- The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is basically an EQS sedan with a raised ride height and an available third row.
- We rode shotgun in a dual-motor prototype that went up and down steep grades and slithered between trees.
- Mercedes-Benz will officially reveal the EQS SUV to the world on April 19.
Don't be fooled by the press photos of a camouflaged 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV playing in the sand. While the majority of our recent ride-along in a pre-production model was indeed spent off-road, the environment we experienced wasn't something out of Lawrence of Arabia—instead, it consisted of steep grades and tight trails at a designated course located on the grounds of Mercedes's assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The factory was recently retooled to accommodate both traditional Mercedes SUVs–such as the GLE- and GLS-class–as well as the upcoming EQE and EQS electric SUVs, the latter of which is slated to start production within the next few months. Both models will receive lithium-ion battery packs produced at the company's new battery plant located in nearby Bibb County. The EV SUVs will also set the stage for a slew of new all-electric models bearing Mercedes EQ branding, including the EQB SUV and EQE sedan.
While the company chose to stay silent on a variety of specific details about the new EQS SUV during our brief drive, we did get to see it perform on the aforementioned off-road course. We also got our first up-close-and-personal look at its undisguised interior, from the front passenger seat, at least. Our first impressions were pretty limited, and we wondered why Mercedes chose to conduct the ride almost exclusively off-road given that this vehicle will likely see trails as often as Jeep Wranglers see autocross courses, but we came away impressed nonetheless.
The EQS SUV shares a platform, wheelbase, and battery pack with the EQS sedan. That means it's the second EQ model and first SUV built on the company's modular EVO 2 platform. It measures 126.4 inches between its axles and draws power from a 107.8-kWh battery. The version we rode in featured an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor configuration with undisclosed output. However, we'd wager that its final figures will be similar to the EQS 580 sedan's powertrain, which is rated at 516 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque.
Unfortunately, we weren't treated to any launches or high-speed runs in the prototype EQS SUV. Instead, we had a couple of short runs over a nicely paved test track, noting its whisper-quiet cabin and ultra-smooth ride, aided by the standard air suspension. Our sample chariot was also fitted with 21-inch wheels wearing 275/45 front and 285/45 rear Pirelli Sottozero all-season tires. Despite the oversized rims, the tires' thick sidewalls provided plenty of cushion without any noticeable effect on handling. Then again, our ride never got much more intense than someone racing for an open parking spot at Target.
When the EQS SUV we rode in first left the asphalt for an undulating two-track dirt road, we thought maybe it was time for an explainer on its dazzling 56-inch Hyperscreen, which is optional, not standard. It's a showpiece, no doubt, but it's similar to the EQS sedan's, except the passenger display can play live video. The sound only plays through a headset, and if the driver looks over at the screen, a monitoring system detects it and shuts off the screen to comply with safety regulations. Oddly, though, our driver was able to reach over and interact with other menus on the passenger display while driving without issue.
Instead of a rundown on the infotainment system, we watched our test driver set the EQS SUV to the Off-Road drive mode (a setting not found on the EQS sedan) and learned that it raises the suspension to its maximum ride height (another specific detail we'll have to wait for) while also changing characteristics of the powertrain and stability-control system. We then proceeded over the rough terrain until we reached a steep bank leading down to some shallow standing water. The EQS slowly descended the hill and crossed the water hazard before easily ascending a 42-degree incline–as indicated by the in-dash inclinometer–without any wheelspin or drama whatsoever. Perhaps the most amazing feat was its agility on the tight, winding trail that we were told was as narrow as 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) in some spots. The massive machine's maneuverability was aided by its standard rear-axle steering, which turns the rear wheels up to 10 degrees.
The prototype EQS SUV we rode in had a fully undisguised interior, the first time Mercedes has shown the space. The design looks almost identical to the inside of the EQS sedan, but Mercedes says there's more headroom. Unlike its sedan sibling, the SUV version also offers a third row with seating for up to seven. The cabin's fit and finish looked ready for production, and we're big fans of the useful storage solutions throughout the cockpit. However, we're less enthused by the near-total lack of physical switchgear. Almost every control inside the EQS SUV is touch-sensitive, and it makes us yearn for the knobs and buttons that once provided separation of function.
We'll learn more when Mercedes officially reveals the 2023 EQS SUV on April 19. We expect it to be even more popular than its sedan counterpart, especially since its current competition is pretty much limited to the BMW iX and the Tesla Model X. We also expect it to spawn an AMG-tuned version and an ultra-luxurious Maybach model if the concept is any indication.