Here’s something that’s hard to find: An electric version of a car that costs less than the engine version of the same car.
That would be the Mercedes EQS.
What It Is
The EQS is essentially an electrified S-Class sedan, which is Mercedes’ top-of-the-line (and full-size) luxury sedan.
The body of the EQS is more streamlined, with a sleeker profile, but the two are very close in size and otherwise, with the main difference (other than its electric drivetrain) being that the EQS costs several thousand dollars less to start than its S-Class sibling: $102,310 to start for the rear-wheel-drive (and single motor) EQS 450 vs. $111,100 for the S 500. A top-of-the-line EQS 580, which has dual motors and so is AWD, stickers for $125,900 vs. $117,700 for the V8-powered S580).
This is not just unusual. It is contrary.
Other electrified versions of engine vehicles cost more–a lot more. For example, the electric version of Ford’s F-150 pickup, the Lightning. It stickers for $48,769 — vs. $36,380 for the base, non-electric F-150.
But Mercedes appears to have decided to offer the EQS for less to start than the engine S perhaps to compensate EQS owners for the other costs they’ll pay, such as spending more time thinking about how far they can drive and how long they may have to wait before they can drive, again.
These are costs associated with driving an EV rather than the cost of the EV, itself and they beset every EV, regardless of cost.
The EQS is a new model for Mercedes.
- Opulent and supremely comfortable.
- Accelerates like the Enterprise from Star Trek when it goes into warp.
- Maximum potential range (340-350 miles) on a full charge is far enough to make this electric almost as practical to drive as an engine car–with a caveat.
What’s Not So Good
- The caveat is finding a place to instill a full charge and having the time to wait for it.
- Sleeker profile cuts down some on headroom in both rows vs. the engine S-Class sedan.
- Chief rival, Tesla S, comes standard with substantially more range (405 miles).
Under The Hood
As this is an electric car review, we won’t be looking under the hood with anything to see as far as what propels the car. In between the wheels, you will find one or two electric motors, depending on which variant of the EQS you’re looking at.
The rear-drive EQS 450 has one motor driving the rear wheels, directly, as is generally the case with all modern electric vehicles. There is no transmission and so no gears and no shifts. The motor spins, the wheels turn. It’s similar with the EQS 580 except there are two motors, one in between the rear wheels and another one up front.
This is how you get all-wheel-drive in an electric car.
The single-engine EQS 450 is rated as delivering 329 horsepower and 417 ft.-lbs. of torque. The dual-motor EQS 580 ups the output to 516 horsepower and 631 ft.-lbs. of torque.
Interestingly, both versions of the EQS come standard with the same 108 kWh battery pack, so you don’t have to pay extra to get a stronger battery. Also, interestingly, you get a more advertised range (350 miles) with the base EQS 450. The EQS claims a 340-mile maximum range on a full charge. This runs contra to the usual when it comes to electric vehicles where it’s usually the case that you have to pay more to get more range.
Instead, you get what is usual with non-electric cars when you pay extra. That being more power and higher performance.
The EQS can go a little farther because it is lighter having one less motor. But it is also a little slower because it has less power. This version of the EQS takes 5.9 seconds to get to 60 MPH. This is a little off the pace of the non-electric S 500 sedan, which is powered by a 3.0-liter inline six/mild hybrid drivetrain that produces 429 horsepower and 384 ft.-lbs. of torque — enough power to get the 4,740 lb. Benz to 60 in just 4.5 seconds.
The EQS 450 weighs 5,597 lbs., which explains the disparity in quickness. Also, to some extent, range. The non-electric S 500 can travel 464 miles in city driving and 663 miles on the highway (the latter on par with the range of a Toyota Prius hybrid).
The EQS 580 overcomes weight (5,888 lbs.) with power, getting to 60 in 4.1 seconds, almost as quickly as the non-electric S 580 sedan, which is powered by a 4.0-liter V8/mild hybrid drivetrain that produces 496 horsepower and 516 ft.-lbs. of torque. Both figures are lower than the rated output of the EQS 580’s dual-motor drivetrain but the S580 weighs 4,775 lbs., almost exactly the same as the single-motor EQS 450.
The extra 1,000-plus pounds the EQS 580 is lugging around also helps account for the car’s modest range relative (again) to its non-electric counterpart, which can still go 353 miles in city driving and 552 miles on the highway, both figures significantly higher than the range estimates of the single-motor EQS 450.
Recharging the EQS is possible in three ways, as is usually the case with electric vehicles. You can plug the car into a standard 120V household outlet, which will generally add 20-40 miles of range overnight, depending on how cold it is and whether you park the car inside or outside. In very cold weather, you may find very little range has been added even when the car has been left plugged in all night.
Because in very cold weather, the car is losing charge as it is being charged.
Your next option for at-home charging is plugging into a 240V outlet, but you may have to get an electrician to wire this up for you unless your home was built with a 240V outlet in a place that’s close enough to plug into. Using this method, you can recover a significant charge in a few hours and a full charge in 12.5 hours.
Or you can “fast” charge but not at home, as few if any, private homes have the capacity to deliver the very high voltage electricity that is generally available only at commercial “fast” chargers, which can be likened to commercial gas pumps in that you must drive to them to pump in the power. But there is an important difference. Unlike gas pumps, which all pump gas at more-or-less the same rate, “fast” chargers can vary significantly in terms of the amount of electricity they are capable of pumping into an electric car’s battery. Some can instill a significant recharge in about half an hour.
Others take much longer.
Also, keep in mind that even at the highest-power “fast” chargers, you can only recover about 80 percent of a full charge. This is a safeguard to prevent damage to the battery and also to reduce the possibility of the battery catching fire. But it means you resume your drive with 20 percent less than the advertised maximum range. That works out to resuming your drive with 280 miles of range (in the EQS 450; 272 in the EQS 580).
It’s not necessarily an issue, if you don’t need to drive as far as that. Or if you have the time to wait for a full charge.
However, it is an issue if you do need to drive as far as that and haven’t got the time to wait in order to be able to drive farther than that.
On The Road
If you remember the Jetsons, the ’60s cartoon about life in our future, you will recognize the sound made by the EQS when you floor it. If you can focus on it, which is hard to do, especially the first time you floor it because the electric Benz seemingly dilates space and time as it warps forward. That is just the right word to describe what it feels like to jump forward in one of these things.
It’s the sound of George Jetson’s flying car. At least, that’s what it sounded like to me. A series of blip-blip-blips, spaced closer-and-closer together. They are not loud, but you can hear them. It’s entertaining and more to the point–appropriate in that this electric Benz is just that.
When you’re not flooring it, the Benz is what a Benz ought to be. That being dead quiet. You hear only the wind and the road and very little of that unless you’re really listening. Or, just listen to the excellent Burmester audio rig while the seats massage your back. You don’t even have to touch that dial. Just ask the EQS to turn on the massagers and turn up the volume.
The hair in the soup is having to be mindful of the range and making the time to recharge. I went into some detail about what that is like here but the gist of it is that even the advertised maximum range isn’t much relative to a non-electric equivalent, and it becomes less if it’s cold out or you’re driving at warp speed. It even becomes less if the car is just sitting, a thing specific to EVs, which loses charge when parked (especially if it is very cold and they are parked outside) and not plugged in, to counteract this loss of charge, which can be as much as 10 or even 20 miles of whatever the range was when you parked it.
On the upside, the indicated range more closely approximates how much range you have left after you drive wherever you were going. Several other EVs this writer has tested were optimistic by as much as 20 percent. However, at least in very cold weather, you will likely discover that (as an example) 170 miles of indicated range when you started leaves you with about 95-100 miles indicated after you have driven 50 actual miles.
And 95-100 miles indicated isn’t much of a margin at that rate of discharge.
The car does have a “fast” charger locator and a real-time street-view map guidance system to get you there. But Mercedes has no control over where these “fast” chargers are, nor how “fast” (or not) they charge. The good news is that once you’re plugged in there, you’ll be inside one of the nicest waiting rooms you could hope to find.
At The Curb
The EQS is 207.3 inches long overall, which is just a bit shorter than its S Class non-electric sibling, which is 208.2 inches long overall.
Other than that, and the more lozenge-shape of the EQS, the main differences between these two Benzes are inside, where there’s an entirely flat “Hyperscreen” screen dash/center stack in the EQS. It looks like Geordie LaForge’s control panel on the Enterprise vs. the more conventional layout in its non-electric sibling, which still has a separate main gauge cluster and a tablet-style center stack. Optionally available is a similar 12.3-inch display for the front seat passenger, too.
It is a much richer-looking interior than the bleak-looking interior of a Tesla S, with its single huge tablet off the right of the driver and not much else to look at. The Tesla S is also a significantly smaller car, even though it is Tesla’s top-of-the-line car. It is just 197.7 inches long, which makes it closer to being a mid-sized car (e.g., a Toyota Camry is 192.1 inches long) notwithstanding its six-figure price tag.
There is also one more thing and it is not a small thing.
The EQS has almost twice the cargo space as the non-electric S-Class has: 22 cubic feet behind the back seats and 63 cubic feet in total vs. only 12.9 cubic feet inside the trunk of the S-Class.
This latter is an interesting deficit for a full-size luxury sedan given that 12.9 cubic feet is about as much trunk space as you’d get in a compact-sized economy sedan. It is a function of the fact that the S-Class sedan has an engine up front and very little behind. It is a big car only in between the axle centerlines. Apparently for the sake of looks. In the past, big cars had trunks as long as their hoods and you could fit two or three bodies back there, which is why such cars were prized by mobsters, at least in the movies.
In real life, the big trunk complemented the big interior. If you had three people riding with you, you had room for three people’s bags, too.
You do, again in the EQS. Because there’s no engine under the hood. And because it has a liftgate rather than a trunk.
All trims get a panorama sunroof, Burmester audio rig, your pick of 20- or 21- inch wheels, an adaptive suspension and configurable drive settings. The optional Exclusive Package adds a virtual-reality Heads Up Display and the massaging front seats. Massaging rear seats are available along with a rear tablet and neck-shoulder heaters as part of the Executive Package.
Mercedes put the plug-in port on the passenger side rear quarter panel. This is a common place to put the fuel door in non-electric cars. But electric car “fast” chargers are sometimes arranged such that you cannot plug in with a car like the EQS unless you back it up, so as to reach the “pump.”
The 12V power point socket is also in a less-than-convenient place, tucked up almost out-of-sight (and reach) on the front passenger side footwell (as it is in the engine S-Class).
The Bottom Line
If the range were more and the recharge time less, the EQS would likely sell better than the engine S-Class. As it is, the EQS is limited by how far it can go and by how long it takes to get going, again.
Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.