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Car review

A gentle giant: Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 AMG

After reading that driving big SUVs turn you into a bully of the road, Sean O’Grady took one out for a test drive. He found the transformation was quite the opposite – you end up having to be extra-considerate and generous

Saturday 02 December 2023 06:30 GMT
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The Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 AMG is big, but the styling helps belie that bulk. It even ‘vaguely fits’ on a motorway
The Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 AMG is big, but the styling helps belie that bulk. It even ‘vaguely fits’ on a motorway (Justin Leighton)

Doing some research on X, formerly Twitter – and soon to be bust if Musk is to be believed – I came across this rather trenchant opinion about the fashion for Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs): “People who drive SUVs are entitled, arrogant scumbags who use the threat and size of their vehicle to bully pedestrians and cyclists into submission. Prove me wrong.”

Well, fortunately I’ve recently been in possession of one of the biggest SUVs readily available in Europe, the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV, so I’m in a fine position to debunk that particular notion from practical experience.

It has high quality materials and an excellent blend of touchscreen, dash and steering wheel controls (Justin Leighton)

In this context, size is everything. Because there is (as yet) no statutory limit on the weight or dimensions of an electric SUV, and because the punters like ‘em big and with a long range, the manufacturers build them with huge, and hugely heavy, battery packs.

So, this elegant Mercedes-Benz has a kerb (basically unladen) weight of 2,805 kg, and an official Gross Vehicle Weight (car plus passengers/cargo) of 3,375 kg. So, let’s call that about three tons – or approximately five original/classic Minis.

So it’s fat, it’s (vaguely) round and it bounces on the ground a bit with its lovely air suspension, and that’s a problem because, with the best will in the world, it’s going to make its presence felt on our pot-holed roads (no sign of that HS2 money, btw) and the tyres will be shedding that much more rubber into the air.

The EQS can be pretty athletic, with more than adequate acceleration and top speed (Justin Leighton)

It’s the kind of thing that happened during the age of the dinosaurs – no natural predators or shortage of foodstuffs meant that there was nothing to prevent the Brontosauruses and the like expanding until the laws of biophysics meant they hit a natural limit. As some of the electro-pickups in the US demonstrate, those physical limits are yet to be reached.

So it’s big, the EQS SUV: about 5 metres long, 2 metres wide and almost as tall. But the styling helps belie that bulk. All Mercedes “EQ” electric models now get a friendly looking smoothed-out grille rather than the aggressive in-your-face look reserved for their petrol and remaining diesel models. Pronounced swage lines along the sides make the flanks much less slab-sided, and the coupe roof line makes it seem almost svelte.

The 560 version will give you supercar performance, but the ‘base’ 450 should meet anyone’s needs (Justin Leighton)

But there’s no getting away from its road presence. Now, I can’t say what it does to other road users, but driving it, even on the motorway, where it vaguely fits, made me a rather more cautious considered driver. Precisely because there are so many SUVs around now, and cars have been getting steadily more bloated for decades, almost all our other roads are congested simply by having a few vehicles parked on each side of a street.

For the EQS SUV driver this means you have to exercise maximum attention to oncoming traffic, like a bus driver would, and anticipate other road users as they approach you. Now, an extensive external camera system and parking sensors mean that you could safely reverse for miles if you had to, you’d naturally prefer not to; and therefore pulling in a couple of hundred yards before a meeting point, to let the other car through, becomes the normal reaction.

The range is a realistic 300 miles, and it’s a very potent alternative to a Tesla Model X (Justin Leighton)

So far from bullying anyone, you end up having to be extra-considerate and generous. The high driving position helps you see the lie of the land. Your driving style is equally gentle with cyclists and pedestrians and, as I say, the full complement of driver assistance and accident-avoidance software means you really shouldn’t be bullying anyone.

A gentle giant, then, and, if you can find some space to stretch its legs (you yourself have all the legroom you need), it can be pretty athletic with it – more than adequate acceleration and top speed, plus just about enough smart software and well-tuned suspension to prevent any loss of dignity. The sheer bulk does tend to deter you from pushing it too hard.

There’s the option of another couple of pop-up seats in the back, giving it capacity for seven people (Justin Leighton)

For the rest – and that is a lot of car – it is a proper Mercedes-Benz – high quality materials and build, excellent blend of touchscreen, dash and steering wheel controls, the prestige badge and all the equipment you’d ever wish for. The boot is so vast (even with the super large battery) that there are electric controls just inside the tailgate for you to lower the back seats, because they’re so far away.

THE SPEC

Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 4MATIC Premium Plus AMG

Price: £129,470

Propulsion: Two electric motor, front and rear, powered by 108kWh battery

Power (hp): 360

Top speed (mph): 130

0-60 (seconds): 6.0

Economy (Wh/mile): 341

Range (miles): 300

CO2 emissions: 0

As you’d expect, there’s the option of another couple of pop-up seats in the back, giving it capacity for seven people. Like its superb EQS saloon sibling, this SUV kills distance more effectively than any train. That’s not anti-public transport by the way, it’s just a fact.

The range is a realistic 300 miles, and it’s a very potent alternative to a Tesla Model X, and most other rivals, leastways until Range Rover brings out an EV.

The 560 version will give you supercar performance; but the “base” 450 should meet anyone’s needs – and at £129,470, so it should.

They are all behemoths, and personally I’d rather our cars were shrinking, but the people inside aren’t (necessarily) entitled arrogant scumbags. Quite the opposite.

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