2023 Mercedes EQS SUV First Look Review: Bigger Isolation Bubble

In March we rode shotgun in a heavily camouflaged 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV prototype. Now we’ve clapped our peepers on the production model’s sheetmetal in a studio, crawled around and under this burly beauty, and struggled to digest 62 pages of press bumf. Here are the Cliffs Notes highlights.

What Is the Mercedes EQS SUV?

A high-profile, boxier version of the EQS. This is an 8.4-inch-taller three-row SUV “top hat” perched atop the EQS hatchback-sedan’s rolling chassis. Taller seating allows the overall length to be bobbed by 5.5 inches, but you get the same exact battery pack and essentially the same motors and suspension. You also gain 11 cubic feet more cargo volume with the rear seats down (74 versus 63).

What the Mercedes EQS SUV Is NOT:

An electric GLS-Class. Mercedes-Benz is prioritizing efficiency uber alles for its EQ subbrand, which it sees as the more profitable (read “smaller-battery”) way to deliver the range that customers demand. Therefore, relative to the conventionally powered, similarly sized GLS, the EQS SUV sits on an entirely different platform, and its wheelbase is 3.0 inches longer (matching the EQS sedan’s), but the overall length is 3.2 inches shorter.

With no giant engine under the hood, the A-pillars move forward, reclaiming some interior space. But in the name of minimizing frontal area, the bodywork also shrinks 2.8 inches in width and a significant 4.2 inches in height.

Aero Sculpted

Dimensions are just the start. The greenhouse gets a more pronounced “plan view taper” (boat-tailing inward slightly toward at the rear) and a smoother, more coupe-like roofline, plus an aero fence at the top and sides of the rear window glass to manage flow separation. Naturally, there is a smooth underbelly complete with spoilers ahead of the wheels and outboard diffuser extensions in back. Plus, there are “jagged turbulators” designed to detach air vortices in the front underbody in a targeted manner to smooth flow. Running boards come standard because sculpting their undersides helps reduce underbody turbulence. And finally, the 21- and 22-inch wheels are aero optimized, with some including “aeroblade” cladding, and the geometry of the tire sidewalls was also defined by the aero team. (Wheels typically account for a third of a production vehicle’s overall wind resistance.)

What’s the EQS SUV’s Power and Torque?

Additional seating and the larger body add 300-400 pounds to the EQS SUV relative to equivalent EQS 450+ or EQS 580 4Matic sedans, so the power and torque of the otherwise similar rear or twin motors is increased to 355 hp/417 lb-ft (up 26 and 2) for the rear-drive EQS 450+ SUV, and to a combined 536 hp/633 lb-ft (up 20 and 2) for the EQS 580 4Matic SUV. The SUV should end up close to the sedan’s weight-to-power ratio, so we expect acceleration to 60 mph to trail the sedans by just a couple tenths—perhaps 3.9-5.6 seconds.

What About the Battery and Charging?

The sedan’s 107.8-kWh battery pack should deliver perhaps 30 fewer miles of range due to the SUV’s added mass and wind resistance. DC fast charging up to 200 kW is possible, adding perhaps 180 miles in 15 minutes while you enjoy a programmed “Power Nap.” This reclines the seat and activates ionized air, ambient lighting, and sounds designed to guide you to sleep and then wake you gently.

Home and work charging can be programmed to maximize battery life, by charging only to 80 percent. Using the Mercedes Me Charge network (60,000 stations in the U.S. and counting) means that even if you charge in coal-fired West Virginia, the company will purchase an equivalent amount of renewable energy to keep you driving guilt-free. This service is free for the first two years.

Chassis Mods

The basics of the sedans’ Airmatic suspension with adaptive damping carry over, but the 580 4Matic version of the SUV adds an Offroad mode to the usual choice of Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Individual. This mode flattens the accelerator-response curve and raises the vehicle an inch when traveling below 50 mph (it lowers itself again when speeds drop below 31 mph). The slip thresholds for the antilock braking and traction control systems are increased, and ESP can be switched off in this mode when extra wheel slip is needed (as in deep sand). With ESP activated, the system pre-pressurizes a wheel brake when a rebound event is expected to induce wheelspin.

All U.S.-bound EQS SUVs will get rear-wheel steering capable of turning up to 10 degrees. Turning the rear wheels opposite the fronts shrinks the turn circle from 39 to 36 feet at parking-lot speeds; turning them in phase with the fronts increases high-speed lane-change stability.

How’s the EQS SUV Interior?

Gorgeous. Mercedes is introducing a new wood-over-metal inlay technique in which three-pointed stars are laser-cut from the wood veneer, which is then pressure-bonded to aluminum, so the metal stars feel flush with the wood. The sedan’s 2.6-square-foot OLED Hyperscreen comes standard on the 580. It’s optional on the 450+, which otherwise gets the S-Class’ 12.8-inch LCD central portrait display. Rear-seat entertainment (via 11.6-inch displays) and a 15-speaker Burmester sound system featuring Dolby Atmos sound imaging are options (Lucid’s Atmos system blew us away, so we have high hopes for this setup).

Space-wise, the aero sculpting obviously impinges on headroom, shoulder room, and cargo space. We don’t have all the packaging dimensions yet, but cargo space behind the first, second, and third rows of seats is quoted at 74.0, 23.0-31.0 (depending on middle-row seat position), and 7.0 cubic feet. That’s down from 84.7, 42.7-48.7, and 17.4 cubes in the GLS-Class, though this is still a large SUV, and this author’s 5-foot-10 frame fits comfortably in the third row. It’s no Grand Wagoneer back there, but at least seat heating is optional in those rearmost seats.

Wait, What’s That Smell?

Why, it’s No.6 Mood Mimosa, thank you for asking! This scent was concocted specifically for the EQS SUV to deliver “an earthy fragrance with a touch of sensuality.” Go ahead, roll your eyes, but at least occupants need never smell the actual outdoors, thanks to the 600-cubic-inch under-hood HEPA filter, which features 1.3 pounds of activated charcoal spread out over an odor adsorption area the size of 150 football fields(!). This filter is why there’s no frunk, otherwise known as a front trunk, a feature common to EVs that takes advantage of the engineless nose area to add cargo space. The EQS sedan also lacks a frunk.

Mercedes EQS SUV Price and On-Sale Date

Mercedes refused to give any hints at all on the EQS SUV’s pricing, but we know that, like the GLS-Class, it will be built in Alabama, while the equivalent S-Class and EQS-Class sedans are built in Germany. Presuming a similar domestic production discount puts the EQS 450+ SUV at about $87,000 and the GLS 580 4Matic SUV starting at $101,000. Both are set to go on sale in fall 2022.

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