DENVER—Looking back five years, I’m not sure anyone would have quite predicted where the electric vehicle market was headed. Cars like the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model 3 appeared to point toward mass-market EVs becoming more and more common. Instead, EVs have gone further upmarket, with sales prices pushed higher and higher by a combination of supply shortages, massive batteries, and a frothy market of collectors fighting automotive FOMO.
It’s not really that surprising, given that profit margins for big luxury cars are much larger than for small, mass-market ones. Which is why everything looks so expensive, as both startups and established automakers bring their first EVs to market. Like the Mercedes-Benz EQS for example, which is a highly aerodynamic electric alternative to the S-Class sedan that impressed us when we tested one earlier this year. Now we’ve tried a more extreme version of that car—the $147,500 Mercedes-AMG EQS sedan.
Like other car companies, Mercedes is in the process of figuring out what electrification means for all its various divisions, and that includes AMG. Originally an aftermarket tuning company, Mercedes-AMG GmbH has been entirely owned by the Germany automaker since 2005 but still continues to work its tuning magic on mercs, including some technology transfer from its all-conquering Formula 1 program.
The Mercedes-AMG EQS sticks to the twin-motor layout of the EQS 580. They remain permanent magnet synchronous motors, but with new windings that allow for greater current. The control software has been rewritten, too, all with the goal of allowing the motors to spin faster and therefore deliver more power. In this case, 649 hp (484 kW) and 700 lb-ft (949 Nm) by default, with bursts of 751 hp (560 kW) and 752 lb-ft (1,109 Nm).
Delivering that much more power requires asking more of the 107.8 kWh (net) battery, and so the faster powertrain is somewhat less efficient, shaving the EPA range estimate down to 277 miles (446 km), although that’s a figure others have found conservative in testing.
In practice on a mix of roads around Denver, I averaged 2.5 miles/kWh (24.9 kWh/100 km) on a car wearing 22-inch wheels. I probably could have bettered that by staying in comfort mode, which optimizes range, but in sport and sport+ modes, AMG-specific battery wiring and battery management prioritize power delivery over range efficiency. And why bother with an AMG unless you’re going to drive it in sport and sport+ modes?
AMG has also fettled the suspension compared to the regular EQS. There’s a new rear beam axle, along with a new subframe and new motor mounts and other components like wheel carriers and control arms that can also be found on other AMG models. And there’s AMG-specific software controlling the air suspension, which uses separate valves to control compression and rebound.
The upshot is a quicker 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 3.4 seconds, which feels very fast for almost everyone. But it doesn’t feel as fast as some other similarly priced EVs—a Tesla Model S Plaid would show it a clean pair of heels, as would a Lucid Air Grand Touring. Or a Porsche Taycan Turbo. And a Taycan or Audi e-tron GT definitely feels more nimble on a twisting road, despite the AMG EQS’ rear-wheel steering, which can add up to 10 degrees of steering angle at the back wheels to increase low-speed agility and high-speed stability.