After driving nearly every car for sale over the last 20 years, it's natural for the cars of the past to enter into your thoughts when driving something new. Humans compare experiences to gain perspective, which explains why we were daydreaming about Rolls-Royces while driving Mercedes-Benz's new electric luxury four-door, the EQS450+.
Like a Rolls-Royce Phantom, the EQS is a capsule of luxury and silence that pours itself down the road with unerring grace. Unlike a hard-to-swallow Rolls, the EQS looks like an Advil Liqui-Gel. It's a lozenge of a car with what Mercedes claims is the lowest drag coefficient—0.20—of any car on sale. That slick bod whips through the air, barely disturbing it, and leads to near silence at extra-legal highway speeds.
Those sticky tires provide excellent grip despite the Benz's estimated 5600-pound curb weight. Press it hard into a corner and it remains flat, and the low center of gravity born of the massive battery in the floor seemingly drills the car into the center of the Earth. Steering efforts are light and don't pick up much even in Sport mode, but the easy efforts help mask the heft and size of this S-class-sized hatchback.
Using those unnatural-feeling brakes can be largely avoided by pulling on the right paddle behind the steering wheel twice. Do so and you get the maximum regeneration (what Mercedes terms Recuperation) that largely eliminates the need to touch the brake pedal and allows one to speed up and slow down in traffic by using only the accelerator. That max regen mode won't bring the car to a complete stop though. The system slows the car to about 5 mph and then continues to creep ahead. There is an additional regen mode that requires you to hold the right paddle called Intelligent Recuperation. It utilizes the adaptive cruise-control radar and camera systems to optimize regeneration based on the surrounding traffic, the topography, and the twistiness of the road. When engaged, it'll bring the car to a stop provided the car in front of you has stopped. It certainly works, but it's not smart enough to stop at a stop sign or red light and will only react to whatever the car ahead is doing.
The Hyperscreen certainly looks like the future, but the instrument display in front of the driver is set high. That elevated cowl is the exact opposite of the low and simple dashboard of a Tesla Model 3 or even a Model S. The brain adjusts to it, but without an engine ahead of you, why does the cowl need to be so high?
There's also a lot of space in the rear seat—leg-crossing, stretch-out space. Sitting in the rear seat you realize that this car is a reimagining of the S-class. In addition to the S-class appointments, performance, technology, and space inside, the EQS comes with an S-class-like price. The least expensive EQS450+ starts at $103,360, moving up to the Exclusive Level adds $3400, and the appropriately named Pinnacle Level comes in at $109,560. Pricing for the more powerful EQS580 opens at $120,160, requires an additional $3400 for the Exclusive trim, and for those who want it all, the Pinnacle will wear a $126,360 window sticker. Aside from the acceleration, the smaller motor EQS450+ is the same luxurious experience as the EQS580. If you never floor it for more than a couple of seconds, you'll never feel like you should have gone with the quicker car. The EQS450+ is just as quiet, just as refined, and just and lovely as the more expensive EQS580. So, for those who don't think every car that's next to you at a red light is competition, you'll be just fine.