It’s an overcast day in Forsyth County, at the perpetually under-construction Halcyon mixed-use district, and Mercedes-Benz USA is letting Regular Joes like me tear around in $120,000 cars for free. A friendly, masked marketing associate asks if I have a driving preference.
“Yes,” I say. “The fastest model you have, please.”
This hullabaloo at Halcyon—Falcons’ cheerleaders and Freddie the Falcon are here, the latter goofing off and photobombing everybody—is warranted. Mercedes-Benz, which opened its North American headquarters in Sandy Springs three years ago, has been manufacturing automobiles since 1886. But the futuristic, extremely aerodynamic rides they’ve lined up near the Village Green and Cherry Street Brewpub are the first all-electric Benzes ever offered in the United States. So, they’ve launched a 20-city tour to exhilarate/entice people and educate them on what “the pinnacle of electric luxury” is all about. Some dealers are taking orders for the Mercedes-EQ line this fall. And some test-drivers at Halcyon and a similar Las Vegas event a week prior, I’m told, have been placing orders for the EQS Sedans on the spot. That’s despite base-trim prices starting at $104,000 (the EQS 450+ model) and $119,000 (the EQS 580 4MATIC).
I’ve opted for the latter. Not because it’s fancier, but because it has not one—but two!—electric motors described by the company as “permanently excited.” For auto wonks out there, that means a whopping 516 horsepower and 631 pounds of torque—enough to snap back your head, typically, like that g-force explosion at the beginning of Space Mountain. But like many battery-lugging EVs, these Benzes are heavy, outweighing some Ford F-150 models by 1,500 pounds. Which helps explain even the fastest model’s somewhat unimpressive 0-to-60 mph time, per the manufacturer: 4.1 seconds. For context, that’s only a blink faster than my six-year-old, family-friendly, four-cylinder little sedan.
Nonetheless, I open the door of a navy-blue EQS 580 model with mid-level “Exclusive” trim, sink into the cream-colored, ventilated leather, grab the gorgeous (and not exhaustively busy) steering wheel, and say into my recorder, “Damn.”
A product specialist rides shotgun and starts going over adaptive functions and efficiency systems—but I can’t pay attention. The dashboard is that transfixing. It’s from another planet. It’s the IMAX theater of car interiors, with a 56-inch Hyperscreen display—currently the largest in the car industry—that includes a 17.7-inch, centralized OLED with surreal clarity. Next to this, every Tesla I’ve ever been in is an Atari (sorry, Elon).
As Bruno Mars croons through a crisp Burmeister sound system, we pull out of Halcyon onto Forsyth’s smooth, serpentine roads. The steering is probably the lightest I’ve ever felt. You could drive this with a toothpick, as you’d expect from what’s essentially an S Class hopped up on algebra. (The camera system is recording and filing away footage, in case there’s an accident and you need proof the other guy was an idiot; that’s if the Mercedes’s autonomous driving sensors would even let that happen.) We slow down and come to a clear stretch of road, and it’s time for the true EV test. I lift my right foot to mash the accelerator, and . . .
Let me preface this by saying my perspective is tainted. For another journalistic assignment, I recently drove Porsche’s first EV—the Taycan Turbo S—at that company’s North American headquarters in Atlanta. That particular Taycan, while also refined (and twice the price), is less about plush comfort than brut, monstrous, unbelievable speed. Tap your fingers on a table three times. That’s how long it takes the Taycan to go from a standstill to 80 mph—sucking your breath away, blurring the outside world, burying your skull into the driver’s seat, and obliterating your sense of metaphysical purpose in the most joyous, giggle-inducing way imaginable.
Of course, Mercedes’s first electric cars don’t do all that.
But the EQS 580’s torque is immediate and phenomenal. With no internal-combustion engine, and no shifting gears, it’s less of a fast drive than a thrilling, adrenalized glide. Given the illegality of going full-throttle for too long on public roads—at rush hour no less—I couldn’t let the sedan fully eat, but it certainly felt faster than a 4.1-second car. Especially in “Sport” mode with the more intense “Vivid Flux” manufactured sound piped in, like an aggressive, almost extraterrestrial hum. The car is firmly planted, of course, but surprisingly nimble for all that weight. My adolescent, recorded reactions include, “Oh yeah!” and twice, “Whaaaa!”
We turn back toward Halcyon, and I recall the most impressive stats of the experience: Even the faster model will travel 340 miles—say, from Atlanta to Jacksonville—on a single charge. And with one push of a button on that gigantic dash computer, the car will identify more than 60,000 charging points in the U.S. and show you how to get there, where the fastest chargers will boost the batteries back to 80 percent full in about a half-hour.
As I muse to my copilot, with that many charging options, and with a little patience, this sumptuous, cloud-on-wheels German automobile I’m driving would make for one amazing crosscountry trip. Kind of like a boat, she suggests. That’s right: a fine, pricey boat on a lake of glassy water that stretches on forever—or at least down to Jacksonville.