Taking Mercedes-Benz EVs for a test drive

The $150,000 AMG EQS felt heavy and powerful, luxurious and high-tech

Cruising around Las Vegas in a nearly $150,000 Mercedes-Benz electric vehicle is not how I expected to spend an evening during the recent CES international tech show.

I drive a 14-year-old Toyota Prius with about 250,000 miles accumulated from years of driving all over metro Atlanta and beyond to cover air travel snafus, city council meetings and union picket lines. Any kind of luxury vehicle is well out of my price range and incongruous with my vibe.

But an assignment is an assignment — so into the driver seat of a Mercedes AMG EQS I climbed for a test drive. It starts at $147,500 and feels like I mistakenly entered into an exclusive club with leather paneling and fancy mood lighting.

The Mercedes AMG EQS is among the many electric vehicles gaining attention from existing and potential EV drivers.

Automotive technology was a top draw at CES 2023, which had more than 115,000 attendees at multiple venues. General Motors, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis and Hyundai are among the automakers that showed up at CES to show their latest models and technology.

Georgia is becoming an auto industry hub, with the U.S. headquarters of Mercedes-Benz in Sandy Springs, Porsche Cars North America headquarters in Atlanta, a Kia factory in West Point, a BMW training center in College Park, a Hyundai EV plant planned 40 miles west of Savannah and a Rivian EV plant planned an hour east of Atlanta.

So this reporter — in spite of being far from a car aficionado — was assigned to check out some of the EVs offered up for test drives during CES.

Mercedes-Benz offered the EV test drives during CES as part of a broader test drive city tour that will go to Seattle, Chicago, Dallas in the next couple of months. The company says the experience includes “immersive education to help you understand both the benefits and feasibility of owning an electric vehicle.”

Inside a Mercedes AMG EQS for a test drive.

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

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Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

To me, driving electric vehicles today feels a lot like driving a regular car, perhaps with better acceleration, a smoother ride and the additional consideration of when or where to charge. For day-to-day commuting and driving, many EV owners simply charge their car up at night and save time by not having to stop by gas stations to fill up.

Long road trips are where there’s more strategizing needed. The industry is still in the process of building out an EV charging network that would make it easier to drive longer distances or across the country.

Mercedes-Benz announced at CES that it will build its own electric vehicle charging network across North America that will be open to all car brands, with plans to complete it by 2027. It also plans to roll out charging networks in Europe, China and other markets, with a full charging network in place before the end of the decade when it plans to go all-electric.

The AMG EQS has a range of 277 miles, and can add 186 miles of range with a 15-minute charge, according to Mercedes-Benz.

Range anxiety is a key barrier to buying an EV, but is often less of a concern for those who actually own EVs. A AAA study found that the 95% of EV owners said they had never run out of a charge while driving; 77% said they were concerned about range before they bought an EV but became less concerned or no longer concerned after buying one.

A study led by Ohio State University associate professor Nicole Sintov and published in the February 2023 edition of the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that test driving an electric vehicle can increase the way people identify as early adopters of technology — making it more likely they will buy an electric vehicle.

“What we found is that EV test drives have a lot of potential to change how people think of themselves – and that was linked to increased intention to buy,” said Sintov, whose focus is behavior, decision making and sustainability.

The Mercedes-Benz EV test drives have been “extremely beneficial in terms of educating consumers and driving sales,” according to Monique Harrison, head of brand marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA. “Drivers are curious about electric offerings, but with that curiosity can come important questions to consider before making the switch to electric.”

I can’t say I was ready to shell out $150,000 for a new car after my test drive.

But driving a higher-end EV reinforced that automakers are looking to convert a wide range of drivers to EVs — not just those concerned with saving money on gas, or driving a distinctive EV brand like Tesla or Rivian.

The AMG EQS does not spare on luxuries to which well-heeled customers have become accustomed. As soon as I sat in the driver seat, I noticed my head was resting on a soft, cushy pillow. My seat had a massaging function that kneaded my back as I drove. A digital “Hyperscreen” spanned the entire dashboard, including a screen for the passenger with their own controls and entertainment.

The lights of Vegas were a fitting backdrop to driving around in an electric Mercedes. The AMG EQS felt heavy and powerful, luxurious and high-tech.

Among the other vehicles I test drove was a Mercedes EQE, a mid-sized electric sedan with a range of up to 305 miles, starting at $74,900. It drives more like my trusty old Prius, and that’s at least a bit closer to my speed.