electric platform.
If you know much about vehicle handling, in theory, it wouldn’t be that competitive with a Model Y (mostly due to range), but would still have okay electric vehicle dynamics. You know exactly where this is going.
Rory says that once you quit driving in straight lines and try to corner it, the vehicle handles like a “drunk hippo.” “If you arrive at a corner at a speed approaching anything that could be considered remotely enthusiastic, then what you’ll encounter is a lot of understeer, and ultimately quite a lot of terror,” he said. He points out that the EQC still feels like it has a pretty high center of gravity, and ends up handling like any vehicle that doesn’t have a low center. There’s also a ton of body-roll, which can indicate a sloppy suspension system, even given the other disadvantages (front drive, heavy, batteries up too high).
The other problem is braking. The car is fast in a straight line, but sucks donkey balls in the corners, so you’ll need to slow down quite a bit before you hit a sharp corner. Unfortunately, the brakes are also quite sloppy and the regenerative braking just isn’t very well integrated into the overall brake pedal feel. This leaves people having to push quite hard and still not get as much braking as such a heavy and poorly-cornering vehicle needs.
Given the poor performance of the EQC in the real world, it’s good to see that Mercedes-Benz actually figured it out when they released the EQS. Instead of trying to share gas and electric platforms, they built the EQS from the ground up for electric drive. They optimized for rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive instead of bothering with front-wheel drive. They kept the weight low. And the EQS has a good drag coefficient.
The result shows us that good numbers don’t always add up to a good vehicle. A whole lot more goes into making sure the vehicle itself is qualitatively good.
Featured image provided by Mercedes-Benz.
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