Last year, I had the pleasure of getting behind the wheel of the controversial Mercedes-Benz EQS, which was the first vehicle built on the company’s electric-specific EVA2 modular platform. Wearing a slippery, ovoid shape that’s become a Mercedes-EQ signature, the EQS sedan (which is actually a five-door liftback) has all the presence we’ve come to expect from a full-size Mercedes, but there are still a few flaws, namely the rear seat.
The sedan’s high floor – necessitated by the low-mounted lithium-ion battery pack – results in an awkward seating position for back-seat passengers, as well as a slight lack of headroom that belies the car’s arching roofline. But what if you gave the EQS sedan more ground clearance and raised the roofline to match? Then you’d have the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV, a simply named crossover that shares a platform and powertrain options with its sedan namesake, but adds a taller stance and an optional third-row seat.
Would this SUV be able to maintain a flagship-style driving experience and adequate range estimates in spite of its added height and weight? And more importantly, will the high-riding EQS feel enough like a luxury car to anyone willing to make the $105,550 minimum investment needed to put one in their garage?
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|Quick Stats||2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 SUV|
|Motor:||Dual Permanent Magnet Synchronous|
|Output:||536 Horsepower / 633 Pound-Feet|
|Base Price:||$104,400 + $1,150 Destination|
|Trim Base Price:||$127,100|
Same As It Ever Was
As its name suggests, the EQS SUV shares a good deal, dynamically speaking, with the sedan. The SUV offers a single-motor EQS 450+ trim level, as well as dual-motor EQS 450 4Matic and EQS 580 4Matic variants – neatly mirroring the 2023 sedan’s offerings. Power and torque likewise carry over. The 450+ makes 355 horsepower and 419 pound-feet from its rear-mounted electric motor; adding a front motor to a 450 brings torque output up to 590 lb-ft. At the top of the lineup is the EQS 580 SUV 4Matic, which gets a total of 536 hp and 633 lb-ft. The EQS SUV’s battery is slightly larger, at 108.4 kilowatt-hours instead of 107.8.
Also carrying over is a standard, 10-degree rear-axle steering system, which helps the EQS SUV shrink around its 126.4-inch wheelbase. With the wheel cranked, the big Benz can turn on a 36-foot-wide dime, a number that matches the much smaller CLA-Class. As it does on the EQS sedan, the rear-axle steering makes the SUV much less intimidating to drive and park in tight confines, and getting a glimpse in the side-view mirror of those rear wheels toed out that far is always good for a smile.
Things diverge when it’s time to hit the road, though. The EQS SUV is quite a bit heavier than its sedan sibling – 6,228 pounds versus 5,888 in the case of the EQS 580 variant in which I spent most of my time. That added mass is plainly evident as soon as the wheels start turning. With 536 electron-shaped horses available with a twitch of the accelerator, the EQS 580 SUV never feels slow, but it’s definitely a bit less sprightly than the sedan.
The weight also comes out to say hello when being introduced to any of the curvy roads that the Colorado Rocky Mountains have to offer. Drive the EQS SUV injudiciously and you’ll be met with plenty of body roll and some gut-dropping understeer. The GLS’ 48-volt active anti-roll bars that lean into corners would be a godsend here, but alas, they’re unavailable on the electric SUV. Dial things back and the EQS becomes much better behaved, with well-controlled body motions and progressive steering that allows the driver to pick a cornering line and stick with it.
Speaking The Same Language
Like almost every other Mercedes-EQ product, the EQS SUV has a smooth, modern shape that inspires opinions everywhere it goes. With a sloping hood and high rear roofline, the profile looks less like a streamliner and more like a minivan, but there are lots of pleasant details that improve its appearance in person. For starters, the gloss black grille panel can be equipped with teensy little Mercedes stars engraved into a substrate beneath the surface, giving it some modern glitz. The three-element LED headlights and coiled taillight graphic have a sophisticated appearance, and my tester’s optional 21-inch wheels look big and imposing.
The Mercedes-EQ subbrand’s DNA is all over the interior of the EQS SUV. As on the sedan, the 450+ and 450 4Matic models come standard with a 12.8-inch center touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, mounted in a slanted binnacle that sprouts from the center console á la S-Class sedan. However, the optional Hyperscreen (standard on the EQS 580) ditches the separate display binnacles in favor of a single pane of glass spanning the dashboard and concealing the instrument cluster and an identically sized touchscreen in front of the passenger, with a 17.7-inch center display separating the two.
The Hyperscreen feels a bit gimmicky at first, but allowing the passenger to fiddle with their entertainment and comfort functions without distracting the driver or covering up the navigation display is pretty handy. What’s more, the co-pilot can add waypoints or destinations, reducing distraction even further. Running the latest MBUX software, each of the screens works well with good touch response and easily understood menus. The only exception is the on-screen lumbar support adjustment, which is so, so much worse than a simple four-way button near the seat switches.
Most importantly, the EQS SUV is much more comfortable than the lower-roofed sedan. With an 8.2-inch-taller profile, the SUV gets away with an upright seating position that doesn’t compromise headroom. The front row feels similar to the sedan, with supportive, comfortable seats and panoramic sightlines – though the sloping hood is invisible. Where the SUV really sets itself apart is the second row, which feels cramped in the sedan due to that high, battery-laden floor. By contrast, the taller EQS has a natural-feeling hip point and good thigh support, and the rear seat slides and reclines to help passengers find a relaxing seating position.
And yet, in spite of its nominal relation to the spacious Mercedes-Benz GLS – and the company’s own insistence that the two are very close in dimensions – the EQS SUV has a crowded and uncomfortable optional third row. Anyone taller than 5-foot-5 will run out of headroom, and there’s only enough space in the footwell for the shortest of legs. Making matters worse, access to the area is tricky if there’s someone in the first row of seats. The switch that folds the second row will only go so far if the first row is occupied. The third row just isn’t worth the optional cost, so save your money.
The five-seat EQS SUV has up to 31.0 cubic feet of cargo room with both rows up, as well as a generous underfloor cargo area for storing smaller gear. Fold the seats down and you have 74.2 cubes to play with. With the optional third row, cargo area goes from 6.8 cubic feet with all seats up to 28.2 cubes behind the second row or 71.3 behind the first row. All of those numbers do lag behind the similarly sized Tesla Model S, but the Mercedes should still be sufficient for most people.
As part of the first drive experience in Denver, Mercedes arranged for me to take an EQS SUV off-road. I expected the course to be little more than a washboard dirt road, giving me the chance to get some dust on the body but little else. Instead, a Mercedes-Benz engineer guided me through a narrow, muddy path better suited for UTVs than cars. The EQS SUV we used for the off-roading was fitted with all-terrain tires instead of the low-rolling-resistance rubber found on most examples, but otherwise, it was identical to the Benzes that arrive at dealers this fall. In fact, the A/Ts will be available as a Mercedes accessory, if you so desire.
The standard Airmatic suspension can add up to an inch of extra ground clearance, while the 4Matic system’s off-road settings and cameras provide plenty of information to keep the EQS SUV moving forward. With about 9 inches underneath the SUV’s smooth belly (final ground clearance is TBD), there’s more than enough clearance to get over many obstacles – although wheel articulation remains decidedly skewed toward luxury instead of capability. The forthcoming 2025 EQG model will probably reverse that calculus.
What’s most commendable about the EQS SUV is its ability to thread through even the tightest obstacles. Thanks to that 10-degree rear-axle steering, the EQS SUV has a tighter turning radius than a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, an impressive showing for a seemingly road-oriented EV. Adding to the off-road fun is the electric motors’ instant torque – just squeeze on the accelerator a little at a time and the EQS eventually claws its way up, even if the surface is muddy, rutted, and rocky. Color me impressed.
Riding on the same wheelbase as the EQS sedan, the SUV is actually 5.5 inches shorter from bumper to bumper. The stubbier proportions do some damage when it comes to aerodynamic efficiency, which is rated for a drag coefficient of 0.26 – up from the sedan’s 0.20. That, along with the added weight, means the rear-drive EQS SUV has a Mercedes-estimated range of 305 miles, while both all-wheel-drive versions can achieve 285 miles before needing a jolt. Although not officially validated by the EPA just yet, those numbers are down on their EQS sedan equivalents by 45 and 55 miles respectively.
They’re also down on the Tesla Model X (which is EPA-rated at 348 miles) and the BMW iX xDrive50 (324 miles). The EQS 580 SUV can’t even keep up with the sporty iX M50, which gets a 288-mile rating from the feds. Hopefully the Mercedes will continue in its EQS sedan sibling’s tradition of outperforming its EPA ratings.
Whether or not it does, we doubt many owners will be dissatisfied with the modern, sophisticated charging architecture under the EQS SUV’s funky skin. A 9.6-kilowatt onboard AC charger comes standard, fully juicing the battery in about 11 hours and 15 minutes – just enough for an overnight, off-peak charge. At a DC fast charging station, the EQS will slurp electrons at a rate of up to 200 kilowatts, good for a 10-to-80 percent charge in 31 minutes.
As with other EQ products, the on-board navigation does an excellent job of routing toward the fastest public chargers, providing the driver with all the information they need to make long trips, even including suggesting how long to juice up at a particular charger in order to arrive at a given destination with a certain amount of range left. Such functions do wonders to reduce range and planning anxiety that comes with road-tripping an EV.
Will It Blend?
A base price of $105,550 (including a $1,150 destination charge) for the EQS 450+ SUV is $2,190 more than the equivalent sedan model. Go for the EQS 450 4Matic and be prepared to pay $108,550, while the flagship EQS 580 4Matic costs $127,100. Mercedes didn’t have specific option pricing available at the time of this writing, but I’d estimate my hard-loaded EQS 580 Pinnacle to cost about $140,000, including niceties like heated and ventilated front and second-row outboard seats, comfort neck pillows, four-zone climate control, a head-up display, Burmester 3D audio with Dolby Atmos, and more.
With better build quality than the iconoclastic Tesla Model X and more graceful styling than the BMW iX, it should appeal to traditional luxury consumers looking to cut their fuel bills or reduce their carbon footprint – rather than tech-happy EV enthusiasts who may find the EQS SUV’s range somewhat lacking. In spite of that understandable efficiency cut, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is still a better buy than the sedan, in my not-so-humble opinion. Its rear seat is more adjustable and habitable than that of the fastback five-door, yet it still retains lots of road presence and a comfortable, relaxed demeanor.
Whether that’s enough to fend off existing and future competition from the likes of Lucid, Rivian, BMW, Tesla, and Fisker remains to be seen. But the EQS SUV is still one hell of a Mercedes-Benz, through and through.
EQS Competitor Reviews:
- BMW iX: 9.3/10
- Tesla Model X: Not Rated
Gallery: 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV Review
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 SUV