i can’t yet tell you what it’s like to drive the 2022 mercedes-benz eqs, benz's new electric flagship. but i can tell you what it's like to ride along—sort of. in the inevitable culmination of the year of zoom, i embarked on a virtual ride in an eqs outfitted with multiple cameras as fabian wuttke, project lead for sedan development, drove and narrated. he was in stuttgart, germany, and i was in north carolina. this exercise was a lot more useful than i expected. it turns out you can actually learn a few things about a car from 4300 miles away.
for instance, when he powered up the car, an in-car camera aimed at the instrument panel picked up the telltale flickering lights of an infrared camera. "is that a driver-facing camera hidden in the display?" i asked. and indeed it is. the benz camera, like the ones in ford and gm driver-monitoring systems, will help enable hands-free assistance by ensuring that the driver is paying attention. but wuttke explained that its secondary role (or, as it might turn out, primary one) is to make sure the driver isn’t staring at the passenger-side portion of the hyperscreen, the 56-inch-wide curved glass screen that spans the width of the dash.
the passenger-side portion of that screen will be able to display movies, games, or info from the other displays, but as wuttke put the car in drive and pulled out of the parking garage, it displayed only a static wallpaper shot of benz's vision avtr concept car. "the interactive features are only enabled when somebody is sitting in the passenger seat," wuttke said. that's smart, and the giant screen surely looks cool. but i noticed one potential downside of that huge expanse of glass: lots of reflections. or maybe that was just an issue with camera angles. such are the limitations of ride-alongs from a different continent.
at first, i wondered if we were on mercedes property, on a test loop, but soon wuttke merged out into afternoon traffic and it was clear the eqs was plying public roads. i didn’t notice anybody swerving to get closer or take photos, despite the unsubtle eqs-emblazoned wrap adorning the car. i assume the stuttgart locals are accustomed to seeing prototype benzes on the highway, but also the eqs isn’t too outrageous with its exterior design—a clean arc from the front bumper to the rear. what is outrageous is its 0.20 coefficient of drag, which benz claims as a record for a production car. but that number necessarily comes with an absence of exterior drama. you can’t fool the wind.
that slippery shape is one reason that the eqs's rated range—on the wltp certification procedure, mind you, which is generally more optimistic than the epa regimen—is 478 miles. wow. with a 200-kw max charge rate (and up to 290 kilowatts for recuperation), wuttke says the eqs can add 186 miles of range in 15 minutes. that's getting in the ballpark of internal-combustion range and refueling times. it also uses its gps to plan recuperation strategies. "if it sees a roundabout coming up, it plans for recuperation because it knows you'll be slowing down," wuttke says. that strategizing is in effect whether or not you have a destination entered in the navigation system, but doing that will help the car plan its energy deployment over a trip. keep the eqs in the loop and it might give you a few more miles of range. the eqs also supports bidirectional charging, meaning that a charged-up car could serve as a power source for your house.
the battery, which was developed by mercedes, offers 107.8 kwh of usable capacity and is produced at the company's untertürkheim location, about 25 miles from the eqs assembly line—the farm-to-table of modern electron storage. that battery will carry a 10-year/155,000-mile warranty in both europe and the u.s. the eqs itself is built at the carbon-neutral "factory 56" at the sindelfingen plant, sharing an assembly line with the s-class.
i asked wuttke about top speed—hey, there has to be an autobahn around there somewhere—and he said it's limited at 130 mph, but that's a function of the eco-minded tires. an amg version—you know, if there was one, which of course there surely will be—would be faster. the rear-drive model will have 329 horsepower, with the dual motor all-wheel-drive version delivering 516 horsepower and a zero-to-62-mph time of 4.3 seconds. "there's inline motor cooling, so you can do repeated acceleration runs," says wuttke.
other than the default silent mode, the eqs offers three audio environments that correspond to a given mood: silver wave, vivid flux, and roaring pulse. when wuttke engaged the latter, i could hear a faint growl over the microphone, but i couldn't really discern exactly what it sounds like. "is that making an internal combustion sort of noise?" i asked, and wuttke said no. "we didn't want to imitate an internal-combustion engine. but we want to give feedback on what the car is doing." so, virtually and from thousands of miles away, i can't say exactly what "roaring pulse" sounds like, but it did increase in volume and intensity as wuttke drove more aggressively.
then he parked and demonstrated one more eqs trick: augmented-reality parking. overhead views, stitched together from cameras around the car, have been common for a while, but the eqs takes that concept to a new level. the view is third-person 3d, like you're driving a car in forza. but it's your car, rendered in real time via teutonic digital sorcery. and, in real life, the big eqs (about 17 feet long, the better to squeeze max battery between the axles) should be easy to park thanks to its rear-wheel steering, which provides up to 10 degrees of countersteer. sure, gm's old quadrasteer system could do 12 degrees, but who's counting?
in tesla's early days on the scene, mercedes execs didn't take it seriously. they viewed the model s as a niche fad with an amateurish interior. then it started outselling the s-class and all the other big german flagships. and now we have this. ten years ago, i thought mercedes should be more worried than it was. now, tesla should.