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road test

2022 Mercedes EQS 580 4Matic.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Seated in the driver’s throne of the extravagantly high-tech new 2022 EQS sedan, made by Mercedes-Benz’s new EQ sub-brand, you look out through the windshield onto a different world. It’s a place like your own, but not like you’ve ever seen it. A green orb appears under the car in front, moving with it, letting you know the EQS’s radar and cameras are tracking other traffic like a fighter jet might track an enemy craft. You half expect the car’s robotic voice to call out, ‘Rav4 12 o’clock high’ like you’ve landed in the new Top Gun movie. It feels like the future.

Further down the road, gigantic semi-transparent arrows swirling just above the street show you exactly where to turn in order to get to your destination. Looking out the windshield is like looking at the world through Iron Man’s eyes; the Marvel superhero had a similar augmented-reality head-up display (AR HUD) in his helmet, but that film was sci-fi and this Mercedes is very real.

The 2022 EQS 580 4Matic will be the first model from the Mercedes-EQ electric sub-brand in Canada when it hits showrooms in late 2021. For the princely sum of $144,200 it could be yours. In the U.S., Benz will sell a less expensive EQS 450, priced below the gasoline-fueled S-Class, but there are currently no plans to bring that model north of the border, a spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz Canada confirmed.

The futuristic cabin is dominated by the gargantuan 56-inch Hyperscreen. It replaces the entire dashboard with three OLED displays under a single curved glass panel.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The sci-fi AR HUD technology in this car doesn’t come cheap. To the price of the EQS 580, you need to add the $7,000 premium package and the $3,100 AR HUD option. The huge HUD, which takes up nearly half of the windscreen, isn’t always perfect; sometimes the arrows don’t quite line up with the lanes, but it’s by far the coolest new piece of tech I’ve seen in a new car in years, and the future potential is huge. It lets you keep your eyes on the road, more of the time. Like any new feature, it’ll surely to trickle down to less expensive cars eventually.

When it comes to geeky new gadgets, the EQS has an embarrassment of riches.

First, a quick word about what’s not here. The car’s groundbreaking new Drive Pilot function will likely be the able to drive without human supervision and assume liability in certain specific scenarios, if the system is approved this year by German regulators. In geek-speak, it’s a conditionally-automated (SAE level 3) driving system. It’ll roll out next year in the EQS in Germany, but Mercedes experts couldn’t say when that feature might become available in Canada. Similarly, the car’s automatically opening and closing doors aren’t available to us either.

The EQS drips with luxury features like pillowy headrests, a rear-seat entertainment system, in-car perfume dispenser and your choice of unique soundscapes, played through the stereo.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

After unceremoniously opening the driver’s door the old fashioned way, you’re greeted by a futuristic cabin dominated by the gargantuan 56-inch Hyperscreen. It replaces the entire dashboard with three OLED displays under a single curved glass panel. You’ll either be wowed and love it, or you’ll lament the fact there are almost no physical buttons in the car anymore. The high-resolution graphics are undeniably impressive though. Spinning around a 3D model of the EQS on the central screen – from which you can tweak some of the car’s countless customizable parameters – feels just like playing a video game. The downside to all the pinching and swiping means the Hyperscreen gets covered in fingerprints quickly.

As for the driving experience, it’s as you’d expect from the company that makes the S-Class, except the EQS is even more serene. The dual electric motors make the car quieter than its combustion-engine cousin. The EQS has a similarly pillowy ride too; even in sport mode, the car is nothing less than cushy.

With 516 electric horsepower available, you don’t miss the big V8 engines typically found in the S-Class either. The new Merc won’t beat a Tesla Model S Plaid off the line, but it’s more than quick enough in any other scenario.

The updated Model S, as well as the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT twins are the main electric alternatives you might consider. The all-wheel drive EQS 580 4Matic has 547 kilometres of EPA-rated range, and our test car was estimating nearly 600 km for itself. That’s less than the Tesla, but the Merc’s cabin feels much more refined, luxurious and high-tech. The Porsche and Audi handle with more urgency, but the EQS has opulent rear seats to cosset and entertain passengers over long distances. So, at least until the Lucid Air starts appearing in Canada, the EQS would seem to have a nice little niche carved out for itself.

No front trunk, but the rear cargo hold has more space than an S-Class, and the EV is a hatchback, which makes loading easier.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Mercedes’ first electric car is that it will compete head-to-head against the S-Class in showrooms. That car has been the company’s crown-jewel and one of the go-to choices for high-paid execs and globe-trotting VIPs since the early 1970s, at least.

Ola Kallenius, chairman of the board of management of Mercedes-Benz AG, said it was important to, “lead from the top,” spearheading the company’s electric vehicle efforts in North America with the flagship EQS. Mercedes announced it would be ready to go all-electric by the end of the decade, and, to make that happen, it will invest over $40 billion euros ($57 billion) between 2022 and 2030 in battery electric vehicles.

An expensive electric luxury car won’t put much of a dent in the company’s overall carbon emissions, but if Mercedes can convince loyal S-Class customers and some new buyers to choose the electric EQS, it’ll prove the company’s EV strategy is on the right track.

Tech specs

2022 Mercedes EQS 580 4Matic

Base price/as tested: $144,200; $159,000 (estimate)

Engine: dual-motor electric

Transmission/drive: single-speed/all-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litre-equivalent/100 kilometres): TBD

Alternatives: Tesla Model S, Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT, Lucid Air, Mercedes S-Class

Ratings

Looks

The EQS is based on a dedicated electric-vehicle architecture, so the designers had more freedom and they clearly took advantage of it. Whether you like the ocean-washed pebble look or not is up to you. It’s very avant-garde.

Interior

The EQS drips with luxury features like pillowy headrests, a rear-seat entertainment system, in-car perfume dispenser and your choice of unique soundscapes, played through the stereo. It’s overkill, although some buyers will love all the gadgets.

Performance

The rear-wheel steering system makes this big luxury sedan agile, with the turning circle of a compact. All-wheel drive is standard. The 200 kW charging system will have “plug & charge” capability, meaning you just have to plug-in at compatible station and payment should be handled automatically in the background.

Technology

There’s an impressive suite of driver-assist tech as standard. Approaching turns with the adaptive cruise control on, the car can automatically slow down. Then, if the posted speed limit changes, the car adapts automatically. It wasn’t always easy to get this speed-limit-aware system to switch on, but when it did, it worked remarkably well in the German countryside. Whether this works on Canadian streets remains to be seen.

Cargo

No front trunk, but the rear cargo hold has more space than an S-Class, and the EV is a hatchback, which makes loading easier.

Verdict

An opulent long-range electric land-yacht for people who like touchscreens and gadgets – the AR HUD is incredible – and it’s only the first of many new EVs from Mercedes

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

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