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LOS ANGELES — “This is the most complex car I have ever tested,” I wrote in our 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS first drive review. Indeed, there’s so much to dig into that a half-dayish of driving around San Francisco was never going to even scratch the surface of what your driving life would be like. Furthermore, my usual testing playground around Portland, Ore., didn’t exactly seem sufficient, either. Too easy. No, the EQS needed a bigger, more serious challenge.
Hello Southern California. In 10 days with a Mercedes EQS 580 4Matic, I’d crisscross the region from Simi Valley in Ventura County to Monrovia in eastern L.A. County (and back), travel down to Encinitas in San Diego County for the bZ4X first drive, and then back up to Long Beach for the GR Corolla unveil. All told, about 500 miles. This would require taking advantage of L.A.’s more robust fast charging network. It would require stuffing the trunk full of family luggage and fitting a child seat. It would require a lot of successful discussions with the Hey Mercedes voice recognition system to input new addresses … until the fancy navi totally crashed.
Apart from that hiccup, my extended time with the EQS showed it to be an even greater masterpiece than it seemed to be during that half-day in San Francisco. Here’s what I learned.
As luck and planning would have it, I mercifully spent very little of those 500 miles stuck in Southern California traffic. Nevertheless, even while moving, Los Angeles highways are not pleasant. They’re almost always concrete and haphazardly patched, which usually results in jarring rides and heaps of noise. Not in the EQS, which is a blissful cocoon of plush serenity. You quickly take for granted being able to carry on a conversation in hushed, around-the-house tones while doing 80 on grooved concrete. When alone, listening to the exceptional Burmester sound system is akin to wearing noise-cancelling headphones aboard an airplane.
If anything, the ride is a little too plush at times, as L.A. highways have lots of sudden undulations that can make things a tad nautical in the EQS. Putting the car in Dynamic mode was just enough to settle things down, and the subtly tightened steering isn’t a bad thing either. Eventually, I would set an Individual drive mode to dial in the tauter suspension and steering, but leave the more range-friendly Normal powertrain settings intact.
Compared to the base, rear-drive EQS 450+, the EQS 580 4Matic powertrain features an extra motor up front and an upgraded rear motor. It’s good for 516 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque. Although I stand by my conclusion from San Francisco that I’d be perfectly happy with the 329-hp 450+, I must admit to not hate having all the extra thrust on hand. Need to pass someone? Gun the go pedal, and buh-bye. My wife was just not prepared for the blissful cocoon of plush serenity to suddenly feel as if it was fired out of a cannon. And like a proper autobahn-intended Mercedes-Benz, the EQS just wants to go 80 mph. Or 90. Using the excellent version of Distronic adaptive cruise control is therefore a good idea.
As has long been the case, Distronic can be almost a little too aggressive in the way it drives, or at least, brakes. It obviously came to a stop without incident every time (note this article isn’t titled “Mercedes EQS crashed itself”), but I nevertheless had to increase the distance setting a few times just to make it behave a little more as I would. The system’s lane-centering steering assist ably does most of the wheel work for you, including well-executed automated lane changes. Like some other systems, though, it struggled to detect that my hand was actually on the wheel and produced lots of unnecessary warnings.
Like most EVs, the Mercedes EQS features different levels of regenerative braking, which are selected by wheel paddles. The default mode is Normal Recuperation, which mimics a gas-powered car’s off-throttle behavior. A No Recuperation mode is best described as coast. Heavy Recuperation allows for the closest thing to one-pedal driving, but could use some further calibration. Around town and on the highway, I found it difficult to perfectly time and feather the throttle to smoothly slow the car as done in other EVs, including the Toyota bZ4X that I drove back-to-back with the EQS.
Worse, the EQS uniquely moves the brake pedal as regenerative braking is engaged, mimicking where the pedal would be had you been the one initiating the braking. You can literally watch the brake move by itself. While I can see the logic in this and kept an open mind during the first drive event, I never got used to it during my extended time with the car. Keeping the pedal stationary, where you expect it to be, and as it is in every other vehicle with regenerative braking, is just better. This setup made it even harder to smoothly stop the car when utilizing both heavy recuperation and my own foot. Emphasis on “smoothly” – I do not think it’s a safety issue.
A much better around-town innovation is the EQS’ rear-wheel steering. Though this feature is increasingly found in myriad vehicles, the 10-degree range of motion contrasts to the 3-5 norm found elsewhere. While increased agility and highway stability are usually touted as RWS benefits, a tightened turning circle is likely the one you’ll most frequently enjoy. Despite the EQS being a vast 17 feet long, the turning circle of 35.7 feet is basically the same as a Honda Civic. It’s oddly amusing. I actually looked for excuses to make U-turns.
On the other hand, the EQS is still a vast car in length and width, making parking a challenge in places with narrow spots (you know, like everywhere in L.A.).
Although I brought the two biggest bags from luggage test lore with me, I wasn’t able to do a full comparative cargo test with the EQS. Nevertheless, the Audi A7-style hatchback trunk could swallow those two bags plus a similarly sized stroller carrier bag. I also stuffed in a Graco Pack ‘N Play and a duffle bag plus a few odds and ends under the SUV-style roller cargo cover.
The EQS also has a large under-floor storage area perfect for keeping groceries secure. Both it and the smaller “hooch bin” behind the wheel well are deep enough to hold bottles of wine (guess how I know!). Both are pictured below left.
As for people space, the back seat may not have the headroom of an S-Class, but its legroom is similarly gigantic. There was no thought whatsoever of scooting up the passenger seat to accommodate my son’s rear-facing child seat. If anything, there was almost too much space between rows as it was basically impossible to hand my son anything without just flinging it at him.
Oh, and the cupholder/phone bin compartment is the exact size of a Starbucks to-go tray, so that’s, ah, neat?
The Hyperscreen infotainment system that consists of three screens behind a single piece of curved glass comes standard on the EQS 580 and is optional on the 450+ (it still comes standard with the next-gen MBUX system found in the S-Class and SL). In general, I find it easier to use than MBUX and didn’t miss having a redundant control knob or touchpad – just make sure to keep a microfiber cloth on hand, ‘cause oh boy does it get fingerprinty.
The main 17.7-inch central screen features a unique “Zero Layer” layout (above, bottom left) different than MBUX that keeps the navigation screen in place with smaller tiles always present for audio and communications. I always appreciate split-screen functionality, and this is a different take on that. I could also just keep a detailed audio screen in place that simultaneously shows radio presets and song info.
I kept the instrument panel on Classic view as the many others are just silly or pointless. The passenger screen mostly remained unused, but my wife did find it handy for controlling her favorite car feature: massaging seats. She could do this without taking over the main screen, and even served as my spa valet (that’s a thing, right?) by selecting one of the many massaging functions for me. Such service.
Now, the navigation system. I usually don’t drive around with the map up, but the giant screen and satellite imagery were big helps in self-navigating around unfamiliar places. Then, when needing to set an address into the system, the “Hey Mercedes” natural voice commands worked flawlessly every time.
Once an address was engaged, though, there are choices to be made. I actually started to like the augmented reality arrows that appear in the head-up display (pictured above left; I deemed them distracting and quickly turned them off during the test drive). However, I quickly soured on the live camera view with similar augmented reality arrows that pops up over the navigation map when a turn is ahead (above right). It’s totally redundant with the head-up display, and worse, I repeatedly missed turns because, call me weird, I find seeing the map helpful when navigating. Thankfully, you can turn that video feed off and live with the map.
Speaking of turning off, though, the navigation system cut out during my longest drive from Simi Valley to Encinitas. I entered in the destination and, bam, cut to black with a warning of “This map data does not match with your system. Please insert a medium containing the corresponding map data.” I tried the usual car-off, get-out, car-lock reboot method, but nada. I could still use Apple CarPlay and Google Maps to get where I needed to go, but there’d be no augmented reality head-up display, and after all that Hyperscreen prettiness, Apple CarPlay just looks cheap and lame. Thankfully, after turning off and locking the car while recharging a few miles short of Encinitas, the navigation system bounced back to normal and never repeated this issue.
Although I’ve been testing EVs for more than a decade now, I’ve done all of my charging at home or in an office up until very recently. That means I’m still in the learning stages, much as most of the people reading this are likely to be. As such, I’ll keep this simple and refrain from getting bogged down in geek-level minutiae.
In short, the EQS 580 is rated by the EPA to go 340 miles on a charge, but it does better than that. I repeatedly saw a range prediction of 360 miles with 90-95% battery remaining. Theoretically, I only would’ve needed to charge once, but due to trip logistics, it was best to do so twice.
The EQS is one of the fastest-charging EVs, capable of drawing in as much as 200 kilowatts of electricity. This means it can take advantage of new 350-kW charging stations and can max out the more common 150-kW stations. I used both speeds, but my lengthier stop happened at a 350-kW Electrify America station that only maxed out at a speed of 150.21 kW. It delivered 83 kWh of electricity in 45 minutes and brought the charge from 19% to 92%. And, per usual, that final 70-92% slowed the charging process down considerably. I really should’ve called it quits sooner as I didn’t need all that extra juice to get from Encinitas to Long Beach.
In total, this was a better experience than I had weeks before with the Audi RS E-Tron GT – it may be similarly quick to charge, but its range is 100 miles less, meaning you’re going to be waiting around Walmart parking lots more. And I don’t like doing that. Even if the vast majority of EV charging happens at home, range absolutely matters and the EQS provides enough of it. The 266-mile round trip from Simi Valley to Encinitas is the sort of typical weekend road trip people frequently take, and for that, the EQS wouldn’t have needed to recharge at all.
More time with the EQS only made me appreciate it more. It’s easily in my Top 5 favorite cars, and if price was no issue, I’d own one as the go-to family transport. Of course, price is usually an issue, and the EQS 580 starts at $120,160, with this one optioned up to $133,655. Yeah, that’s a helluva lot of money, but this is also one helluva car.
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