First drive review: 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG brings luxury to the performance EV

Mercedes’ AMG performance arm excels at drawing prodigious power from internal combustion engines, especially rowdy V-8s, then tuning a car or SUV around that power. With the move to electric propulsion, AMG now turns its attention to electric motors and the skateboard platforms that house them, starting with the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG.

While it’s not actually the first electric AMG—that distinction goes to the limited-run SLS Electric Drive revealed in 2012—the EQS AMG is the first mass-market electric AMG. It also sets a new standard for luxury and performance in an EV package.

Like the EQS sedan it’s based on, the EQS AMG rides Mercedes’ EVA2 group platform for electric vehicles. It’s a skateboard packed with battery cells and set upon a four-link front axle and a multi-link rear axle. Also like the standard EQS, the AMG version uses an air suspension with adaptive dampers.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

We found the EQS’s suspension to be one of its greatest strengths. It delivers the smooth, controlled ride we expect in a Mercedes and seldom get in an electric car. However, AMG upgrades the suspension in the EQS AMG to add some more fun to the equation.

AMG tunes the suspension for performance. Each damper features two externally mounted pressure-relief valves like those found on the latest AMG GT 4-Door Coupe. One valve controls the rebound damping and the other the compression damping. By making them separate, they can afford greater control and allow a wider spread between soft and firm.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

The structure is also enhanced. The front subframe and motor mounts are specific to the AMG EQS, while the rear axle beam has been reworked for AMG duty. The stabilizer bars, wheel carriers, and control arms come from other AMG models.

On the road, the ride is firmer and more controlled than the notably soft EQS, but the car still feels like an electric version of an S-Class. Its main strength is an ability to smooth over the sharper edges to always deliver a comfortable ride.

My drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles included a drive through the mountains outside of Palm Springs. In the esses and switchbacks, the EQS AMG leaned slightly into corners then took a set to carve through them better than a car this big and heavy should. Mercedes hasn’t provided full specs, but the curb weight has to approach 6,000 lb considering the EQS 450+ weighs 5,888 lb. Keeping the battery’s weight low helps here, as does the standard rear-axle steering with up to 9 degrees of rotation at speeds below 37 mph.

The all-wheel-drive system reacts to the chosen drive mode. Comfort mode draws most of the power from the front motor, while the balance moves toward the rear in Sport and Sport+ modes. I chose Sport+ for the mountains for the best throttle response, the firmest damping, and a rear-drive feel through the all-wheel-drive system.

The steering is light, stable, and fairly quick, but between the steering and suspension, the EQS AMG doesn’t offer nearly as much road feel as the Porsche Taycan GTS I drove a few days earlier.

It does, however, have as much or more power, and the EQS AMG performs better in a straight line than it does in corners. A pair of permanent magnet motors, one on each axle, team up for 649 hp and 700 lb-ft of torque. AMG upgraded the motors with new windings, stronger currents, and new inverter software that all create higher rotational speeds and thus more power.

A boost function available in the standard AMG Dynamic Plus package’s Race Start (think launch control) mode increases output to 751 hp and 752 lb-ft for short bursts. Preliminary pictures of cars with EQS AMG 53 insignia and graphics like the one above that list the car as the EQS AMG 53 4Matic+ make us believe an even more powerful version is on the way, perhaps called EQS 63 or 73. Horsepower could reach 800 or higher.

Drivers will have to get used to this new type of power delivery. It’s well modulated at low speeds and when driving in everyday traffic, and toggling the steering wheel paddles cycles among three brake regeneration settings, which vary from freewheeling to nearly one-pedal driving.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

Stomp on the throttle in any mode or regen setting and things get exciting. A motor on each axle gives the car all-wheel drive that sends the ready and waiting electric torque to the pavement as your back sinks into the seat and the car rockets forward. The EQS AMG can hit 60 mph from a stop in just 3.4 seconds in Race Start and reach a top speed of 155 mph. I never activated Race Start, but the power still thrilled every time I dug deep into the throttle.

The same can’t be said of the brakes. The main problem we have with the standard EQS is a mushy brake pedal. The pedal feels firmer here, but it’s still too soft and the blend of regenerative and friction braking can be unpredictable, sometimes requiring additional pressure to come to a stop. That’s a shame because the car has plenty of stopping power from big 15.4-inch front rotors with 6-piston calipers and 14.9-inch rear rotors with single-piston calipers. Buyers can even opt for carbon-ceramic brakes with massive 17.3-inch front rotors, but we’d take better feel over racetrack-ready brakes.

AMGs are known for their loud exhaust notes and AMG has a solution for that in the electric era: the sound system. Using loudspeakers and subwoofers, the EQS produces sound both inside and out of the car in an unobtrusive Authentic mode and a more noticeable Performance mode that breaks down further into Balanced, Sport, and Powerful settings. The Performance modes create a sound similar to the hovering flying saucer I experienced in the Taycan GTS. Like that car, the sound changes to match the throttle position, but here it’s quieter, even in its loudest Powerful setting.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

The standard EQS’s 107.8-kwh battery pack provides the power for the EQS AMG’s motors. It uses a 400-volt electrical architecture and can charge at up to 200 kw. That’s less than cars with 800-volt architectures, but it can still add 186 miles in 19 minutes, based on the European WLTP standard, according to Mercedes. Choosing Comfort mode unlocks maximum range and efficiency, which tops out at 277 miles. AMG also reconfigured the battery management system to optimize it for the car’s AMG-specific Sport and Sport+ modes.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG

The cabin has some AMG elements as well. Standard front sport seats feature a mix of leatherette and microfiber with red stitching, and nappa leather is optional. The leather-wrapped AMG steering wheel feels right with its small diameter and chunky rim. The star of the interior show is the 56-inch Hyperscreen dashboard comprised of a 17.7-inch central touchscreen and dualing 12.3-inch touchscreens for the driver and front passenger all under a single pane of glass. It gets AMG-specific screens that show performance information, including lap times.

From the outside, the look reads as understated compared to other vehicles from Affalterbach. The plastic front panel that resides where a grille would be does its best to mimic AMG’s Panamericana grille with silver vertical strips. The front splitter and side sills are coated in gloss black, and the rear bumper has a diffuser. Standard AMG-specific 21-inch wheels fill the wells, with 22-inchers optional. It’s all smoothed out to the tune of a very slippery 0.23 coefficient of drag.

The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS AMG doesn’t qualify as a sports car, but then again, neither has any AMG S-Class. It’s big and comfortable with lots of power that thrills in a straight line. It adds some much-needed luxury to a fledgling luxury market, and it proves that AMG can do more than just futz with V-8s.

Mercedes-Benz provided travel and lodging for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.

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