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First Drive: The All-Electric Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV Shows Grit on the Road and Off

On a test-drive in Colorado, the legacy automaker's latest battery-powered model displayed a surprising level of toughness and tech.

As Mercedes-Benz continues its resolute charge into electrification with a robust new lineup, creating a diverse offering is paramount. Last April, the marque debuted the first of its EQ models, the EQS Sedan. The brand now adds to its MEA electric platform with three versions of the EQS SUV: the single-motor, rear-wheel-drive EQS 450+ SUV (with 355 hp and 419 ft lbs of torque); the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive 450 4Matic (with 355 hp and 590 ft lbs of torque); and the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive 580 4Matic (with 536 hp and 633 ft lbs of torque). And every version uses a 108.4 kwh battery which allows for ranges varying from 285 miles to 305 miles.

It’s all part of the revised electrification strategy courtesy of Ola Källenius, chairman of the management board of Mercedes-Benz. In response to the “Fit for 55” program, a policy from the European Union that targets a 55 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from new cars by 2030 and zero emissions by 2035, Källenius mandated electrified Mercedes-Benz models (plug-in hybrid or pure battery) to comprise 50 percent of the automaker’s sales volume by 2025. By 2030, it’s all-electric everything.  

The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV in Colorado.
The 536 hp Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4Matic SUV in Alpine Grey. Mercedes-Benz

At present, the path to get there is filled with rut-filled dirt roads, obstacles that require rock-crawling capabilities and what, at first glance, appears to be impossibly tight corners. On a rocky ATV trail near Idaho Springs, 30 minutes due west of Denver, the EQS SUV is tackling each of these challenges deftly. It’s a fine surprise, considering the vehicle weighs roughly three tons.

Off-road mode raises the ride height by .98 inches to a total of just over eight inches. Hill-descent control pairs with the inclinometer display and includes the option of multiple camera views, including one that makes the hood transparent in order to show what’s directly beneath when windshield visibility is limited. The most useful feature, though, proves to be the rear-axle steering, capable of turning the back wheels 10 degrees counter to those in the front. It’s impressive.  

The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV on an off-road drive in Colorado.
Off-road mode raises the ride height to a total of just over eight inches while hill-descent control does exactly what the name implies. Mercedes-Benz

On pavement, the made-in-Alabama SUV parrots the regenerative braking system of the EQS Sedan. Each of the four settings—Strong, Normal, None and Intelligent (which factors in geography and traffic)—are controlled by steering-wheel paddles. There’s even a one-pedal mode which minimizes the need to use the brake due to the level of regen.

Inside, the visual design language is unmistakably Mercedes-Benz, and that even extends to the optional third row of seats, complete with four of the 12 available USB ports. Yet central to the aesthetic and technical signature of Mercedes is the 580 4Matic’s full-dash MBUX Hyperscreen—comprising three displays—premiered in the EQS sedan.

The interior of the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.
Third-row seating is also an available option. Mercedes-Benz

“The assignment was to create an S Class electric version,” says Christoph Starzynski, vice president of development for the electric drive. “You start with your DNA—the ride, the comfort, the luxury, and then you get a little more progressive with the styling. You get a little roomier. A little sportier. You push the technology.”

Yet the German automaker’s drive toward redefining itself has to work on all levels. “Remember, it’s an orchestra; the hardware, the software and the UI [User Interface], it all has to work together,” says Starzynski, “both inside a single car and within the EQ lineup.”

The interior of the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.
The 580 4Matic’s full-dash MBUX Hyperscreen is central to the new aesthetic and technical signature of Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz

Although most owners of the new Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV will opt out of taking their fully electric, full-size vehicle off-roading, that’s beside the point. The model is helping the world’s oldest marque blaze a new trail just by arriving in driveways.

Click here to see more photos of the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.

The Mercedes-Benz 580 4Matic SUV in Colorado.
The Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4Matic SUV. Mercedes-Benz AG

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