Mercedes-AMG EQS 2021 review: AMG's first production EV
Looks like an EQS with more attitude.
You could say that. It’ll also answer a question that’s likely been gnawing away at a certain kind of car fan, namely: how the hell does AMG turn an electric car into, well, a bona fide AMG? After all, if the good denizens of Affalterbach are known for anything, it’s the creation of some of the most thunderous internal combustion engines in the history of the automobile. They’re loud, proud and not backwards when it comes to going forwards. Or sideways.
Go on, then. First impressions?
It feels like an AMG. It really does.
But surely it’s missing one of AMG’s signature characteristics – the noise?
It’s missing some of the noise, but don’t get too worked up. Like the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan, the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4Matic+ – to give it its full name – proves that an electric car can have as powerful a personality as its internally combusting brethren. Different but powerful. OK, so the vibrations aren’t those of a fossil-fuelled AMG, and it won’t pin your ears back as convincingly as you would by engaging third gear in an Italian autostrada tunnel. But it still sounds cool, although we have to add the caveat that the EQS 53’s sonics are artificially created.
Its audio system uses special speakers, a bass actuator and a sound generator to summon up alternative soundtracks. The standard one is ‘authentic’, and there’s an optional ‘performance’ profile, which does its thing inside and out, according to the selected driving mode and the driver’s mood. It also provides a series of what AMG calls ‘event’ sounds, including unlocking the car and starting and stopping it. Which you do with a start button on the centre console, unlike the regular EQS which is ready to go as soon as it detects your body in the seat. This one demands a little more literal digital effort…
We prefer the real thing, thank you.
Of course. But you do realise that lots of musicians now use sampled sound patches of orchestras or specific drum sounds that are so good they’re indistinguishable from the real thing. Also, remember that bit in the original (and best) Matrix movie where Joe Pantoliano’s character asks to be reinserted into the simulation following a delicious but fake steak dinner? After 20 minutes in the EQS 53 you stop worrying about how authentic the ‘authentic’ sound mode really is. Turns out the blue pill isn’t so bad.
Oh God. They’ve got to you, haven’t they. Aside from the sound, what else has changed?
“Our customers want a dynamic and emotional driving experience,” Jochen Herrmann, AMG’s Chief Technical Officer, tells TG.com. “We deliver this with AMG-specific solutions, especially when it comes to the drive system, suspension, and brakes.” Let’s start with the powertrain. It’s a dual motor set up, one on each axle, making a total of 650bhp in standard form or a resounding 751bhp and 758 torques if the AMG Dynamic Plus package has been specified and you’ve stuck the EQS into Race Start mode (it has a boost function).
We’re talking permanently agitated synchronous motors, which AMG’s engineers/chemists reworked to include new windings, stronger currents and inverters that are running specially developed software. This, says AMG, allows higher rotational speeds and therefore more power. Much effort has also been expended on cooling; there’s a water lance in the rotor shaft to cool it and special ribs on the stator. The batteries are trick too: the usable energy is 107.8 kWh, there’s a reduced cobalt content, and AMG says the energy density has been significantly improved. Hooked up to a 200 kW charger, Mercedes says 186 miles of range will flow back into the batteries in about 19 minutes.
About 360 miles fully charged. The battery pack can be pre-heated or cooled while driving, so it’s more receptive to fast charging. But it also has a mechanism to reduce load during the charging process to preserve its longevity. AMG says the battery pack is good for 10 years or 155,000 miles. The cells were developed in-house, and the hard- and software is all proprietary. Mercedes still needs tech partners but has ambitions way beyond merely having skin in the game. It’s also working hard to reduce lithium-ion batteries’ reliance on rare earth materials, and intends to make the entire supply chain carbon neutral. It can handle bi-directional charging in the markets that offer it (Japan, for example). They know that the car itself is just one part of the big picture.
Sounds typically thorough. How does it feel on the move?
More even than on the lesser EQS models, driving the 53 is to zap the future squarely and swiftly into the here and now. It’s hugely impressive. And kinda huge: on a car this size with that amount of chemical firepower there’s no escaping its inelegant mass – it weighs a whopping 2.6 tonnes (760kg of which is the electric powertrain). And yes you do notice it, should you venture onto the sort of road on which you might expect a trad AMG to excel. How could you not?
Yet the EQS 53 is still an absolute blast, the car’s software magically and instantly distributing drive across all four wheels and checking the available torque 160 times per second. The usual array of drive modes are available: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. Select sport and the software gets busy yet again, implementing a rearward torque bias while that increased AMG-developed cooling capacity helps maintain power for longer.
It’ll do that EV traffic light dragster thing if you want it; with the optional Dynamic Plus package 0-62mph is done in 3.4 seconds, the top speed limited to 155mph. The base car is four-tenths slower to 62mph and has a lower top speed. Another thing to note: Michelin co-developed a special tyre, one that can cope with all that energy while delivering low rolling resistance. And it has a polyurethane foam built into it to reduce noise on the move.
But is it a full-bore AMG?
There’s a bespoke electric platform called AMG.EA currently in development that might be more trad AMG hardcore. The EQS 53 has a ‘performance-oriented drive concept with a luxurious ambience,’ says AMG. That’s accurate. There’s an active rear axle as standard, and AMG’s ride control+, adaptive damping and the bespoke rear subframe and motor mountings locate the sweet spot between dynamic composure and compliance.
Clearly, this isn’t one of the company’s lairier efforts, and the EQS remains more pillowy and limo-ey than Porsche’s Taycan Turbo. But its bandwidth is still so extensive that a bunch of different cars are allowed to co-exist under one swooping roof. Great brake feel, too, courtesy of enormous 415mm brake discs upfront (440mm on the optional ceramic stoppers), which expertly blend the powerful three-step electric recuperation with the hydraulics. There’s an i-Booster for a more authentic AMG feel.
What about the interior and exterior makeover?
Also effective. Mercedes has paved the way with various ‘mono-box’ – ‘one-bow’, in Mercedes parlance – concepts over the years, but the EQS 53 makes a better fist of things as an AMG than the slightly bendy looking standard car. There’s an AMG-specific black panel grille with hot-stamped vertical struts in chrome and an integrated three-pointed star. There are various aero amendments, including a front splitter, side air intakes to tidy up the turbulent airflow around the front wheels, and a bigger rear diffuser and spoiler.
It’s super slippery too, with a drag coefficient of 0.23. Inside the EQS 53 gets the Hyperscreen as standard, 1.4m of OLED magic that reimagines how we interact with a car. “Honestly, it’s like sitting in a glider or an aeroplane cockpit,” Mercedes chief creative officer Gorden Wagener tells TG.com. “People ask about our dream cars and super sports cars, but this might actually be the most dream car we make.”
Is he right?
We’d say the EQS is quite spec-sensitive, but our AMG 53 test car shows what can be done. I mean, why would you think about a cream interior on a car like this? There’s pale pin-striped wood and man-made leather, microcut microfibre, and red top-stitching. The driver’s display is multi-configurable, and though the area around the steering wheel is busy it’s all intuitive. The central display’s graphics and resolution are world-beating, and Mercedes’ ‘zero layer’ philosophy means that the stuff you use most often floats to the top.
AMG’s Track Pace virtual race engineer is an option, recording data across 80 parameters should you really feel the need to take your 2.6-tonne EV onto a circuit (we wouldn’t). The passenger can watch content or mess about on the internet without interrupting the driver. It’s a remarkable system, the centrepiece of a truly mesmerising interior, although I found the head-up display distracting and couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. So not totally perfect, then.
AI helps the navigation system plan the optimum route ahead, monitoring variables such as topography, ambient temperature, speed, and heating and cooling demand, as well as charging station availability and payment functions. So that should ease range anxiety.
The charging process itself is simplified provided the user signs up for Mercedes Me Charging, with charging and billing taking place automatically, and an emphasis on ‘green’ energy. European customers can use the Ionity fast charging network FOC for a year after purchase.
The EQS is also the first Mercedes to offer the option of activating new vehicle functions via over-the-air updates, positioning the company at the edge of the new digital frontier. “We made a choice several years ago to massively increase our investment in the digital space,” Daimler CEO Ola Källenius told TG.com earlier this year. “We’ve been recruiting and building up digital hubs around the world. In Silicon Valley, in Stuttgart, in Beijing and Berlin, and our cloud computing team is in Seattle. So this isn’t something that’s entirely new for us, but it’s a must if you want to be a leading luxury brand.”
All very convincing.
Yep! This is the most persuasive version of Mercedes’ statement EV yet, and a highly intelligent manifesto for AMG as these noted ICE warriors pivot in the inevitable new direction.