During a recent family trip to Southern California, Mercedes lent us two of their flagship electric vehicles. We picked up an EQS SUV at the airport, drove it around Los Angeles and to Big Bear Mountain and back, stress testing that huge battery against elevation and high speeds. Then, to switch it up, I drove the slightly less family-friendly but more fun EQE to destinations around LA for the second half of the week. Yes, $130K cars are so much more decadent than the Hertz vehicles we’d planned for, but here are my big takeaways.
Picking up the EQS SUV from LAX, it is a relatively unassuming car (especially compared to the Red AMG EQE we’ll discuss later) that most people won’t recognize as a six-figure flagship EV. The gorgeous front plastic grille tips the hand a little bit, but otherwise, this is a very unassuming vehicle on the outside other than the Mercedes logos.
Just like the EQS Sedan I reviewed last year, the inside was gorgeous and luxurious, though it lacked the passenger dash third screen. It also lacked the Galaxy tab in the back but had most of the other accouterments, including those light massaging front seats, which would be key after a day of snowboarding. I’ll stick by my previous statements on the interior, though the SUV naturally even has more headroom:
If the inside of the EQS is anything, it is roomy. The sheer enormity of the interior is hard to put into words. Add to that the ginormous “Hyperscreen” which his really
3screens under the same glass that spans the width of the front of the vehicle…a control screen between the 2 front seats allows those in the rear to individually control their temperature settings.
What’s ironic is you don’t even have to look at the three big screens while driving because Mercedes includes one of the best heads up displays in the business. In fact, this is the first car that I preferred the built in mapping software to CarPlay/Google Maps and that’s because of the heads up integration – also it does look amazing on that huge center display.
The kids (11, 14) loved the ability to wireless charge in the armrest and adjust the back seat temperature, something they don’t get in the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model Y they are used to at home. There’s also a ton more room in the back which almost kept them from fighting.
Probably the biggest difference is the boot, which now goes from a big EQS sedan to an even bigger SUV. That was key when it came to carrying our snowboards and equipment up the mountain.
Although we were four people on this trip, there was a third row, which I found roomy and housed our youngest during a particularly contentious part of the trip.
I climbed in the third row, and at 6 feet, 220 pounds, I felt like claustrophobia would take about 30 minutes to kick in. Even with the third row, there is plenty of room in the back for a row of groceries and even a false floor to store charging apparatus or other items.
No frunk, no hood access
The ample rear space is key here because not only does Mercedes not have a frunk, but they also don’t even allow access to the front hood area. I was curious to see where one would add the wiper fluid – it turns out there is a door on the driver’s side that you can use to do that.
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.
The Mercedes EQS SUV drive
Any wonderment about why someone would pay $130K for an SUV is immediately answered once you hit the road. The air suspension makes my sub-$50,000 vehicles at home feel like panel trucks. The cabin is whisper quiet even at 80mph, the turning is relatively tight, and the sub-6 second 0-60 acceleration is strong. Mercedes adds an acceleration soundtrack option which I felt compelled to try and found “not distracting.”
Mercedes, as is often the case, has a ton of varieties of the EQS SUV, and I had a middle-ish trim called 450 4MATIC. In this trim, the EPA mileage is 285 miles from the 108.4kWh battery. It was only tested on our 2.5-hour, 120-mile trip up the mountain to Big Bear. Around town, I’d seen mileage pretty closely pinned to the EPA range, but going 80mph up to 8000 feet? Let’s just say we stopped at a ChargePoint 50kW station (that put out <33kW) at dinner before our trip back.
It turns out that after regenerating most of the way down the mountain, we probably would have made the 240-mile round trip without the need for a charge, but I found myself playing it a lot safer without a garage charger waiting for me at home.
Easy street parking charging
This isn’t Mercedes-specific, but I found that it was really easy to keep these cars topped up with all of the options around town. Our Santa Monica Airbnb had street parking without access to power, but ChargePoint seemed to be everywhere, including about 20 level 2 stations at the beach where my kids surfed and a neighborhood station we topped up at over dinner a few times. Redondo Beach’s library, a few blocks from the beach/pier, also had some level 2 options that were easy and helpful. There was never any range anxiety, and I don’t even know if we lost any time because charging stations were so close to our venues and easy. I realize that Los Angeles is anything but a charging infrastructure desert, but this was the first time I’d gone 10 days without a garage charger, and it was too easy.
Switch to the AMG EQE
About midway through the week, Mercedes swapped out our EQS SUV with the AMG EQE sedan. (Yes, rough life, I know.) My wife and I had opposite reactions to the swap. Hers was, “This is worse in every way. It is smaller, [has] fewer seats, less room, has less range, it’s red, and has sports suspension.” As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to just nod my head and sigh and save my adulation for the written word here.
At nearly the same price as the EQS SUV, the AMG variant of the EQE is gorgeous, and the “Patagonia Red metallic” color? A show stopper. We had zero people asking about the EQS SUV, whereas the AMG EQE had people visiting us at almost every stop to look and ask questions. Standout design additions are the small spoiler in the back, the pinstripe grille, fake air intakes in the front, and dope 21-inch AMG multispoke turbine wheels. I think a chrome-less version would be off the charts.
While smaller, there is still plenty of room for a family of four, and the trunk, it turns out, was surprisingly adequate at holding our three suitcases, bags, skateboards, and other souvenirs.
Inside, it is just as wild with a racing-inspired steering wheel with paddles with different racing options. When you turn the car on, it sounds like you are about to watch a THX movie and the permanent RGB light colors go from door to door.
This is a family vacation, so I didn’t get to test the 3.2 second 0-60 time, but my kids did get used to the “heads back” command before every green light. The fake motor sound here is louder and more noticeable… and fitting. Otherwise, even with the sports wheels and suspension, it is quiet and drives fantastically.
Those big shoes and 617 horsepower/701 lb-ft torque carry a huge range penalty dropping the range on the AMG EQE’s 90.6 kWH battery down from 305 miles of range in the standard edition down close to 225 miles (EPA not yet available) in the AMG variant according to the dashboard. I realize that might be a deal-breaker for some, but to Mercedes’ credit, their range is conservative.
I wasn’t able to put these EVs through the performance paces and get into the intricate details like I would do on a normal review, but having the family along for the week presented its own nuanced tests. I’d argue that these were more telling for most than the normal speeds and feeds. And unsurprisingly, these two Mercedes vehicles passed with flying colors.
The big caveat is the price. Third-row eSUVs can be found at half the price (heck, Mercedes own EQB starts at $55K), and the slightly slower Tesla’s Model 3P and BMW’s i4 M50 are priced much lower and offer significantly more range than the AMG EQE.
That said, if you’ve got six figures to burn and want the best drives and overall vehicles possible, both of these electric vehicles worked incredibly well with my family of four. I now just have to talk my wife out of trading our Model Y for the EQS SUV.