SAN DIEGO — I love the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
For decades, the S has been the industry leader in technology, luxury, comfort, sophistication, and just about every category you can imagine. It’s enormous, powerful, and makes a statement wherever you go. And now there’s an electric one, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS.
No, to get it out of the way, the EQS is not a particularly good-looking vehicle. It’s slightly better in person, but only in the right light. My test car was black, and I suspect it might be better in other colors. Maybe.
It’s incredibly sleek and aerodynamic, with a rounded front and a nearly straight line from the bumper to the top of the windshield. If you remember the 2000s-era Dodge Intrepid, it’s not unlike that. I liked the Intrepid when I was a dumb 20-something, but it has not aged well. The best part of the exterior is the rear brake lights that look like curly fries from Arby’s.
Still, the EQS sedan is a spaceship. It looks like one, sounds like one, and goes like one. It’s a not-particularly attractive black spaceship. And boy, if you can get past the look, it’s an incredible piece of automotive hardware.
Perhaps the best part of the EQS is that if you buy one, you get to drive it. And from the driver’s seat, it’s something else. The seats are comfortable and enveloped in some of the finest leather you’ll find in a car not made by Rolls-Royce.
Dominating the front of the car is a four-foot-wide Gorilla Glass panel featuring a 12-inch dash cluster, a 17-inch central touchscreen, and a second 12-inch touchscreen in front of the passenger. Imagine the navigation panel in front of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and you’ve got a decent idea of what you’re getting with the EQS.
There’s a small control panel in the middle of what I can only describe as a floating yacht console between the seats. The panel includes the start/stop button, adjustments to the drive mode, a haptic-feedback volume slider (why are physical volume knobs verboten all of a sudden?), and a fingerprint sensor, so you don’t need to do anything so tedious as informing the car who is driving if you share it with a spouse.
Everything inside looks fantastic, from the wood to the leather, and especially the circular HVAC vents that look like jet turbines. Driving the car feels like you’re on the Enterprise, too, with that massive center screen displaying a 3D map of the world and your hand skipping across the glass to take advantage of MBUX, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience. It’s one of the best in-car systems available today and is good enough to make me not need to use CarPlay — that’s high praise, though it does support both CarPlay and Android Auto wirelessly.
My favorite part isn’t the colossal storage bin beneath the flying yacht console, nor is it the massive panoramic glass roof. It’s not the Burmester 3D Surround Sound stereo, and it’s not even the “ENERGIZING AIR CONTROL PLUS with HEPA Filter” — it’s in caps on the window sticker, and nothing else is, so it must be important.
No, the best thing about the EQS is the ambient lighting. That might seem surprising, but hear me out. A light strip runs around the top of the dash, along the doors, and into the back seat. It’s a strip that surrounds you in color, joining other ambient lighting elements in the footwells, cupholders, door pockets, and just about everywhere else you can imagine.
But it’s that light strip at the top that’s the most fun. Sure, you can set it to one of 64 colors, but an extra mode ties into the throttle pedal for a giggle-worthy festival of light and sound.
Give a little throttle, and small white lights slide down the strip from the middle of the dash outward, like you’re soaring past the stars. Give it a lot of throttle, and the (artificial) whoosh of the electric motors amps up, and red lights begin to soar past you. It’s an absurd, ridiculous show of light and sound, bringing a grin to my face every time. Slowing down is a show, too, as blue lights move towards the center of the dash to emulate the energy regeneration from braking.
It’s an over-the-top feature that shows the folks at Mercedes-Benz aren’t just pedantic engineers looking to wring every last bit of functionality out of their prized electric flagship. Instead, it shows a beautiful sense of whimsy and pride in their newest electric car. I adored it.
And I should mention the propulsion itself, too — it wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t fast. There’s a Mercedes-AMG version if you really want to make the scenery blur. But it’s got plenty of oomph, and, with the smaller motor and rear-drive setup I had, you get significantly more than the rated 350 miles of range. Other publications have gotten a fully-charged EQS 450 to more than 400 miles, even at mostly highway speeds.
Sure, it was $116,000, but it’s the best electric car I’ve ever driven. It might not be lovely on the outside, but I feel like I’m flying the Enterprise on the inside. It’s amazingly comfortable, and this is just the first attempt at an electric S-Class. If this is the future, beam me up.