Hey, gasoline nuts! The conspiracy theories are true—cars like the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS and 2022 Lucid Air are coming to take your V-8s away. We’re here to confirm the big-body, big-engine, big-thirst executive sedan is officially on notice as of the 2022 model year, thanks in no small part to this pair of fully baked EV luxury sedans. The big body stays, but the buttery fuel burner up front is halfway out the door, its final paycheck signed by a squadron of motors and a hulking battery pack. The Lucid Air Grand Touring and the Mercedes EQS580 4Matic we tested recently have the speed, the presence, and the amenities, but are these usurpers possessed of the same panache? We’ll get to that.
Regardless of whether you plug-in or pump-up, let’s collectively revel in just how far this industry has come in a scant five years. It’s not outlandish to say the pace of innovation from 2016 through late 2021 easily outstrips gains made between 2005 and 2015. Moore’s Law? Never heard of him—and furthermore, he sounds like a punk. We’d pay good crypto for a glimpse at our own faces if we warped this duo back to 2016’s MotorTrend office and gave each of our past selves a scoot.
Speaking of 2016, that was an auspicious year for both parties involved. Atieva rebranded itself as Lucid Motors that October, quickly following up with a $700-million production facility breaking ground in Arizona. A continent away, Mercedes-Benz revealed its Generation EQ concept SUV at the 2016 Paris show, an electric study that would soon evolve into the production EQC and launch the titular Mercedes EQ sub-brand.
The S-Class of EVs?
This brings us neatly to the EQS. Thanks to model hierarchy developed over, oh, just about half a century, it doesn’t take much critical thinking to sus out the EQS’ place in the greater Daimler sphere. It’s right there in its alphanumeric name—third letter from the left. Yes, it’s best to think of the EQS as the S-Class of EVs, both spiritually and dimensionally. Those are big wheels to fill; what the S-Class represents for Mercedes, the automotive industry, and the buying public could fill enough pages to choke a Unimog, so it’s safe to say our expectations for Benz’s icon-adjacent EV sat sky-high.
We can’t say the same for the 2022 MotorTrend Car of the Year-winning Lucid Air. Prior to our first cruise at Car of the Year, our exposure to the nascent automaker was limited to what we’ve seen and heard at auto shows and what MT editor Jonny Lieberman wrote in his world-exclusive first drive of the Lucid Air just a few months before. Despite a successful IPO, multiple showroom “studios,” and a semi-tangible production model, many of us had no idea what to expect from an EV startup with a C-suite roster populated by the Tesla Model S’ former chief engineer and Mazda North America’s ex-director of design.
We certainly didn’t expect the Lucid Air. Born from the snowy white page of a ground-up, clean-sheet design, Lucid’s first outing is an engineering and aesthetic powerhouse, incorporating incredible electric drivetrain technology we’ve yet to see from a major automaker, including Tesla.
So, consider this face-off a meeting between Old World 2.0 and New World 1.0. Check your expectations at the valet, as there’s quite a bit to extrapolate from this pairing. If you’re one of those who fears the looming ubiquity of the EV experience, wait until you get a load of the disparity in both form and function between the 2022 Mercedes EQS and the 2022 Lucid Air.
Let’s start with the Merc’s aesthetics. Quite the lozenge, isn’t it? The EQS is rolling proof those with the reins at Mercedes are guiding us subtly toward the interaction-free pod transportation model many of us DIY drivers fear, and public transportation/infrastructure enthusiasts dream of. Forget the future-forward Model S; by appearance, the EQS is the closest thing to a driverless car we’ve seen thus far. With aggressively anodyne styling by way of Beluga whale and a garish nu-tech light-up grille, you’re almost surprised to find a steering wheel and a set of pedals when you slide inside.
We’re still coming to terms with the idea that luxury today means screens—and lots of them—so the EQS’ display-loaded space was a bit of a shock. In place of the familiar iPad-duct-taped-to-console aesthetic we’ve come to know and tolerate, the EQS is the debut platform for Mercedes’ wild Hyperscreen. That impressively named bit of infotainment tech refers to a full-dash panel carrying a pair of 12.3-inch displays, with one sitting in front of the driver, and a touchscreen unit plastered ahead of your lucky front-seat passenger. Between those two, a center 17.7-inch touchscreen dominates the dash’s main portion, offering the full treatement of entertainment, climate, and comfort controls for both driver and passenger.
The rest of the EQS’ cabin is relatively straightforward and familiar, though if we hold fast to the idea of this serving as the S-Class of EVs, the interior is the largest disconnect. There’s plenty of limo-esque legroom, but thanks to battery packaging and overall odd proportions, rear passengers have a tall knee angle thanks to a high floor that could prove uncomfortable for some. Still, both front and back seats are large and very comfortable, lending a lounge-like feel to the whole experience.
Finish, fitment, and quality is typical Mercedes perfection, but materials are good, not great. There’s a marked use of plastic where it should/would be metal on its traditional gas-powered namesake. Whether it’s the result of weight savings or a move to amortize the inherent high-cost of developing this new platform, it feels insubstantial and noticeably cheaper to interact with than the new S-Class. Add to this poor visibility, high frontal cowl, acres of LED accent lighting, and the slab of infotainment screen, and this is one of the most inelegantly presented non-AMG Mercedes we’ve interacted with in some time, at least by some staffer’s standards.
“If this is supposed to be the S-Class of electric vehicles, this is a massive swing and a miss,” said features editor Christian Seabaugh. “This lacks the solidity and quality feeling the S580 has. There’s something toyish, and almost cheap about it. Hokey, even.”
We’ll say this: Those who enjoy Mercedes’ modern LED-washed cockpits will be very much at home here, so it’s obvious that real-world reactions to the EQS will be measured by personal taste.
Things are different with the 2022 Lucid Air—a common theme. While it’s not a future contender for a Concours win on design alone, the Lucid presents itself as simultaneously simplistic and complex.
Liberman nailed it in his first drive, describing the Air as “a Citroën DS redesigned for Blade Runner.” It’s subtle, without a whiff of boring, all with a heaping side order of “the future,” whatever that means. The metal-colored roof is elegant, as is the truly stunning amount of glass used in the structure; the whole package is so sculptural, it feels somewhat inappropriate to park the Lucid Air anywhere other than the driveway lawn of an ultra-modern travertine art-cave.
Ah, now this is how you do a next-gen interior. Screens are here, of course, but in place of EQS’ max-attack hyper-billboard, you have a simple floating display cluster ahead of the driver. The standard infotainment is mounted on the dashtop, and a large screen takes up space where the transmission tunnel would be and handles vehicle, climate, and comfort controls. In contrast to the EQS’ corporate switchgear, what few hard buttons there are in the Lucid appear entirely bespoke; we’ll give a particular shout-out to the sharp, finned scroll wheels mounted on either side of the steering wheel that operate infotainment and driver display functions, respectively.
The glass roof is particularly trick from the inside, with a nearly unbroken sweep of windshield from hood to center of the roof, where it meets a structural “T” junction. Compared to the cushy, cloistered VIP room vibe of the Mercedes, the Air is, well, airy. So much shoulder and legroom, with excellent visibility. Finish and attention to detail is stellar, even when compared to cars carrying a similarly hefty price tag; little touches like the individual chrome letters in the horn cap, frosted metal surfaces, and fine leather and stitching in unexpected places all add, up. Our favorite bit of finery that’s likely to go unnoticed is the stitched pull-loop for the underfloor storage in the trunk area. Stowing groceries never felt so classy.
Battery, Power, Range—Oh My!
Things continue to diverge on the performance and drivetrain front, but each for its own purpose. The 2022 Mercedes EQS580 4Matic shuttles silently via dual motors—one front, one rear—fed by a battery with 107.8 kWh of usable power, offering a stellar combined 516 hp and 631 lb-ft of torque. These twin spinners have more than 5,800 pounds to scuttle, but there’s enough shimmy between them to slingshot the EQS580 from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and down the quarter mile in 12.2 seconds. It’s no Tesla Model S Plaid, but who gives a hoot? This is more speed than anyone remotely interested in the type of drive the EQS offers will ever need.
If the Mercedes is a Germanic bullet train, the Lucid is the Concorde. In this as-tested Grand Touring trim, it’s the same twin-motor setup as the Benz, only with 800 hp and 885 lb-ft from its 113-kWh battery pack. This predictably leads to a low, low 0-to-60 time of 3.0 seconds and a quarter-mile run in 10.8. Again, neither of these big-ass luxo sleds are sport sedans, so any time quicker than 5.0 seconds is just icing.
On the all-important subject of range, it’s a total bloodbath. The most careful Mercedes EQS580 drivers will manage a strong 340 miles before plugging in, a figure that pales in comparison to the Lucid Air Grand Touring’s record-setting EPA-certified 516-mile capability. You don’t have to spring for a bigger battery, either; all Air Grand Tourings come packed with this capacity, and even the wheeziest, weakest of the Lucid range covers a stonkin’ 406 miles between charges.
Handling and Speed Hierarchy
Well, at least, neither are supposed to be a sport sedan, but both possess a backroad hustle that beyond belies their mushy mass. The Mercedes is the least athletic of the two, but that’s alright; hummingbird-quick steering and rear-wheel steer meant the big bubba changed direction easier than you might expect. Grip from the standard all-season tires was alright—again, not especially important—but body composure and ride quality over any surface was spectacular. Not quite as marshmallow soft as a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, but if you plopped us blindfolded in those plush back seats and took us for a ride, we’d emphatically believe we were cocooned in some sort of next-gen Mercedes-Maybach.
When we weren’t floating on Cloud EQ, we did our best to drain the battery as quickly as possible, which meant exploring the depth of the stupefyingly long throttle pedal. As we said above, acceleration is fab for the intended purpose, though the school-bus dimensions go a long way in damping the sensation of speed considerably. The brakes, on the other hand, were jarring; the Mercedes EQS offers two levels of regenerative braking: The “normal” driving mode offers reduced off-throttle resistance, allowing the driver to mete out the desired level of braking through the brake pedal, the first third of which is obviously a lever for pure regen.
Toggling the one-pedal driving mode physically sucks the brake pedal down to its mechanical brake setting, siphoning off the pedal’s regen portion for the familiar off-throttle resistance mode. So, when you hit the brake in one-pedal form, you’re getting just the standard discs. Weird, but OK. Adapting to one-pedal mode was intuitive, and most of us floated around the test loop with the mechanical brakes left almost untouched.
Ever the foil to the EQS’ couchy character, the Lucid Air Grand Touring proved quite capable as an off-season sports sedan. Skinny tires and a 5,266-pound bulk meant it was never going to be a BMW M5, but it pulled a phenomenal impression of an electric M550i. Like the Mercedes’ Eco, Sport, Comfort, and Individual driving modes, the Lucid’s fancifully named Smooth, Swift, and Sprint unlocked different levels of performance, with Sprint uncorking the full 800 hp.
The Lucid’s mass mutes some of the car’s accelerative pressure, but not by much. There’s surely a day somewhere on the horizon where electric insta-torque won’t shock us silly, but we’re still starstruck for the moment. The Lucid’s forward pace in Sprint feels every bit as supercar as the test numbers suggest, contrasted perfectly by the mega-plush ride and excellent massaging seats just a screen tap away. We’re not so much floored by how light the Lucid is on its wheels as we are with how it manages the bulk nicely. In some ways, it feels much how we’d imagine Bentley’s first electrified Flying Spur Speed might feel on the charge. Uh, a forward charge, that is.
When not pancaking our faces on entry ramps, a few miles spent calmly cruising impressed with the Lucid’s adaptive air suspension absorbing lumps, bumps, and humps with the viscosity of hot caramel. The Air’s dual regen modes were a bit too aggressive even when toggled for the least resistance, but on-throttle coasting offered close to the same pillowy roll as the Mercedes.
See? Our electric future is more than just a single shade of blue. You’ll find more differences between the 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring and the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS580 4Matic than you would in an S-Class and BMW 7 Series face-off. There’s enough variance between the two that picking a winner was almost as easy as it is getting comfortable in these leather-wrapped railguns.
Second place falls to the 2022 Mercedes EQS. As a sublimely cossetting sensory-deprivation tank on wheels, the EQS excels. It’s when you read between the stitching that it falls apart a bit, particularly on value, amenities, styling, and materials. The S-Class of EVs, it is not. Ignoring the sheer size, it feels a bit more adjacent to a CLS or even standard E-Class than Merc’s Grand Poobah gasoline-powered sedan.
Of course, this makes the 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring our winner. It doesn’t so much feel like EV 2.0 as it does Car 3.0, replete with cutting-edge tech, effortless elegance, and supreme attention to detail. It presents one of the biggest threats to both legacy automakers and Tesla; we’re excited to see how the Lucid Air changes the game, and we’re even more excited to see what the company’s second effort looks like.
2nd Place: 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS580 4Matic
- Extraordinarily comfortable
- Wonderful fit and finish
- If you like screens, this is the car for you
- Styling isn’t for everyone
- Rear knee-angle is a smidge too high
- Not quite the S-Class of EVs
Verdict: It feels as though it rides on pile of quintuple-ply tissue and is loaded with amenities, but it doesn’t quite come off as being the best Mercedes can do in this space.
1st Place: 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring
- A revolutionary next step in the automotive timeline
- Effortlessly elegant design
- Incredible 516-mile range
- Quality not quite dialed in on our preproduction example
- Some features are needlessly frustrating, like door handles
Verdict: There’s a reason it won 2022 MotorTrend Car of the Year.
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