Mercedes-Benz will expand the EQS electric-car lineup in the 2023 model year with a new EQS SUV. The battery-powered crossover promises a lot—perhaps 350 miles of battery range or more, emissions-free driving, a palatial interior with a relentlessly informative set of displays dubbed Hyperscreen—and after a first ride along in the vinyl-disguised crossover, we think it also promises to put a sell-by date on the Alabama-built gas-powered GLS and GLE crossovers, too.
The third vehicle on Mercedes’ new electric-car architecture after the EQS hatchback and mid-size EQE, the new EQS SUV will be one of nine electric Benzes available in markets around the world. When it begins production of the new crossover, Mercedes will also christen its new Bibb County, Alabama, battery factory, just a few miles down the road from its Tuscaloosa assembly plant. Mercedes’ Alabama plants, then, will build all the EQE and EQS SUVs for the world. To make room for the new electric twins, Mercedes has moved out production of the C-Class; the EQS and EQE will share the factory with the GLE-Class and GLS-Class, the spiritual successors to the gas-powered ML-Class that first came off the Tuscaloosa assembly line in 1997.
Those vehicles wrote the storied history that established Mercedes as a maker of SUVs. The EQS SUV will completely change what that means. Why? It’s simple: the power of batteries is better suited for the entire range of SUV driving.
Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV hot weather testing
The EQS SUV shows its sand-dune skills in hot-weather testing in Nevada.
Electric cars make for the ultimate drift machines because of the copious controllable power, as we’ve witnessed in Porsche Taycans and Ford Mustang Mach-Es alike; at the other end of their operational spectrum, very fine and precise power control also makes electric cars ideal off-road machines. The EQS SUV teases at its potential as my Mercedes pilot José picks his way between pines, ascends gravel paths, and fords a small stream as we cruise a basic off-road trail set up in the woods south of the Tuscaloosa plant.
I say cruise because the EQS SUV seems essentially unflustered. It’s raised in an off-road mode, but its adaptive suspension and especially, its 10-degree rear-steer technology, make threading between the trees an anxiety-free trip. That latter talent will give the EQS crossover great parking-lot maneuverability, too. It moves so silently the twigs snapping under its wheels make more noise than its hard-working motors.
The well-damped ride and tight turning circle are critical to its luxury mission because, with an electric G-Class coming for hardcore off-road clients, the EQS SUV will cater to the softer side of the brand’s reputation. While I’m chauffeured through some Alabama woods I probably hiked when I worked at this very plant in 1996, the EQS SUV absolutely smothers a raft of six-inch logs lashed together as a makeshift bridge. Even though it has home-court advantage, it still points toward a serene driving experience on any surface.
Its capability will have to be pressed further on an actual test drive, but in terms of luxury, the EQS SUV can be readily assessed as glowing. It seems poised to relegate other electric SUVs to coach class: The Benz not only has the gizmoriffic 56-inch Hyperscreen system of digital displays, it also has available Dolby Atmos sound, a HEPA cabin-air filter, even its own distinct scent for its fragrance dispenser, an earthy concoction dubbed No. 6 MOOD mimosa. (No fart noises! No overwrought door mechanisms! It’s like it’s 2022 and not eternally eighth grade.)
2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV interior
It does that all with three rows of seats that can carry up to seven passengers and up to four sets of golf clubs, according to Mercedes, surrounded by metallic-ringed round air vents, wood-paneled console and doors, and synthetic leather or true leather upholstery, not to mention the live streaming entertainment on the screen in front of me in the passenger seat. The newly permitted feature is possible thanks to a driver-side camera that shuts off the display—in this case, playing footage of an EQS SUV undergoing hot-weather testing in Nevada—whenever the driver’s eyes veer to watch it.
Cushioned from whatever ground it rolls on by air springs, padded over with close-grained leather, glossed to a high polish with square feet of digital displays, the EQS SUV isn’t done yet—not with a probable Maybach edition already in the cards, if concept-car dreams play out in reality. That Maybach EQS SUV concept offered up two regal rear seats, 24-inch wheels, two-tone paint, power-extending door handles, white and blue leather, and enough chrome to resuscitate the Pontiac brand almost single-handedly.
We’ve seen almost all of the crossover, but Mercedes will peel back the remaining vinyl covers from its new electric EQS SUV on April 19th. The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV will roll off the Tuscaloosa assembly line late this year, with the Maybach version and a mid-size EQE electric SUV to follow. If our first ride-along indicates anything, it’s that the forward propulsion here isn’t just a part of the EQS SUV drivetrain—it’s becoming embedded in the bona fides of the Mercedes brand itself.
Mercedes-Benz provided a hotel room and access to executives and factories for this story.