/ 30 September 2023

Merc’s electric SUV debuts in South Africa

Mercedes Eqs2
Car of the future: With the Mercedes EQS sports utility vehicle, Mercedes-Benz has dispensed with the hybrid middleman

If there were ever an atmosphere that could complement the powerful presence of Merc’s newest models, the EQE and EQS SUVs, it would be Sandton’s Inanda Polo Club during the Heineken All-Invitational.

The big news is that Mercedes-Benz is one of the first local luxury brands to dare offer its flagship SUVs as full electric offerings without the hybrid middleman — if you also count BMW’s iX. 

Although hybrids no doubt have their place in the hierarchy as the world attempts to transition towards cleaner transport, Mercedes has made a statement: the future of luxury motoring is electric.

The most obvious clue that this is not an internal combustion engine is the styling. It’s fluid and futuristic, and every crevice — or rather lack thereof — on the EQ models serves a dual purpose because Merc has seamlessly married form and function. Styling, yes, but the lines on the body mostly serve the purpose of directing airflow for optimal aerodynamics. Even the wheel styling is optimised to reduce turbulence and make it slippery. 

The effect? Fewer trips to your local fast charger.

Power and performance

Nestled on the floor of the flagship EQS 450 SUV is a robust lithium-ion battery with a 108.4kWh capacity that’s estimated to deliver a range of 616km. That’s if you only exploit the full effect of 265kW and 800Nm of torque that’s on offer from
the electric motors for a short period of time.

Between charges, some range can be reclaimed on the EQS with its onboard energy recuperation technology. Although nothing new on electric vehicles (EV), the “one-pedal-drive” system is a unique experience in that, in theory, it’s not necessary to touch the brake pedal except for emergencies. 

The idea is that by modulating the inputs on the accelerator pedal, you can control acceleration and braking. By slowly letting off the loud pedal, some electric range can be recouped thanks to a complicated scientific principle that hinges on Newton’s law of energy transfer, which states energy can’t be destroyed but only transferred. In short, a petrol-powered car’s braking creates heat energy that’s released back into the atmosphere. The same action on an EV creates a process involving kinetic energy that’s then transferred back to the battery.

Merc’s system is a bit more nuanced than that, though. This process on EVs is usually a rather binary operation that involves an on-and-off kind of operation. In the EQS, and in the name of keeping the beautifully crafted cabin as
clutter-free as possible, Mercedes-Benz opted to add the operation of this system as paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. It’s initially an odd experience flicking the pedals that are usually reserved for gear changes in a combustion-engined car rather than on an EV, but the system makes sense. Drivers can choose between D+, also called sailing mode, for a pretty
standard driving experience, D, which is a standard level of recuperation, or the aggressive form of routing energy back to the battery called D-.

The vehicle, which offers smart tech and has a sleek design inside and out, has a range of about 600km – and comes with a suitably large price tag.

The virtual future

One of the standout features —besides the craftsman-quality cabin — is the digital navigational overlay, which superimposes directions on a real-time camera feed of the road ahead. This is where vehicle tech is headed, with even tech giants like Google trying to develop similar systems for its portfolio. And yet Mercedes-Benz seems to be leading the charge. But it does come with some initial hiccups. There are moments when the point of instruction isn’t entirely clear because a single-camera view can be restrictive in terms of distance. But, then again, as with all pioneering tech, refinement will come with time and repetition.

The Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is a bit like taking a peek into a crystal ball of the motorcar’s future, and it’s clear that Merc isn’t just testing the waters of electric mobility; it has officially taken the leap. With its sleek design, premium cabin space, and innovative technological suite, the EQS SUV brilliantly showcases Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to sustainable transportation. And it very well should, especially given the EQS 450’s starting price of R2 726 100.