Review: The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 Is a Major Electric Gamble

The Silver Star's least interesting design is also its most important

November 23, 2022 6:38 am
A white Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC driving during the day with mountains in the background
Dove-bar looks paired with class-leading performance. Are you taking the trade-off?

The future of Mercedes-Benz is here, and its first impression is decidedly underwhelming. Take one look at the EQS 580’s very ordinary styling, shaved down to Dove-bar proportions by a thousand wind tunnel tweaks, and it’s difficult to understand the automobile’s lofty place in the Silver Star pantheon. Surely this can’t be the six-figure, all-electric equivalent of the presence-for-days gas-fired S-Class, the heir apparent to decades of iconic design? 

A quick comparison against the rest of the flagship EV pack, including the stunning Lucid Air, the out-there BMW i7 and even the dated Tesla Model S, further highlights the extremes to which Mercedes-Benz has taken its aero-efficiency focus. Much of the identity of the EQS has been sacrificed in pursuit of its claim to the lowest drag coefficient of any production vehicle.

If you can move past the EQS 580’s milquetoast sheet metal, the luxury sedan boasts a wow-factor cabin, an avalanche of high-tech gear, and one of the smoothest and most sophisticated electrical drivetrains available at any price. Exterior aside, it’s an all-around preview of what’s to come for the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, and in that sense it’s at the very least spiritually linked to the S-Class, a car that has traditionally served in that role for the brand.

The side profile of the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC
Mercedes-Benz shaved down the EQS within an inch of its life in order to claim the lowest possible drag coefficient.

Your Yawns Are Forgiven

Anonymity isn’t a term one typically associates with Mercedes-Benz, but it’s the concept that perhaps best describes the rounded, featureless countenance of the EQS. Surprisingly dated, remarkably conservative and featuring puzzlingly clunky details (such as the chrome EQS call-out lettering on the vehicle’s large B-pillar fill-in panels), the sedan is easy to lose in a crowd. This is a remarkable trait for an automobile with a $102,310 starting price ($125,900 for the 580 4MATIC trim I drove).

All of the above is in striking contrast to the decisions that Mercedes-Benz designers have made throughout the car’s passenger compartment. My test vehicle’s white leather and carpeting might not have been the most stain-resistant hue on the options sheet, but it served well to highlight the details found on the dual-dorsal dashboard and cross-patterned leather seats that seemed to float in the midst of the spacious pod. 

Aside from a lack of headroom at the rear, the sedan’s interior feels airy and bright, a function of its dual sunroof setup, pushed-out door panels and the intense number of light sources arrayed throughout. This includes not just the color-controllable LED ribbons that frame nearly every significant shape inside the car, but also the enormous MBUX “Hyperscreen” that dominates its front. 

The Hyperscreen display inside the Mercedes-Benz EQS
You’re the captain and the Hyperscreen is your starship’s command post.

Full-Digital Futurism

Composed of a trio of flat-panel displays measuring a whopping 56 inches across, the Hyperscreen setup is overwhelming in more ways than one. Not only does it provide substantial illumination at night, lending EQS occupants the feeling of being on the bridge of a starship, but it also concentrates the car’s controls almost entirely. There are very few vehicle functions that don’t run directly through MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), which can occasionally cause pain (as when my mobile phone got stuck in a pairing loop on the main display and locked out its features) or inconvenience. The latter is best exemplified by the lack of hard buttons to control audio volume or move from one track to the next, relying on a series of small touch-sensitive sliders on the center console and steering wheel, or on-screen controls.

Still, despite its imperfect integration into the driving experience, the Hyperscreen is a major party piece for the EQS, and one that none of its direct competitors can match. If you are in the camp that prefers an obsidian slab of plastic when a vehicle is at rest, rather than traditional gauges or styling elements, the latest MBUX will keep you satisfied. Its presence is backed up by a compendium of leather and wood that look and feel just as extrovertedly high-end as the software governing the automobile’s overall experience (although some of the plastic touch controls would be better off as toggles and switches). 

All of the requisite heating, cooling and massaging luxuries are present and accounted for, but there are also a few bonus butlers that didn’t seem to show up during my time with the EQS. Specifically, the vehicle’s soft-close door system fought me every time I pushed to open or pulled to close, almost as though there was a motor or a detent I had to overcome (an experience I’ve not had in any other luxury car). The car was originally designed to have self-opening and closing features at each corner as well, but my test vehicle fell victim to the chip shortage that has affected so many assembly lines, and did not have this feature activated — perhaps this is why entry and exit felt so clunky. Finally, while I appreciated the enormous hatch-like trunk offered by the vehicle, it was a little hard to understand why Mercedes-Benz sealed the front end of the automobile and deprived owners of frunk access.

A man driving the Mercedes-Benz EQS luxury electric sedan and using the digital Hyperscreen
Most of the car’s controls can be found in the Hyperscreen interface, but there are a few toggles here and there.

Spreading Out That Electric Butter

Layered on top of the EQS 580’s big show interior visuals is an extremely smooth on-road demeanor befitting its price point. Close your eyes at any speed and it’s clear that you’re behind the wheel of an S-Class equivalent, as the 580’s steering, surprisingly compliant suspension tuning and well-parceled power delivery place it in the upper reaches of the EV stratosphere.

Don’t take this to mean that the EQS is an athlete, for while its 516 horsepower and 611 lb-ft of torque guarantee a confident forward surge (thanks to electric motors servicing the front and rear axles, respectively), the sedan’s air suspension slathers the road with butter, filling in potholes and pavement cracks rather than communicating any asphalt topography directly to the driver. Steering response is similarly metered out so as to enhance your calm, making the EQS 580 a quick car that trades excitement for executive function.

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This is what I expect out of a vehicle as heavy and as plush as the EQS, and I think most deep-pocketed buyers sick of SUVs and seeking an alternative to Tesla will appreciate its approach to both day-to-day commuting and silent highway cruising. I was a bit puzzled, however, to discover that Mercedes-Benz hasn’t outfitted a hands-free driving assist to the 580, whose adaptive cruise control and lane-centering self-steering are effective but don’t allow for the in-your-lap repose of Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

You’ll cover a lot of ground inside the EQS 580 before you’re forced to find a plug. The EPA rates the automobile’s battery range in the neighborhood of 350 miles, and with a 200 kW charge speed it can top up from 10%  to 80% full in about half an hour. I was able to charge the EQS from 55% to 98% in about 6.5 hours using my 7.6 kW home Level 2 charger, which indicates that overnight charging will be more than sufficient for the vast majority of owners.

A white Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC in white is shown driving down a mountain road. We reviewed the luxury electric sedan.
Mercedes-Benz gambled on the EQS. If you want to see if it paid off, it’s worth a test drive.

Tip of the Spear

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 takes some unusual risks. With a 0.20 coefficient of drag, it manages to best both the Tesla Model S and the Lucid Air (the latter by 0.01), but at the cost of any visual personality. The gamble continues inside the car with an all-in bet on the vibrancy of its overpowering Hyperscreen, a system you’ll absolutely have to love in order to enjoy your EQS experience.

Those two major dice rolls are accompanied by a powerful, smooth and insulated driving experience that is fully befitting a flagship luxury car. I’m on-board with the idea that not every expensive automobile needs to maintain the charade that it’s capable of turning in hot laps at Le Mans. Almost every time, erring on the side of softness is a better choice for a large cruiser, and in this area the EQS 580 excels. 

Eventually, many of the car’s features will trickle down to lesser fare in the Mercedes-Benz showroom, where the company will hopefully leave behind its slavish devotion to atmospheric slipperiness and tailor their packaging to more interesting, and in some cases enthusiast, tastes. Until then, the max-digital-meets-modest-design ideal should snag more than a few customers seeking the utmost in electrified comfort without much care for how it decorates their garage.

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