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Mercedes-Benz unveiled its seven-seater all-electric SUV in Frankfurt, Germany in April 2022.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Mercedes-Benz continues its swift and sudden embrace of electric vehicles with the EQS SUV, a luxurious made-in-America seven-seater to rival Tesla’s Model X and Rivian’s R1S.

The large new EQS SUV, which was unveiled earlier this month to the press in Frankfurt, will be built exclusively at the company’s factory in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The SUV’s batteries will come from Mercedes’ first U.S. battery factory, which was opened earlier this year in nearby Bibb County, Ala. Company spokespeople declined to specify how many electric SUVs the plant is expected to churn out annually.

“This [EQS SUV] is the highest priority,” said Frank Wundrak, the engineer responsible for the vehicle’s testing. “It’s a really important car for us in Canada, China, the U.S.”

It’s easy to see why. Through the first quarter of 2022, SUVs accounted for 74 per cent of all Mercedes-Benz Canada sales.

When the EQS SUV lands in Canadian showrooms toward the end of 2022, it will be the brand’s third all-electric vehicle on sale, following the large EQS sedan and the compact EQB SUV.

Next up from Mercedes will be a mid-size EQE sedan, arriving late this year or in early 2023, and an EQE SUV to follow soon after, according to a company spokesperson.

It’s all part of a €40-billion ($55-billion) push by Mercedes-Benz to be ready to go all-electric by 2030. Prior to 2021, Mercedes didn’t have a single electric vehicle on sale in Canada.

Apart from the compact EQB, all of Mercedes’ new EVs are extremely similar, underpinned by the same dedicated electric-vehicle platform. They’re like different sizes of the same sausage. Each has a sleek cab-forward design that maximizes interior space, and dashboards dominated by a wall-to-wall glass “hyperscreen” display.

The EQS SUV will be available in five- or seven-seat configurations. Two different powertrains are on offer: a range-topping 580 4Matic model – with dual-motor all-wheel drive and 536 horsepower – and a less expensive 450 4Matic model.

Prices have yet to be announced, but it’s a safe bet the 580 4Matic SUV will cost more than the equivalent EQS sedan, which starts at $144,200. The Benz should be priced roughly on par with Tesla’s Model X, which costs $146,990 and is rated for 560 kilometres of driving range. The quad-motor Rivian with large battery is much less expensive, at $108,250 and a claimed 515 kilometres of range. Neither BMW nor Audi sell a seven-seat EV at the moment.

The all-important driving-range figures for the EQS SUV aren’t available yet, but the Mercedes should be close to the Model X in real-world conditions. Because the EQS 580 sedan is rated for 547 kilometres, expect the SUV’s range to be slightly lower because of its extra weight and bulkier body.

Despite a relatively slow peak charging power of 200 kilowatts, Mercedes claims the EQS can nevertheless refill its battery from 10 to 80 per cent in just 31 minutes at a suitable DC fast-charging station.

The SUV’s style was inspired by electronic consumer products, explained Bastian Baudy, who was responsible for the exterior design. “We wanted to make it pure and futuristic,” he said. In terms of overall size, the Benz is longer and narrower than the Model X.

As for the fact there’s no front trunk (frunk) – a feature customers are increasingly asking for and one that rivals from Tesla and Rivian have – Baudy explained it was a choice by Mercedes. The lack of a frunk is offset by the SUV’s enormous rear trunk that’ll hold between 565 and 2,100 litres of stuff, depending on seating configuration. (Still, the Model X can fit slightly more cargo).

Mercedes is hardly alone in its recent enthusiasm for electric vehicles. In 2022, more than 20 new fully electric vehicles are slated to go on sale in Canada. The federal government’s Emissions Reduction Plan stipulates that zero-emissions vehicles will need to account for 20 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales by 2026.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

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