The 2023 Mercedes EQS Electric SUV Is a Lush Cruiser With Lackluster Tech

Mercedes’ biggest, most expensive EV yet is as nice as you’d expect and surprisingly decent off-road. But some of its tech still isn’t up to scratch.

byJames Gilboy| PUBLISHED Sep 29, 2022 12:00 PM
The 2023 Mercedes EQS Electric SUV Is a Lush Cruiser With Lackluster Tech
James Gilboy
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The S-Class may be the flagship of Mercedes’ lineup, but the bread and butter of all car companies today is the SUV. So, as proud of the electric EQS sedan as Mercedes is, its taller brother, the 2023 Mercedes EQS SUV, is a bigger deal.

Fortunately, the EQS SUV is pretty much what we’ve been expecting: a spacious, stylish, well-built electric SUV that’s a relaxing space to pass the miles in. Heck, it’ll even hold its own off-road. Granted, it shares some issues with the EQE sedan I drove along the same roads, namely driving dynamics and tech that have plenty of room for improvement. But those will barely register on the radar as problems for people whose top priority is three rows of sumptuous, silent electric luxury.

2023 Mercedes EQS SUV. James Gilboy

2023 Mercedes EQS SUV Review Specs

  • Base price: $105,550
  • Powertrain: 107.8-kWh lithium-ion battery | permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors | 1-speed transmission
    • 450+: single motor | rear-wheel drive
    • 450 4Matic: dual motors | all-wheel drive
    • 580 4Matic: dual motors | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower
    • 450+: 355
    • 450 4Matic: 355
    • 580 4Matic: 536 
  • Torque
    • 450+: 419 lb-ft 
    • 450 4Matic: 590 lb-ft
    • 580 4Matic: 633 lb-ft
  • Seating capacity: 5 or 7
  • Cargo volume: 6.8 cubic feet behind third row | 22.7 feet with third row folded | 74.2 with all seats flat
  • Curb weight:
    • 450+: 5,963 lbs
    • 450 4Matic: 6,206 lbs
    • 580 4Matic: 6,228 lbs
  • Ground clearance: Up to 8.5 inches
  • Range: TBA
  • Charging speed: Up to 200 kW for 10-80 percent charge in 31 minutes
  • Quick take: Prestige, comfort, style, as well as strong ADAS and off-road performance offset irritating tech and pedal response in this luxury SUV.
  • Score: 7.5/10
2023 Mercedes EQS SUV. James Gilboy

So It’s Like the EQS, But an SUV

The gist of the EQS SUV is simple: it’s a two- or three-row crossover equivalent to the GLS, with the prestige of the S-class but extra utility in exchange for some refinement. Available in rear- and all-wheel-drive, the EQS SUV uses a 107.8-kilowatt-hour battery in its floor, which Mercedes guarantees will retain 70 percent capacity for 10 years or 155,000 miles. Height-adjustable air suspension and adaptive damping come standard, as does 4.5-degree rear-wheel steering, which can be upgraded to 10 degrees.

The Best-Looking Mercedes-EQ

Range-maximizing aero rules supreme when it comes to EV design, so the EQS SUV looks a bit minivan-ish out of necessity. That’s not a knock, I’d actually call it the best-looking Mercedes-EQ model out there. The creases in its hood add character to what’d otherwise be a Blob, and its rear proportions benefit from being allowed to balloon out. Somehow, it manages not to go over the top, even with wheels as big as 21 inches.

Party of Seven

The EQS SUV’s interior design echoes that of the EQS and EQE sedans, but in a more spacious SUV form, with five- and seven-seat setups available. Legroom and headroom are adult-sized even in the wayback on account of the second row’s ability to scooch forward without cramping its own occupants. Every row has a multitude of USB-C ports, and their heated and cooled seats can lay flat in any configuration.

Upholstery is a mix of leather and its surrogates while gorgeous wood adorns the dash and center console, with aluminum pinstriping or star accents. The center console itself, however, jammed shut when I left a couple oddly-sized items in there, so perhaps keep items stored there to phones, cords, and drinks.

Thanks to its higher driving position, the EQS SUV has improved visibility with a larger greenhouse and an alert to fill in the small blind spot—a high point in a tech suite not short on issues.

2023 Mercedes EQS SUV 580 4Matic interior. James Gilboy

It’s Gonna Tech You For a Ride

To be clear, there is some great tech in the EQS SUV. There’s a full suite of passive safety assists as well as terrific hands-on driving assistance that reacts to changing speed limits and switches lanes on its own when cued with the turn signal. It might even get the hands-free Drive Pilot software via an over-the-air update one day, too.

Its surround-view camera is useful for parking, and audio quality from its 15-speaker Burmester sound system (with Dolby Atmos surround) is stellar. The second row has optional seat-back 11.6-inch touchscreens with HDMI inputs and paired headsets, and an optional Android tablet that also works outside the car.

But the same problems I had with the EQE recurred here. Its Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-compatible MBUX infotainment, while a big step up from Mercedes’ old setup, is still bad. Its interface is overwhelming, and despite packing more RAM than a PS5, it sometimes reacted slowly or didn’t load functions on the first try. The optional 56-inch Hyperscreen’s navigation directions—which were sometimes wrong—were located where the steering wheel could block them, making the head-up display a recommended feature. (One of the HUD packages even incorporates augmented reality graphics.)

I also had the same problems with the pop-out door handles not extending when the key was in the car, which left me out in the rain, as well as a false positive with the emergency braking system. It thought we were going to hit a stationary dump truck on the side of the road, so it yanked the seatbelts, slammed on the brakes, and blared an alert. Maybe OTA updates can fix these too.

On the Road and Off It Too

Laggy screens and tech bugs aside, though, a full-size luxury crossover’s top priority is to provide a quiet, smooth ride, and the EQS SUV definitely delivers that. Floaty but not boaty, it erased the ribbons on the Rocky Mountains’ rough blacktop, all while cornering respectably for a more-than-three-ton SUV. It’s said to be slightly louder inside than the sedan, but to notice would require, like, working for Mercedes.

While few owners will take these off-roading, the EQS SUV’s performance was surprisingly good. Full disclosure: Mercedes prepped separate demo vehicles with aired-down off-road tires unavailable from the factory, though they’re the same diameter as the stock tires. Mercedes said the stock rubber could be used, but that you’d suffer more punctures.

Anyway, taken on an ATV trail, the EQS SUV clambered up steep, rocky slopes, its surround-view camera peeping over rises, and handled declines with hill descent control. Its rear-wheel steering let it evade trees and rocks with extremely tight turns, while its chassis proved its rigidity on some moguls. For a vehicle that’s meant to dabble in off-road use at most, it’s respectable and raises the bar for the eventual EQG.

Sadly, its grace at times was limited by a problem that also plagued the EQE. Over-damped brake-by-wire calibration made smooth stops a challenge, especially in conjunction with a brake pedal that moved on its own under regeneration. A one-pedal driving mode I’d like to have tried may have solved this, but it’s hidden behind an engagement process that was too convoluted for me to figure out before my brief test was over.

Opposition

As one of the first to arrive in the full-size electric SUV segment, the EQS SUV has few competitors, none of them all that direct. The BMW iX M60, for example, has a completely different emphasis (performance), doesn’t offer a third row, and looks absolutely fucking ghastly. Audi’s 226-mile E-Tron, on the other hand, was a half-baked adaption of an ICE vehicle and occupies one size-class smaller. That leaves the Rivian R1S and Tesla Model X, which themselves aren’t entirely analogous either.

Rivian’s SUV starts cheaper (for now), has more cargo space, better towing and off-road performance, and if my time in the R1T is anything to go by, better driving dynamics. But Mercedes offers better driving assists, doesn’t have the Rivian’s dumb HVAC controls, and won’t stick you in an interminably long reservation line. (Rivian’s also new to the industry, but Mercedes clearly thinks it’s to be taken seriously.)

As for the Model X, it’s now so expensive it barely registers as a competitor at all, starting way up above $127,000. Only the EQS SUV’s two most expensive trims eclipse that. The Tesla offers more cargo space, though, possibly has more range (Mercedes has yet to release estimates), and boasts a better public charging network. But its reputation for reliability and build quality is atrocious, its interior is at least a couple of calibers lower-rent than the EQS’, it’s got a cramped third row, and at this point, Tesla’s ADAS is inferior to Merc’s. Furthermore, Tesla’s Fremont factory continues to rack up environmental violations. That stands in stark contrast to the way Mercedes claims to build the EQS SUV.

Sustainability

As of this year, every Mercedes factory—as well as its rail logistics, at least in Germany—apparently uses all-renewable energy. That goes for the Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant that makes this SUV, and the one that builds its batteries. Mercedes claims the materials used in its EV batteries are audited to guarantee they’re “responsibly mined and processed,” and components or assemblies weighing over 154 pounds are made at least partially from recycled or renewable materials. Over 40 percent of this car’s “body shell” steel is recycled, for example, cutting down on CO2 emissions.

Verdict

Sustainably built or not, though, the EQS SUV is a suave, surprisingly capable full-size crossover that offers one of the lushest electric SUV experiences yet. Its interior room is plentiful, and it’s probably among the most refined drivers, if not the most refined driver, in its segment. There’s an argument for the alternatives when it comes to utility or accelerative performance, and I have my gripes with some of its tech, but the Mercedes EQS SUV nails what it needs to. Old-world prestige with cutting-edge technology is a tough pairing to beat, especially when OTA updates stand only to make the EQS SUV better over time.

2023 Mercedes EQS SUV. James Gilboy

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com