Sitting at the wheel of the futuristic new Mercedes-Benz EQS luxury limousine feels less like getting ready to drive and more like preparing for lift-off.
Faced with a panoramic hi-tech screen, doing pre-flight checks for space travel seems far more appropriate in this all-electric craft.
Before driving it on UK roads ahead of first deliveries from February, I familiarised myself with the system on this remarkable masterpiece of engineering.
Merc masterpiece: The EQS luxury electric limousine is packed with technology and priced from £100,000
This is arguably the smartest and most efficient new car ever to hit the road. Indeed, this streamlined battery-powered Benz promises a range of up to 453 miles.
It all matters because this cutting-edge technology will, over time, trickle down from the top to most family cars.
Sky’s the limit
The new EQS is the first Mercedes-Benz to be built on a bespoke platform for the firm’s large luxury and executive class electric vehicles, and is the battery-powered sibling of the conventional flagship S-Class limousine.
The EQS’s vast digital dashboard instantly made me think of the Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’ cockpit.
Starship command: The EQS’s vast panoramic hi-tech digital dashboard looks like something from a sci-fi film
At the heart of this impressive machine, with its smart but beautifully appointed interior, is the striking hyper-screen incorporating multiple displays under one cinematic spread of curved glass stretching nearly 5ft. The front passenger even has their own 12in screen.
Two main versions of the EQS are available for sale at launch in the UK. The standard 333 horse-power EQS 450+ range priced from £99,950 comes in three sports-oriented AMG Line variants (AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus) and two classic Luxury versions (Luxury and Exclusive Luxury).
These all accelerate from rest to 62mph in 6.2 seconds up to a top speed of 137mph.
Priced from £154,995 and arriving in April, there is the more powerful 659 horse-power sports-performance Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4Matic+ which accelerates to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds up to a top speed of 155mph.
Seven magnificent EQS features
A £7,995 high-tech extra that transforms the cockpit of your EQS into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
Sensors in the Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX system use artificial intelligence to monitor your time on the road.
Want to know tomorrow’s weather? Just say, ‘Hey, Mercedes’ and the Alexa-style voice assistant will tell you.
Fingerprint scanner logs you into your individual personalised driver settings as well as preferences.
Facial recognition is also an option.
Not only will it get you to your destination, it’ll find you vital charging points en route.
A choice of warm back massages to soothe your aching limbs on a long journey.
Augmented reality head-up display keeps your eyes focused firmly on to the road ahead while projecting speed, speed limit, satnav directions and warnings in the line of sight.
I drove the EQS 450+ Exclusive Luxury which costs from £113,995, but the hi-tech hyper-screen (an extra £7,995) takes the final price up to £121,990.
Powered by its 333 horsepower 245kW electric motor, there are three main driving modes: Eco — if you’re trying to save energy; Comfort — for relaxed everyday driving; and Sport — when you want a more exciting drive. You can also tweak it yourself with the Individual setting.
Approaching the car with the fob in your hand or pocket, the EQS’s door handles emerge automatically to greet you.
Before setting off, I set up my personal driver profile using a fingerprint security scanner.
After that a simple print-swipe remembers me every time I log in — allowing a number of drivers to set up the car to their own seating position, driving preferences and music choices.
The car sweeps effortlessly along motorways and the smooth ride is aided by the self-levelling air suspension which raises the vehicle for rough roads and lowers for greater aerodynamic performance at high speed.
On country roads and in the city it’s nimble — thanks to 10-degree rear axle steering which combines with the front wheels to reduce the turning circle of this 5 metre-long car to just 10.9 metres, similar to many compact class vehicles.
The heads-up display keeps your eyes focused on the road and highlights speed, the speed limit, satnav directions and relevant warnings.
For passengers in the rear there’s masses of legroom and noise-insulating and infra-red reflecting privacy glass.
The optional Luxury Lounge package (costing £3,995) brings a host of extras including electrically-adjustable rear seats with massage functions, a comfort rear arm-rest, climate control and wireless smartphone charging.
The rear boot is vast and the panoramic sliding sunroof lets the light flood in.
Central to all the brainpower on the screens and around the car is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX.
It uses artificial intelligence to enhance driving — from the augmented reality technology in the navigation screen to the intelligent voice control with speech recognition and the ability to speak 27 languages.
Up to 350 sensors monitor the EQS’s functions, recording distances, speeds and acceleration, lighting conditions, precipitation and temperature.
However, I did experience ‘range anxiety.’ A run to the Midlands from London initially showed enough charge, but heading back it seemed I wasn’t going to make it.
Pressing the on-screen icon for a public charger, a menu revealed a list of the nearest charging points.
Mercedes says charging with a 200kW DC rapid charger takes 31 minutes to 80 per cent, or 15 minutes to 186 miles. A full charge on an 11kW AC wall-box takes ten hours.
I was also impressed with the Alexa-like ‘Hey, Mercedes’ when I asked it to carry out tasks. Maybe the robots really are taking over.
Demand drives soaring prices
Used car prices rose by more than 30 per cent last month to an average of £17,816 — with some increasing by more than 50 per cent when comparing like for like.
The biggest top-ten price jumper year-on-year in December was the Seat Alhambra, now costing an average £19,038, the Auto Trader retail price index reveals.
Seat to believe it: The biggest top-ten price jumper year-on-year in December was the Seat Alhambra, now costing an average £19,038
It was followed by: the Renault Grand Scenic (average £10,152), Skoda Octavia (£16,826), Ford S-Max (£15,142), Skoda Yeti (£12,739), Ford Focus (£15,475), Land Rover Defender 110 (£81,857), Hyundai i30 (£13,963), Toyota Yaris (£13,647) and the Ford Grand C-Max (£12,189).
Price hikes have been driven by Covid and a global computer chip shortage delaying deliveries of new cars — which has increased demand for used vehicles.
In December the average asking price of a ‘nearly new’ vehicle (those aged less than 12 months old) rose by 45 per cent compared with the two years prior in December 2019, reaching an average price of £34,429.
Richard Walker, Auto Trader’s director of data and insights, said the used market ‘is on track for strong continued price growth well into the second half of the new year’.
‘The two main factors fuelling this growth, supply constraints and strong consumer demand, both show no signs of easing any time soon.
Claims of an imminent bubble burst are failing to take these key dynamics into account,’ he added. The rival CarFinance 247 used car price index also reported ‘double-digit annual growth’.
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