The blueprint for Mercedes’ traditional flagship saloon gets an electric reinvention

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You wouldn’t think that an outfit as traditional as Mercedes would come to specialise in brave conquest models designed to fight on new class fronts.

However, not only is it debatable just how ‘traditional’ modern Mercedes is, but it’s also a measure of the ferocious competition in the car industry that, aside from the torrent of crossovers introduced since the Mercedes ML SUV broke new ground in 1998, the firm has launched at least three bona fide and entirely separate conquest models in the past decade.

I’m not sure how well EQ and AMG coexist. Maybe it’ll be different for the smaller EQE, but were it my EQS money, I’d go for all-out opulence over brooding, sporty intent. That’d mean light-toned leather, lounge pack in the back and voluptuous front seats of the ‘lesser’ 450+ model. And no Hyperscreen; the regular touchscreen tablet is much more elegant.

First there was the Mk3 A-Class, intended to take sales from the Volkswagen Golf. Then there was the Mercedes-AMG GT, aimed at turning the heads of Porsche 911 buyers.

Now we find out how the third conquest special devised in Stuttgart will fare: the all-electric Mercedes EQS flagship saloon, launched to take on the Tesla Model S.

It’s bigger than that, though. This car will lead the line for Mercedes as it closes in on 2030 – the self-imposed E-Day, from which point on it will sell only purely electric cars in Europe.

Over-the-air software updates, industry-leading aerodynamic efficiency and driving range, an immense infotainment array and crushing performance, if you want it: the EQS would seem to have it all, for a price.

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Its platform has also been deployed for the upcoming, smaller Mercedes EQE saloon and will underpin two more EQ-branded SUVs in the near future, so it needs to be good.

Just how good it is slid under the EQS – which is ostensibly an electric alternative to the Mercedes S-Class, on whose Sindelfingen production line the newcomer is built – we will now discover.

Range at a glance

For now, the UK gets only a trimmed EQS range consisting of the RWD EQS 450+ and 4WD Mercedes-AMG EQS 53. In other markets, you can have a 450 4Matic and the more powerful 500 4Matic, with the 516bhp EQS 580 4Matic crowning the non-AMG derivatives. The UK line-up should fill out soon.

Assuming you desire AMG’s first take on the EQS, you have a choice between Night Edition and Touring. The main difference is that the Touring can be optionally equipped with the Rear Luxury Lounge package and gets larger, 22in wheels while the Night Edition has more aggressive styling and can be had with the AMG Performance package. That hikes power to 751bhp.              

Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+AMG Line329bhp£102,160
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 Night Edition*649bhp£157,160
Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 Night Edition Performance751bhp£166,155

*Variant tested


02 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT pan

Because the Mercedes EQS shares an assembly line with the S-Class, you might be wondering to what extent the two cars share hardware. They are, after all, nigh inseparable in terms of footprint, the Mercedes EQS being just 6mm longer and 5mm narrower than the S-Class, although the distance between the electric car’s axles is a match for that of the LWB version of its combustion-engined cousin.

There’s also the fact that every EQ car so far – the EQA, EQB and EQC crossovers – has for better or worse ridden on an adapted ICE platform. But no, for this all-important EV, Mercedes has developed a bespoke modular architecture designed to fully exploit battery power, rather than simply shoehorn it in.

The Panamericana front grille has been an AMG signifier in recent years, and the shift to electric power hasn’t caused it to disappear. The 53 also features deep scoops at the extremities of the front bumpers, aping those of petrol AMGs.

The significance of this is mirrored in the EQS’s aesthetic. It has a more globular form than the S-Class and its cab-forward, arching silhouette is more one-box than three, all to achieve the lowest drag coefficient of any series-production car (although caveats apply). At the kerbside, the two cars feel quite unrelated.

Breeds apart, you might say. Overall, the EQS wants little for visual presence, although anybody hoping the showroom car would bottle the drama of the Vision EQS concept that was unveiled at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show will be underwhelmed.

Less underwhelming is the hardware that propels the EQS. At 107.8kWh of usable capacity, Mercedes’ low-cobalt, in-house lithium ion battery isn’t quite the largest in this class (that honour goes to the Lucid Air), but the efficiency of the Valeo Siemens motors and the slipperiness of the body make the EQS potentially the longest-legged EV of all.

We say potentially because, depending on which model you’re talking about, range varies quite broadly. The solely rear-motored Mercedes EQS 450+ AMG Line is good for 453 miles on the WLTP cycle, while our test car, the AMG 53 4Matic+, officially comes with as ‘little’ as 336 miles.

However, all models will charge at around 200kW, which is in theory enough to replenish around 180 miles of range in 15 minutes. And perhaps that’s just as well, when you consider the energy that any EQS needs to expend.

Even in its lightest guise, the car weighs 2405kg, rising to 2585kg for the four-wheel-drive AMG 53. Then pair those figures with 329bhp for the rear-driven EQS 450+ and up to 751bhp for the AMG.

While the platform is new, the suspension is closely related to that of the S-Class, with double wishbones at the front and five links at the back axle, all controlled by Mercedes’ Airmatic suspension bellows and continuously adapting, individually controllable dampers.

The system gives the EQS substantial ride height variability, lowered 20mm at higher speeds but with an ability to lift the body by 25mm below around 25mph. Rear steering is also standard-fit and reduces the turning circle to 10.9m – identical to that of the current Volkswagen Golf.


09 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT dashboard

With no sizeable transmission to house and therefore more space to play with, Mercedes had the opportunity to make the interior of the Mercedes EQS feel even more lounge-like and lavishly breezy than that of the Mercedes S-Class. Clearly, specification matters, and our test car’s dark upholstery and the looming presence of the misnamed Hyperscreen (actually three separate OLED screens, and standard-fit on our Night Edition test car but otherwise a £7995 option) didn’t help the cause, but our testers found this cabin an unenchanting environment.

Key complaints related to questionable perceived quality and the ever-so-slightly claustrophobic atmosphere created by the high beltline and scuttle. There’s too much flex in certain panels when they’re pushed or leant on, the odd creak and occasionally misaligned stitching.

The front portion of the cabin lacks the lounge-like elegance of the S-Class, and the Hyperscreen can feel quite looming. Objectively, though, there’s plenty of space. The rear leg room is more than adequate and so is head room. However, the Rear Seat Comfort pack, with its reclining seats, would probably improve the place greatly.

There are some lovely elements in here (the way the door cards flow into the dashboard and the manner in which the centre console branches outwards as it meets the Hyperscreen), but they’re undermined by a pervasive sense of chintz and the unimaginative layout.

The AMG-specific sports seats of our 53 test car, with their smartly integrated headrest, were also found wanting in terms of support and were felt to look just a little ordinary, given the car’s circa-£160,000 asking price.

As for AMG-specific elements, they’re spread thinly. The steering wheel is clad partly in Alcantara and there are the seats and AMG-branded floor mats, plus some graphic cues within the technological array. It’s subtle, but then again it would be, the number 53 historically denoting a milder flavour of Affalterbachness than 63, which might yet make an appearance in the EQS line-up.

Rear passengers have a similarly mixed experience. Leg room is superb – truly worthy of the term limousine. There’s also generous head room, and at night the ambient lighting that gives the front of the cabin such an inspiring lift works its magic in the back, too. However, the regular seats are short of squab and slightly too upright.

The Luxury Lounge pack, with its individually adjustable seats, would improve things but is available only on the Touring version of the EQS 53.

Multimedia system

13 Mercedes amg eqs 53 2022 rt infotainment 0The MBUX infotainment system in the EQS pairs very neatly and wirelessly with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Equally, the OLED displays – that is, the 18.0in central display, the 12.0in passenger display and the familiar digital instrument binnacle – are all beautifully crisp to behold and only rarely showed any latency issues during our test.

However, despite the useful shortcuts lined up just ahead of the central armrest, you might rue the lack of physical switchgear, particularly for the audio volume, which can be tricky to adjust. There’s also a chance that you might find the optional Hyperscreen display – costing £7995 but fitted to AMG models as standard – just a touch overwhelming in general, particularly at night. Consider yourself warned.

Otherwise, the level of functionality is deeply impressive. The sat-nav automatically shows charging stations, their speed and their availability and factors in a stop if necessary, accounting for the topography and speed of the journey. (As an aside, we found the range estimator unusually accurate).


17 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT Performance mode button

The Mercedes EQS 53 uses two compact synchronous electric motors. In normal driving, with the mode dial set to Comfort, it’s the marginally less powerful, 321bhp front motor that drags the car along. Ask for more acceleration and the 329bhp rear motor mucks in. Although if the car is set to Sport or Sport+ mode, both motors respond to jabs of the accelerator pedal in unified fashion, albeit with the car’s Torque Shift function continuously and variably balancing propulsive duties between the axles.

The rear motor in particular is more sophisticated than those used by much of the industry, with two three-phase stator windings, although the cooling system for both has been upgraded compared with the regular EQS and there’s also an additional oil-cooler for each of the single-speed transmissions. The theoretical upshot is smoother torque delivery, greater efficiency and more power potential, although on the EQS 53, this is only fully realised when the £8995 AMG Performance package is optioned, the car’s combined 649bhp thereby rising to 751bhp. Alas, this particular car arrived at Millbrook with ‘just’ 649bhp and 701lb ft on tap.

Between 30mph and 70mph, that real-world indicator, the EQS 53 took just 2.8 seconds.

So how quick is the quickest EQS to date? Spectacularly, if also more discernibly so when viewing the telemetry readings than from within the cabin, where the size of the car and all-encompassing nature of its fittings ensure you remain somewhat detached from the rate of progress.

Depress both brake and accelerator in Sport+ mode and the car will execute a Race Start. This involves a science-fiction-style drone abruptly being pumped about the place and rising in intensity, perhaps to mimic the build-up of engine revs, before it explodes into a warp-speed style clamour when the brake is released and the EQS is pile-driven forward. It took just 3.6sec for this 2673kg (as tested) saloon to reach 60mph and only 8.4sec to hit triple figures. Not bad for an AMG-lite.

The truly shocking figures are those for roll-on acceleration – the sort you need when overtaking. The dash from 30mph to 50mph took all of 1.2sec and the teleportation from 40mph to 60mph just 0.1sec longer. Between 30mph and 70mph, that crucial indicator of real-world speed, the EQS 53 took a mere 2.8sec. Despite its motive muscle, not once, even on a damp surface, was traction an issue during straight-line testing.

Most impressive of all, the EQS isn’t a prickly, reactive device when you just want to mulch about. Accelerator response sharpens as you move up through the driving modes, but never is it anything less than very thoughtfully judged. Exiting junctions and shimmying into parking spaces comes as easily as flowing overtakes.

The ability to alter regenerative braking force via the steering-wheel-mounted paddles is also useful, although you can also set the system to automatically adjust depending on traffic or road furniture up ahead, which it mostly does with aplomb. The regen will also bring the car to a stop, so one-pedal driving is a reality.

And perhaps that’s just as well, because while the EQS 53 stops readily enough when you really need it to, true pedal feel is poor and those moments when sudden braking is required can be a confidence-sapping reminder of how heavy the thing is.


18 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT front corner

Given that the physical forces at play are so mighty, Mercedes has understandably erred on the side of stability when it comes to the handling. The torque-splitter function generally favours the front motor and doesn’t allow the car to adopt the sort of rear-driven poise and balance you might hope for until you’re very committed indeed. On the road, progress often therefore feels nose led, although only subtly.

Still, the Mercedes EQS 53 is likeable enough. It’s easy to place on the road and the direction changes unfold with considerably more precision and haste than you will experience in the comparatively languid Mercedes S-Class.

The EQS 53 is easy to position and stability is wisely to the fore in its handling, aided by a subtly nose-led feel and an almost Audi-esque neutrality, so it’s effortless to drive quickly.

Even the direct steering has some character to it, being recognisably from the fruitier end of Mercedes’ spectrum, with less of the filtered feel found in the marque’s mainline saloons. It’s strangely inert off-centre but then weights up to convincing, reassuring and accurate effect, if never being in any danger of communicating true grip levels.

Most of all, with an extremely low centre of gravity, the car feels natural to drive quickly, and so calculating is its body control that it can pull off that trick of shedding a half-ton of mass during a sequence of corners, even if it can’t quite do the same thing under braking. Those looking for an effortlessly quick electric saloon with at least some sporting intent dialled into the driving control won’t be too disappointed, although equally this is no Porsche Taycan. Not even close.

Comfort and Isolation

19 Mercedes amg eqs 53 2022 rt rear corner 0

Our benchmark for rolling refinement among luxury EVs is BMW’s iX xDrive50 M Sport SUV, which has also been subjected to road-test interrogation. So how does the Mercedes compare? The two cars are close. Almost inseparable, in fact. Identically quiet at 30mph, the BMW proved one decibel quieter at 50mph, but the Mercedes repaid the favour at 70mph, recording a mere 62dBA to the BMW’s 63dBA, largely thanks to its uncanny ability to slip through the air with minimal disturbance. For reference, the Mercedes S580e L also managed 62dBA at 70mph, but the Rolls-Royce Ghost achieved an extraordinarily meek 58dB.

Where the EQS trails behind its chief rival concerns low-speed ride quality and isolation. It flows deftly at speed and as a long-distance electric cruiser is arguably without peer, but it labours rougher surfaces at town speeds and we were surprised to find that we could hear the front suspension working away during the compression phase over speed bumps. Rear visibility through the hatchback is also only so-so and the glasshouse, even with two sunroofs, feel unnecessarily confined after the expansive brightness of the iX.

Track notes

Mercedes amg eqs 53 2022 rt track notes

For such an heavy thing, wearing tyres that are performance-leaning but also seek to reduce rolling resistance (sacrificing outright grip), the Mercedes EQS 53 was breathtakingly quick and sure-footed around the Hill Route at Millbrook. Rarely if ever have the circuit’s short straights felt quite so short, and yet through the corners, dips and crests, our test car showed composure that refutes the idea that this is a mere muscle car in an aerodynamic suit.

Equally, there was little real enjoyment beyond marvelling at the rate at which the speed piles on. The electronic stability systems, faced with taming an over-abundance of near-instant torque, resort to blanket coverage, so even in the Sport+ driving mode, the process of exiting corners is stifled. The powertrain also seems to prioritise its front motor, so the best you can hope for is dogged neutrality. Overall, it was impressive and memorable but a bit of a cold fish.


01 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT

At £157,000, the 53 4Matic+ is by far and away the most expensive Mercedes EQS available in the UK, where the only other model is the EQS 450+, starting at £102,000. At this price and performance level, obvious rivals are thin on the ground, although competition will arrive in the form of the Lucid Air and Tesla Model S Plaid later this year. Until then, you might consider the  Porsche Taycan Turbo S, with the roomier Sport Turismo body, but the closest effective rival for the EQS 53 is probably the V8 version of the Bentley Flying Spur, which starts at £160,000 and offers a similar combination of luxury and performance intent, if in overwhelmingly different fashion.

It’s perhaps arguable whether the Mercedes feels special enough to mix it with the Bentley, yet that isn’t something of which we would automatically accuse the £116,330 Mercedes S580e L plug-in hybrid that we recently tested. Certainly, this is an interesting portion of the market at present.

Spec advice? If only the AMG EQS will do, you will need to pick between Night Edition and Touring guises. The differences are mostly stylistic, although you can only have the plush rear seats in the Touring, and that would probably swing the matter for us.

As for usability, we’ve few complaints about the EQS. With 200kW charging ability and one year’s free rapid-charging at Ionity stations, owners shouldn’t struggle with range anxiety, especially given the size of the battery and the fine efficiency the EQS manages. In fairly warm weather, a touring figure of 2.7mpkWh translates to 291 miles of range, and the rear-driven 450+ should go farther still.


20 Mercedes AMG EQS 53 2022 RT static

Without wanting to sound too dramatic, the Mercedes EQS gives a sense that a sleeping giant has awakened. For its maker, this first concerted effort to build a bespoke electric car – one in the mould of that most emblematic of models for Mercedes, the flagship saloon – certainly doesn’t want for ambition. The sheer scale of the Mercedes EQS and the practicality that brings is one thing, but this car is also, at a stroke, the longest-legged EV that we’ve tested and, in AMG 53 guise, one of the very quickest. And while the interior doesn’t perhaps match the opulence of the EQS’s own Mercedes S-Class brethren, there’s a degree of wow factor here that may well appeal to a less traditional audience than has in the past lusted after big, wafty limousines wearing the three-pointed star.

But equally, this car isn’t immune from criticism. The sensational rolling refinement that should be the cornerstone of any large Mercedes saloon isn’t quite there, particularly at lower speeds. It also feels as though an element of underlying cabin quality has been sacrificed in the pursuit of more superficial charms, and this AMG-badged derivative should also do more to entertain its driver. For now, it’s an epic idea lacking polish.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering.