Mercedes' electric future looks bright.
It's not often a manufacturer allows members of the media to drive a one-of-a-kind concept car, so when the folks at Mercedes offered us the opportunity to do just that we couldn't resist. Introduced at IAA in Frankfurt this past September, the Mercedes Vision EQS is the concept version of what will be Mercedes fully electric S-Class equivalent, coming from their EQ line.
We knew from the onset this wouldn't be a proper test drive. That's because concept vehicles aren't built to the specifications of production vehicles. They aren't up for regular driving and quite often they aren't even allowed to be touched. I remember being invited to the Concept BMW i3's North American premiere in 2012. It was a very small gathering of only about 50 guests and at one point I tried to open the door and I was nearly tackled by a BMW representative.
Gallery: Mercedes EQS Test Drive
The Vision EQS Concept's all-white interior with blue LED accents looks like it belongs in a Tron movie. It's not meant to reflect what the production vehicle will look like, but instead to showcase hints of where the designers are looking to go. The two-thirds steering wheel wasn't very user-friendly, and while it looks cool, you wouldn't want to drive a real car with that kind of steering wheel - trust me.
The real takeaway for me with regards to the interior was the feeling of openness you get inside. When I spoke with Stefan Lamm, VP of design at Mercedes Advanced Design Studio, about this he had a big smile on his face and replied "Excellent, then I've done my job". He went on to explain how the dedicated EV platform allowed the designers to push both the A and C pillars out further towards the ends of the vehicle than they can do with a conventionally-fuelled vehicle.
In doing so, the vehicle has a more roomy passenger compartment, more so than a regular S-Class Mercedes. The production EQS won't have the exact same dimensions, but Lamm seemed confident we'd be very pleased when we get the opportunity to sit in the production EQS also.
Speaking of which, Mercedes surprised us and had a pre-production EQS there for us to check out and photograph. We couldn't ride in it and the interior was so heavily covered up with carpeting that it wasn't even worth taking pictures of. I was, however, able to catch a picture of the door handles.
The Concept Vision EQS didn't have door handles; the doors opened by remote control. The pre-production door handles are flush to the vehicle and open out when the driver approaches, like the Tesla Model S. There are also side view cameras on the concept, those were dropped in lieu of conventional side mirrors on the EQS prototype.
Chatting with Lamm I learned that the Concept Vision EQS is a demonstration of Mercedes's "One Bow" design language. You can see from the side view the entire vehicle appears as one continuous stretched arch or bow. The design doesn't have many bumps, it's mostly smooth surfaces and is elegantly simple as if it were molded from a single piece of metal. Up close, you can see small ridges in the lower black front valence and side skirts as well as a copper trim. They look like a row of small batteries and I learned that was definitely the design intention.
I also had the chance to talk on site with Mercedes Chief Engineer for the EQS, Christoph Starzynski. He's excited about the new EQ platform and looks at Mercedes's path to electrification as an opportunity to set the benchmark for a new sustainable luxury segment.
What we want to do as a team is we want to define a new segment, basically a new luxury segment. We want to develop and produce the best modern luxury, sustainable vehicle in the world. - Mercedes EQ Chief Engineer, Christoph Starzynski
While Mercedes seems to be struggling a bit with the launch of their first EV from the EQ line, the EQC, the brand will have plenty of practice launching EVs before the EQS comes to market in less than two years. That's because Daimler has promised to have more than 10 fully-electric cars for sale by the end of 2022. Not all of those vehicles will be available in all markets, and some will come from the smart brand, but Mercedes will definitely be busy with their EQ line in the next couple of years.
From what we know so far, the EQS will be the fifth all-electric vehicle from the EQ line. It appears the EQ launch order will be as follows:
- EQC: Launched in 2019 A compact SUV, similar in size to the Mercedes GLC.
- EQV: 2020 est. A minivan that can seat up to 8 passengers, based on the V-class platform.
- EQA: 2020 est. A small crossover, based on the GLA crossover A-class platform.
- EQB: 2021 est. A sub-compact crossover. Has a 310-mile WPLT range rating.
- EQS: 2021 est. A full-sized sedan, similar in size to the S-Class line
- EQE: 2022 est. A compact sedan, similar to the C-Class line.
The Concept Vision EQS has a dual-motor powertrain that produces 469 hp and 560 lb-ft torque. It has a WLTP range rating of 435 miles. It has a battery that is "larger than 100 kWh" and can go 0-60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. The battery is an 800-volt system, like the Porsche Taycan and can recharge at rates up to 350 kW. It's notable that these figures are for the concept car, however, manufacturers usually keep the numbers consistent for the production version, if not, then very close.
Mercedes wouldn't commit to the production version having the 800-volt battery system at launch because they are still deciding which cells work best for this vehicle. They did, however, say they are not ruling out using 800-volt systems in their EVs if it makes sense for that vehicle. The Taycan, for instance, needs cells that can charge and discharge rapidly because it is a high-performance car. The cells used in the Taycan may not be the best fit for another type of EV.
Whether the production EQS uses an 800-volt or 400-volt battery system, it will have very high-speed charging, as Starzynski understands that premium EVs require premium charging rates.
We're looking forward to more information on the EQS and quite honestly, all of the vehicles in the Mercedes EQ line. It's going to be an eventful couple of years with new EQ launches every few months. Extra thanks to Wolfgang Würth, Mercedes EQ Communications Manager for arranging this special opportunity for us.