On a scale of one-to-ten for importance, Holger Enzmann, global project manager of Mercedes’ EQ electric vehicles, gives the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV an eleven. Makes sense. This Alabama-built battery-electric SUV ticks all the boxes for its targeted North American and Chinese audience – it’s big, it has an available third row, it bristles with tech and drips in luxury. Enzmann also signals a new tack for Mercedes-Benz in that the German automaker is now less concerned with absolute volume, and more with profitability per unit. Hence a push further upmarket.
Isn’t Benz already an upmarket brand? True enough, but there’s more money to be found in the ultra-premium rarefied air. If we’re measuring profitability by gizmo count and opulence per square centimetre, the 2023 EQS SUV promises be a veritable cash-cow for Mercedes-Benz. Especially the top-tier 580 4Matic version that starts at $158,000 in Canada. With a permanently excited synchronous electric motor on each axle, it makes 536 horsepower and 633 lb-ft of instant torque.
I’m leaving the crush of Denver morning traffic and heading for the hills in a dark blue EQS 580 4Matic SUV. It’s a relaxed and serene cruiser, with eye-widening acceleration just a loafer-flex away. Its sub four-second dash to 100 km/h is wholly believable.
The cabin is hush quiet and the ride suitably cushy, gliding along on its standard air suspension with adaptive damping. Rear wheel steering is also standard, with the base system offering up to four and a half degrees of lock, while an optional 10-degree system shrinks the big SUV’s turning circle to that of a compact car. You’ll want this.
Yet no one is gawking at my heretofore unseen pre-production electric ride. Unlike BMW, Kia or Hyundai who are cloaking their electric vehicles rad sheet metal, Mercedes is playing it cool, giving this big SUV a pleasingly elegant look that does not offend nor particularly excite. With its snout bearing a big grill-like panel, there’s nothing about the EQS SUV that screams electric. It does, however, cleave the air with an impressive 0.26 coefficient of drag.
In addition to the EQS 580 4Matic SUV, we’ll be getting the EQS 450 4Matic SUV with a starting price of $140,000. Both models use a 108 kWh lithium-ion battery and claim a max range of 459 kilometres. The 450 puts out a respectable 355 horsepower and 590 lb-ft, and while not as crushingly quick as the 580, it’s still plenty fleet.
Mercedes’ upmarket push is clearly evident when sinking one’s keister into the EQS SUV’s well contoured front seats. The cabin is a posh showpiece of exquisite design and craftsmanship. The star of the show is Benz’s curved MBUX Hyperscreen (standard with 580, optional on 450) that stretches the width of the dash and merges three screens – a 12.3-inch driver’s display, 17.1-inch central screen and 12.3-inch passenger display – into one visual unit.
We could ask for a few analogue controls (a volume knob would be nice) but overall, the system is quick, easy to negotiate, and the graphics are spectacular. Mercedes calls this latest generation of its MBUX interface “zero-layer”, meaning all functions are accessible from the main display — no digging through menus. Additionally, say “Hey Mercedes” at any time and the nice lady in the dash will do what she can to make your life better. Tweak your seat massage? Sure. Find the nearest DC charger or explain a vehicle function? Yep. Dip into her seemingly endless reserve of corny dad jokes? Oh yes. Your kids will love it.
As might be expected, this large, weighty and sybaritic SUV isn’t particularly sporty when the road turns twisty. But who wants that anyway? The last thing you need is your progeny turning green in the third row.
However, for those who might wish to tackle some rough terrain, Offroad mode raises the SUVs ride height by 30 cm, optimizes the AWD, enables hill descent control and calls up a nifty axle-level front camera that shoot an image to the main screen when speeds drop below 3 km/h. Mercedes presented a gnarly course complete with ruts, steep inclines and tight turns over which we scrambled with impunity.
All is not perfect with the 2023 EQS SUV. The haptic controls on the steering wheel are fussy, and drivers might take issue with the weird feeling brake pedal that actually moves on its own during regenerative braking. Perhaps too clever for its own good.
The EQS SUV’s optional third-row perches are best suited for children, and with said seats folded into the floor, there’s 565 L of cargo space, expandable to 2020 L with the powered second row folded. Mercedes’ GL-Class SUVs are roomier. EQS models are capable of ultra-rapid charging at up to 200 kW at DC fast charging stations, with the ability to add an additional 300 kilometres (WLTP) of range in about 15 minutes. The EQS SUV is rated to tow up to 1800 kg.
With the 2023 EQS SUV, Mercedes-Benz is inviting you and your family along for a ritzy ride into the electric future, and it certainly makes for a compelling alternative to the only other three-row BEV currently on sale — the Tesla Model X. But with Volvo’s all-new electric EX90 flagship SUV and Hyundai’s Ionic 7 on the way, things are about to get more interesting in the world of lengthy EV haulers.