Sitting at the wheel of the futuristic new Mercedes-Benz EQS luxury limousine feels less like getting ready to drive and more like preparing for lift-off.
Faced with a panoramic hi-tech screen, doing pre-flight checks for space travel seems far more appropriate in this all-electric craft.
Before driving it on UK roads ahead of first deliveries from February, I familiarised myself with the system on this remarkable masterpiece of engineering.
Merc masterpiece: The EQS luxury electric limousine is packed with technology and priced from £100,000
This is arguably the smartest and most efficient new car ever to hit the road. Indeed, this streamlined battery-powered Benz promises a range of up to 453 miles.
It all matters because this cutting-edge technology will, over time, trickle down from the top to most family cars.
Sky’s the limit
The new EQS is the first Mercedes-Benz to be built on a bespoke platform for the firm’s large luxury and executive class electric vehicles, and is the battery-powered sibling of the conventional flagship S-Class limousine.
The EQS’s vast digital dashboard instantly made me think of the Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ cockpit.
Starship command: The EQS’s vast panoramic hi-tech digital dashboard looks like something from a sci-fi film
At the heart of this impressive machine, with its smart but beautifully appointed interior, is the striking hyper-screen incorporating multiple displays under one cinematic spread of curved glass stretching nearly 5ft. The front passenger even has their own 12in screen.
Two main versions of the EQS are available for sale at launch in the UK. The standard 333 horse-power EQS 450+ range priced from £99,950 comes in three sports-oriented AMG Line variants (AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus) and two classic Luxury versions (Luxury and Exclusive Luxury).
These all accelerate from rest to 62mph in 6.2 seconds up to a top speed of 137mph.
Priced from £154,995 and arriving in April, there is the more powerful 659 horse-power sports-performance Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4Matic+ which accelerates to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds up to a top speed of 155mph.
I drove the EQS 450+ Exclusive Luxury which costs from £113,995, but the hi-tech hyper-screen (an extra £7,995) takes the final price up to £121,990.
Powered by its 333 horsepower 245kW electric motor, there are three main driving modes: Eco — if you’re trying to save energy; Comfort — for relaxed everyday driving; and Sport — when you want a more exciting drive. You can also tweak it yourself with the Individual setting.
Approaching the car with the fob in your hand or pocket, the EQS’s door handles emerge automatically to greet you.
The new EQS is also significant because it the first Mercedes-Benz to be built on a bespoke electric platform – with a battery-powered SUV using the same architecture being unveiled next year
The EQS will be produced at the brand’s Stuttgart factory. In fact, it will be manufactured on the same assembly line as the petrol and diesel powered S-Class limo
While the design is undoubtedly Mercedes-Benz, the EQS showcases just how much effort the German brand has gone to in a bid to make it streamlined to improve performance – especially to extend the car’s all-electric driving range
Before setting off, I set up my personal driver profile using a fingerprint security scanner.
After that a simple print-swipe remembers me every time I log in — allowing a number of drivers to set up the car to their own seating position, driving preferences and music choices.
The car sweeps effortlessly along motorways and the smooth ride is aided by the self-levelling air suspension which raises the vehicle for rough roads and lowers for greater aerodynamic performance at high speed.
On country roads and in the city it’s nimble — thanks to 10-degree rear axle steering which combines with the front wheels to reduce the turning circle of this 5 metre-long car to just 10.9 metres, similar to many compact class vehicles.
The heads-up display keeps your eyes focused on the road and highlights speed, the speed limit, satnav directions and relevant warnings.
For passengers in the rear there’s masses of legroom and noise-insulating and infra-red reflecting privacy glass.
The optional Luxury Lounge package (costing £3,995) brings a host of extras including electrically-adjustable rear seats with massage functions, a comfort rear arm-rest, climate control and wireless smartphone charging.
The rear boot is vast and the panoramic sliding sunroof lets the light flood in.
A full charge on an 11 kW AC wall-box takes 10 hours, halved to 5 hours on a 22kW box, according to Mercedes-Benz bosses
The EQS has a 200 kW DC rapid charger. That means it can be charged to 80% battery capacity in around 30 minutes, and give a 186 mile range boost in 15 minutes
New Benz electric car-owners benefit from IONITY Unlimited which offers free rapid charging for one year at all IONITY stations
Central to all the brainpower on the screens and around the car is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX.
It uses artificial intelligence to enhance driving — from the augmented reality technology in the navigation screen to the intelligent voice control with speech recognition and the ability to speak 27 languages.
Up to 350 sensors monitor the EQS’s functions, recording distances, speeds and acceleration, lighting conditions, precipitation and temperature.
However, I did experience ‘range anxiety.’ A run to the Midlands from London initially showed enough charge, but heading back it seemed I wasn’t going to make it.
The artificial intelligence built into the system can provide reminders, such as when a family member’s birthday is upcoming, and is hailed as the ‘brains and nervous system’ of the new electric limousine
Images released by Mercedes a fortnight ahead of the EQS launch showed how impressive and futuristic the cabin looks, especially lit up at night
The massive cinema-like screen has a built-in reactive light sensor, too, which automatically adjusts the brightness of the display to the conditions so the occupants can see it without glare in the day or being dazzled at night
Pressing the on-screen icon for a public charger, a menu revealed a list of the nearest charging points.
Mercedes says charging with a 200kW DC rapid charger takes 31 minutes to 80 per cent, or 15 minutes to 186 miles. A full charge on an 11kW AC wall-box takes ten hours.
I was also impressed with the Alexa-like ‘Hey, Mercedes’ when I asked it to carry out tasks. Maybe the robots really are taking over.
What’s it like to drive the new space-age luxury limo from Mercedes-Benz? We found out
The UK-bound EQS 450+ is powered by a 328 horsepower electric motor which allows the car to accelerate swiftly but smoothly from rest to 62mph in 6.2 seconds
So what’s it like to drive?
Sinking into the cossetting driver’s seat of the new EQS with its softly luxurious front head restraints, I pressed the start button and riding on huge 22-inch wheels (20 inch is standard on the cheaper models) and glided silently on my way.
The driving is just part of the overall experience. It’s quick, lithe, nimble, responsive and fun. But it’s also a technical tour de force. But being behind the wheel it’s almost a cinematic experience.
The EQS’s vast digital dashboard put me instantly in mind of the Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ airliner’s amazing fly-by-wire cockpit, in which I’ve been lucky enough to sit in on an early test flight over the Gobi desert to Hong Kong, as well as myself taking to the controls of British Airways’ own incredibly lifelike A380 simulator at Heathrow. So I have first-hand experience.
And like bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the hi-tech dashboard on this space-age electric Benz goes boldly where no Merc has gone before. In Star Trek terms one might almost tell Captain Kirk: ‘It’s a car Jim, but not as we know it.’
I even programmed one of the multi-functional massage option to five my back a warm work-out in transit.
All also available to the front passenger.
Absence of a conventional engine and transmission tunnel means lots of liberated interior space. The vast rear boot alone looks long, deep and comfortable enough in which to spend the night in a sleeping bag.
On the financial front, my 50-minute charging pit-stop, carried out with a swipe of my credit card, gave me a 40per cent (30kWh) charge from the BP Pulse/Polar machine costing £12.24 for between 120 miles and 168 miles of range. Enough to get home and pretty seamless, though I wasn’t in a rush.
Mercedes says charging with a 200kW DC rapid charger takes 31 minutes to an 80% , or 186 miles in 15 minutes. A full charge on an 11kW AC wall-box takes 10 hours.
New Benz electric car-owners benefit from IONITY Unlimited which offers free rapid charging for one year at all IONITY stations. There’s also an all-inclusive free three year subscription to a ‘Mercedes MeCharge’ card system which covers a variety of rival charging providers (after which it is £89 a year).
Once you adapt your mind-set, you quickly get the hang of it – like switching your music collection from vinyl to CDs and then to downloads.
But, Mr Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, what’s going to happen when demand for public charging points rockets from new electric car drivers– because the motor industry says supply is not keeping pace?
The 64-colour interior ambient lighting may seem a frippery. But the near continuous line around the cabin changes colour – and glows red either side or in front – when signalling the direction from which a hazard may be emerging.
There are three powerful LED digital lights in each headlamp whose beam is refracted and directed by 1.3 million micro-mirrors.
Ironically, in my EQS electric car, I couldn’t charge my own phone as the car has only the new USB-C sockets (on the basis presumably that owners will all have the latest kit). So I had to buy an adapter en route. There’s also wireless inductive charging for phones set up for it.
With a length of 5216mm a width of 1926mm and a height of 1512mm, the new EQS is 73mm shorter, 5mm wider and 9mm taller than the new long-wheelbase S-Class saloon
Whether you are driving it yourself, or being chauffeur-driven in the lap of executive luxury in the back, the battery powered Benz promises a long-legged range of up to 477 miles between charges