Blissful silence at speed gives way to a sinister roar under hard acceleration. A plush ride belies uncharacteristic agility for such a large, heavy vehicle. And a gorgeous cabin with fine materials matches up with performance-focused interfaces. In other words, the 2022 Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 is precisely what we expected of Affalterbach’s first electric vehicle.
As firsts go, the AMG EQS is an expected triumph, matching the future of propulsion with the high-performance character the company has refined over generations. But more than that, the first AMG is the latest sign of how serious legacy automakers are about shifting to electrification. This is not a trend. This is not a fad. It’s the next generation of German high performance, and it’s here to stay.
While Motor1.com strives to rate every vehicle we test, Mercedes-AMG has not released pricing on the EQS 53 and the EPA hasn’t released an estimated range. We’ll attach a rating once that information is available. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.
Gallery: 2022 Mercedes-AMG EQS: First Drive Review
This is the first all-electric AMG, but the company’s approach here is the same as on any gas-powered vehicle: dramatically improve straight-line performance, increase the emphasis on handling and driver involvement, upsize the brakes, focus the driver interfaces, adopt aggressive styling, and add a host of performance-focused technology and drive modes.
AMG took the standard EQS’ twin electric motors and tweaked the internals and software, increasing output from 516 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque in the 580 model to 649 hp and 700 lb-ft here. The sprint to 60 miles per hour falls from 4.1 seconds to 3.8 in most drive modes, but an available Race Start from the standard AMG Dynamic Plus pack adds an overboost function that temporarily increases output to 751 hp and 752 lb-ft while slashing four-tenths of a second from the run to 60.
This is the first all-electric AMG, but the company’s approach here is the same as on any gas-powered vehicle.
The standard air suspension and adaptive dampers benefit from AMG tuning, but engineers also replaced the entire rear subframe, as well as the motor mounts, control arms, rear axle, and wheel carriers. Rear-axle steering is standard, allowing the rear wheels to turn up to 9 degrees in either direction – that’s a degree less than on the standard EQS, owing to the larger wheel/tire pack (21s standard, 22s optional). Six-piston front calipers clamp down on massive 17.3-inch discs (with optional carbon-ceramic units), while AMG upped the electric motors’ maximum recuperation from 290 kilowatts to an even 300, giving the 53 stronger regenerative braking.
And of course, there are the technological tweaks. AMG dropped the Eco drive mode in favor of a Sport Plus setting, in addition to the Slippery, Comfort, Sport, and Individual options. Retuned for AMG duty, theSport and Sport Plus settings send more torque to the rear axle than in the standard EQS, while they also increase the delta between the softest and firmest suspension settings compared to Comfort. In addition to those presets, AMG made it easy to independently tweak the powertrain behavior, suspension firmness, and EV soundtrack from the Drive Mode screen in the standard 56-inch Hyperscreen.
And speaking of the sound, AMG engineers made substantial tweaks, fitting specific loudspeakers, a subwoofer under the driver’s seat, and a sound generator to make accelerating in the EQS both easy on the ears and almost as immersive under full lick as a combustion engine. Set to the most aggressive of the three modes, the EQS sounds and feels like an AMG should. Take a listen:
While the EQS AMG is down on power and is, as a result, slower to 60 than the Tesla Model S Plaid, Lucid Air, and Porsche Taycan Turbo, a 3.4-second sprint is still pretty damn brisk for a 5,900-pound luxury sedan. It takes a single stab of the AMG EQS’ accelerator pedal to realize this, as speed builds with all the immediacy and uninterrupted viciousness we’ve come to expect in a modern EV – and that’s before you attempt a Race Start. The EQS’ performance is effortless and, more importantly, repeatable. Sport and Sport Plus kick the cooling system, which features AMG-specific structural tweaks on the cooling circuit, into gear earlier.
Not that thermal issues were on our mind during the drive. As we climbed Banning-Idylwild Panoramic Highway, temperatures plunged from the relative warmth of Palm Springs as snow and ice appeared on the side of the road. But with the twin electric motors providing all-wheel drive, we were still able to explore the AMG EQS’ surprisingly high handling limits.
The EQS 53 splits the difference between the more relaxed Tesla Model S and the Porsche Taycan, a legit four-door sports car. Much of the credit goes to the standard rear-axle steering – on twisting roads, it’s easy to forget about the 205.3-inch length or 126.4-inch wheelbase, or even the substantial curb weight as the rear wheels aid in cornering and figuratively shrink the EQS.
AMG’s aforementioned work on the broader suspension yields a perfect balance between ride and handling. There’s a fair amount of body roll – which, yeah, you’re throwing three tons of mass through a corner – but the EQS is so well mannered that it’s more a matter of smoothing out your inputs than reducing your corner entry speed. But judging entry speeds is difficult because the AMG 53 is so fast and so stable – combined with the vague brake pedal and ambiguous steering feedback, we had trouble gaining confidence on twisty roads.
Get away from the twisty roads and drive the EQS in a more civilized manner, and it will reward you with the same refined driving experience as the non-AMG model.
The brakes were especially disappointing, because despite the immense stopping power of the available carbon-ceramic units, judging inputs was difficult. We couldn’t dial in the right amount of pressure to drag the brake pedal between corners and set ourselves up in the relaxed way we intended. Instead, we alternated between late and aggressive inputs and the strongest of the three regen levels for gradually bleeding speed between bends.
Get away from the twisty roads and drive the EQS in a more civilized manner, and it will reward you with the same refined driving experience as the non-AMG model. The ride is excellent, even with the suspension in its most aggressive setting. There’s little vertical body motion, while the air springs and adaptive dampers quash even substantial potholes and imperfections. Our only ride quality complaint is some noticeable tire slap over expansion joints from the larger wheels and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.
The EQS 53 is the first all-electric AMG, but it won’t be the last. Mercedes-AMG nomenclature dictates that a more powerful “63” model is likely, and that’s essential to understanding modest styling changes that maintain base car’s 0.23 drag coefficient. That upcoming model will feature far more aggressive styling, although the EQS 53 still stands out, albeit in low-key ways.
That starts at the front, where a new treatment adorns the non-functional grille. The chrome slats tie the EQS 53 in with its AMG brethren. Gloss-black trim on the lower front fascia, the AMG side sills, and on the rear bumper make for a sportier stance, aided by the model-specific 21- or 22-inch wheels. On the rear deck, designers ditched the regular EQS’ available AMG Line spoiler for a larger unit.
The cabin also draws from the AMG playbook, replacing the standard steering wheel with a flat-bottomed unit that sports a thick, well-padded rim. It’s a delightful item. And while the touch-capacitive controls on the spokes look like other new Mercedes products, we get the sense engineers tweaked the software behind them. The controls were more responsive, and we had almost no missed inputs during testing. AMG-sourced seats are a healthy upgrade over the stock chairs, with larger bolsters doing a better job of holding both driver and passenger in place.
But beyond these AMG-specific changes, the EQS 53 is every bit as impressive as the standard model. The material quality is immaculate, as is the fitment. The massive Hyperscreen and its three OLED displays, the MBUX infotainment suite, and the advanced (and standard) suite of active safety equipment all contribute to an intelligent driving experience.
What We Don’t Know
While the AMG EQS 53 should arrive in dealers in early 2022, Mercedes still hasn’t released pricing, and there are several questions about the range. The EQS 53 shares the broader EQS family’s 200-kilowatt DC charge rate, although the only info Mercedes has released on that front is that it can add 186 miles of range (on the WLTP cycle) in 19 minutes.
But even with these question marks, our brief test in southern California was enough to prove that AMG is as serious about the move to EVs as its parent company. This first electric AMG is a stellar balancing act between past excesses and future performance, but more impressive is how it feels so thoroughly like a product from Affalterbach despite the radical shift in propulsion. If you were wondering how performance brands like AMG would make the shift to electrification, the EQS 53 provides the answer, doing the same thing AMGs have done for years.
EQS 53 Competitor Reviews:
- Lucid Air: Not Rated
- Porsche Taycan: 9.0 / 10
- Tesla Model S: Not Rated
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