Luxury’s new dawn Mercedes re-invents the limousine – electric, silent, forward-thinking and impossibly handsome. By Jake Groves.
New car debrief
Forget the EQC and the plug-in hybrids Mercedes has released over the past two years – it’s the all-electric Vision EQS Concept that marks the real start of the three-pointed star’s bid for battery-electric domination. The four-seater is a gorgeous preview of Mercedes’ future in the luxury sector, with a zer0-emissions production version due in 2022 to sit alongside, rather than replace, the S-Class. Where the EQC hedged its bets, using a modified platform designed to take engines, the EQS is designed from the battery up as an EV. What’s more, the ideas showcased here will trickle down to smaller, future electric Mercs – the EQS’s platform can be adapted with different wheelbases and track widths.
Due in 2022, the EQS will complement rather than replace the Mercedes S-Class.
But the range-topping electric saloon will be first. While large luxury cars aren’t big sellers – and their popularity is dwindling as the super-SUV booms – they are flagships, and as such remain important to Mercedes and other premium manufacturers. They’re driven by leaders of industry and heads of state, and they exist in part as a shop window for a car maker’s mastery of design and engineering. Generations of S-Class have debuted innovative tech.
It may be a relatively small market, but the limo sector is one Mercedes leads. It sold 40,390 S-Classes globally between January and August 2019: down from 49,493 in the same period last year, but still more than Audi, BMW or Jaguar. And Mercedes sees an opportunity to extend that lead by offering an electric saloon together with the S-Class, giving the choice of plug-in or internal-combustion powertrain.
Underpinning the Vision EQS is the skateboard-like EVA2 platform. It has a 100kWh underfloor battery pack from Daimler’s Accumotive subsidiary, offering a range of around 435 miles. An optimistic 350kW charging capability allows for around 80 per cent charge in less than 20 minutes. With one motor at each end, it’s all-wheel-drive, with power and torque output circling 470bhp and 560lb ft. A 0-62mph sprint of 4.5 seconds and 124mph top speed are claimed. Expected battery ratings are 68, 80 and 110kWh.
The cab-forward design and CLS-like curves of the Vision EQS’s body certainly differ from the classic limousine silhouette of an S-Class. Design elements include lighting all around the exterior, featuring a black front ‘grille’ that houses 940 individual LEDs arranged in a 3D configuration and designed to communicate with other road users via sweeps of light.
Mercedes is taking the idea of non-verbal communication seriously as the future of near-silent, potentially autonomous cars approaches, investigating how to use light in different areas of a car to reassure pedestrians that they’ve been seen, for instance. Naturally the interior of the Vision EQS doesn’t hold back on the showy concept-car fireworks. It’s shaped to allude to yachts, and includes the skinny, rose gold-plated air vents first witnessed on the production EQC. The infotainment screen, meanwhile, rises at an angle from low down in the centre console. A version of that central screen will make it into production when the current S-Class is updated.
Mercedes insists sustainability is now one of its core values. In the case of the EQS, that involves not only zero CO2 output but also extensive use of recycled materials in the cabin, including ‘ocean waste’ plastic employed in the roof lining.
‘The image of the motor car in society is changing more dramatically than ever,’ according to chief designer Gorden Wagener, speaking at Mercedes’ recently-opened new design centre in Nice, France.
‘The luxury of today is definitely not the luxury of tomorrow. A Mercedes is the sum of many parts, almost like a mosaic – every little stone possesses a unique feature, then you stand back and see a picture, a piece of technological beauty,’ he claims. ‘You shall see when we bring the car to market that we’ve really thought through the sum of all of these features.’
The 2022 production version of the Vision EQS will be the flagship for a line-up of 10 fully electric cars expected from Mercedes, including an EQA hatch and EQE saloon, plus EQB and EQC 4x4s, joining the recently launched EQC.
The future of the large luxury car might be uncertain, but with the EQS production car set for 2022, BMW due to spin off an electric version of its 7-series and Jaguar announcing that its recently-axed XJ will return as an EV in a few years’ time, there might just be life in the limo yet.
And the S-Class/EQS double act isn’t Merc’s only high-end gambit. CAR understands that the Maybach sub-brand could soon be unveiling a production SUV, offering plutocrats a highrise version of extreme luxury. At the moment Maybach is a badge deployed mostly on concepts, plus a mega-plush version of the S-Class sold in the USA and China.
Dramatic cabin possible when there’s no transmission tunnel. Holographic lenses can send messages to other road users.
It’s painted like the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class sold in some markets, but this is the Electric Vision EQS Concept, built on the new EVA2 platform. Expect a production version to be offered alongside the S-Class initially.
WHAT THE RIVALS A REPLOTTING
Jan-Aug ’18 sales: 10,700
Jan-Aug ’19 sales: 13,428
Rumours circle about Audi killing off the A8 entirely, with product planners favouring an electric A9 based on the e-Tron GT concept. If an internal-combustion A8 does survive past 2021, the next gen will lean heavily on the Porsche Panamera.
Jan-Aug ’18 sales: 34,115
Jan-Aug ’19 sales: 27,382
Like Mercedes, BMW plans to split its limos into 7-series and all-electric i7 derivatives for the next generation, with similar design cues to the upcoming i4 (pictured). It’s likely to be less dramatic than the EQS/S-Class mix. Expected in 2023.
Jan-Aug ’18 sales: 3961
Jan-Aug ’19 sales: 3145
Jaguar has confirmed that the XJ will live once more, this time as an EV built at Castle Bromwich, with production starting in 2021. Like the EQS, the XJ will use its electric powertrain to up the luxury: near-silent performance and acres of interior space.