“It’s a new era at Mercedes-Benz,” says Ola Källenius, the company’s chairman, about the new Mercedes-Benz EQS luxury sedan—the company’s first ground-up electric car and the most important launch in the brand’s recent history. Developed with the DNA debuted five years ago in their Concept EQ, it’s built on the company’s new electric-only modular platform that all models will be using moving forward and is the company’s boldest statement yet of what an established car company can create in the EV market. It has given them the liberty to make a pure electric-only expression of the brand and its future.
Though achievements of upstart EV companies like Tesla, Rivian, Canoo and Lucid are impressive, they can be seen as easier to create as they don’t live within an existing brand halo and the customer expectations that come along with it. The EQS showcases a standard for electric cars from one of the world’s best established manufacturers, with all of its resources, research and development, and it will be watched by all.
Mercedes-Benz has teased and toured several impressive EV concepts, each acting as a stepping stone toward the EQS’s debut. The series of small steps, mixed with plenty of interesting innovations happening in different cars, and nearly $1 billion dollars in development inched the brand closer to its big reveal: a four-door model comprising previous progress and next generation ingenuity with 40+ inventions embedded inside. It’s a next generation luxury car that is approachable to the brand’s existing customers, but alluring enough to bring new customers, many of whom are current EV owners.
“We wanted to keep the DNA of Mercedes-Benz intact,” Sajjad Khan (a member of Mercedes-Benz’s Board of Management, he is the brand’s CTO and heads up their CASE division) tells CH. “We are a desirable luxury vehicle [company]… and we look now at the end product, compared to when we had started the project, we put the customer as the focus from the get go—in every decision. We thought, ‘What gives value to the customer? What is added value to the customer’s application?” That led us to this product.”
The EQS is offered in two models, the single motor base model 450+ and the dual motor 580 4MATIC, arriving at US dealers in fall of 2021. It marks the first Mercedes-EQ model to arrive stateside, competing in the EV market from day one (which made up less than 2% of total US car sales in 2020). The debut is a firm statement on the category’s boom which is likely to accelerate even faster should President Biden’s most recent infrastructure bill become law; its passing would encourage drivers to consider EVs, and an all-new luxury Mercedes model would pique most’s interests.
The car arrives with unmatched aerodynamics, 480-mile all-electric range, a charge time of under 12 hours, DC fast charging in under 40 minutes, 329 hp, 406 lbs of torque and 0-60 in 5.5 seconds in the 450+ and 516 hp, 611 lbs of torque and 0-60 in 4.1 seconds in the 580 4MATIC, with a shared top speed of 130 mph.
The company’s one-bow design emphasizes the cab, remaining consistent with its “Progressive Luxury” design philosophy. The Digital Light intelligent beam systems relay LED light using two million pixels, proving capable of replacing missing road lines ahead or projecting important signals (like stop signs or directional messaging). Active highbeam assistance also amplifies the light when in darker settings. Similar LED technology greets the driver upon approach: the “Keyless-Go Package Plus” opens and closes the driver’s door for you, mimicking the luxury of a chauffeur.
Light also plays an integral role inside. The enhanced “Energizing Comfort” features strive to increase driver awareness and emphasize sensory serenity. Active ambient lighting—capable of producing 64 colors, including an EQ-specific scheme—complements three signature soundscapes created for the EQS—Forest Glade, Sounds of the Sea and Summer Rain, and climate control settings anchored by the new HEPA filtration system are designed to reduce stress. Optional front and rear massage seats complete the in-car spa experience. But all of these innovations pale in comparison to Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX Hyperscreen, three displays seamlessly presented under one single piece of glass to form a curved, 56-inch screen that stretches across the entire dash. It’s the first of its kind, an enormous engineering challenge, and an impressive evolution from the tablet-centric EV design we’ve seen to date (the Hyperscreen is an option, and the tablet-centric design is standard).
“It’s not only a piece of intelligence, what it is showing on the displays, it is also beautiful art,” Khan says. The screen, coated with anti-scratch technology, delivers the visual portions of the EQS’ infotainment system: three display styles (discreet, sporty and classic) and three modes (navigation, assistance and service). Here, drivers (and the front seat passenger) can access the seemingly endless number of features. When driving, the pilot can access critical messages and tools using the heads up display, available in two sizes with three-dimensional projected imaging standard. All of this is powered by eight CPU cores equipped with 24 GB of RAM and ~46 GB per second RAM memory.
Upon startup and shut down, the EQS’ on board screen—with help from the lighting and speaker systems—will signal welcome and goodbye scenarios. These are just two of several enhanced sonic experiences delivered standard with this sedan. Most importantly, Mercedes-Benz’s Mercedes-EQ sound specialists created driving sounds to replace the roar of a combustion engine. “According to laws we have to play a ‘driving sound’ (0-20kph) and in the US also an ‘idle sound,’ when the powertrain is ready to drive. Those sounds have the function as a warning sound for pedestrians,” sound expert Thomas Küppers says.
Holistic sound production replicates the sensory response one feels from the rush of a traditional engine; it’s even in tune with how you drive, adaptively adjusting to more than a dozen actions and your chosen driving style and drive program. Two drive-related soundscapes pump from the Burmester surround system—and are retained by the noise insulating glass in each window. Silver Waves proves “sensuous and clean,” its designers explain. Vivid Flux is “crystalline and synthetic yet humanly warm,” they continue. A third, called Roaring Pulse, is reserved for racing enthusiasts. It’s “reminiscent of powerful machines” and “sonorous and extroverted.” Drivers can toggle through them using the central display (the 17.7 inch screen to the right of the steering wheel).
When idle, though, drivers are cocooned inside. “Silence is still luxury for Mercedes,” Küppers tells CH. The sounds pumped from the speakers are designed to play an integral role in relaying a message or signaling some sort of action—and they came together quickly and were born from technically-sound creativity. “And even though we are designing sounds and therefore fans of something to hear, our main target is to play sounds only when it is useful as information or to boost emotions…The whole development crew of the EQS was working with an extraordinary, agile ambition. Making something new was not seen as a risk, but as a challenge.”
Physicists, sound engineers, media designers and mechatronics specialists contributed to the final designs. They’re comprehensive, enveloping and emotive—all without being distracting or obtrusive (or too future-forward). Combined with all of the EQS’ other features, they transform the vehicle from run-of-the-mill release to a titular, standard-setting debut.
Learn more about the all-new Mercedes-Benz EQS here.
Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz