L&L Automotive

Mercedes-Benz Hertfordshire

Mercedes-Benz Logo

The land of fire, ice and electricity. An Icelandic first drive of the EQS SUV.


Words and images by Ken Pearson 


Iceland. One of the most spectacular places on earth with a landscape that could make you believe that you have landed on another planet - it's no wonder that nearly every car manufacturer brings new models here to get press shots. During my visit in January of this year, the usually black lava-dominated landscape is temporarily decorated with four times the amount of snow than is required to bring the entire United Kingdom to a standstill (about four inches).  


This wonderful island is, to me, a mixture of extremes; the sun doesn't set throughout June but in January there is only six hours where the sun makes its way above the horizon. The sky can be crystal clear and offer unparalleled views of the Aurora Borealis or it can be a panorama of thick white clouds carpeting the earth below with snow and ice along with 90 mph winds.  



The car culture is as fascinating to me as the breath-taking scenery thanks to a heavy American influence throughout the 20th century; with a United States Air Force and Navy presence until 2006 at Keflavík - also the country's international airport - there were a lot of cars that made their way over to Iceland along with the servicemen and women who staffed the base and carried out thousands of intercepts of Soviet aircraft that found their way into Icelandic airspace.  


The sounds of big V8 engines in classic Mustangs and Corvettes are joined by burbles from Silverados, F-150s and F-350s; there is at least one Dodge Ram SRT-10 in the country. These classic noises are contrasted by a swelling number of plug-in hybrid and electric cars on the roads with the market share for electric cars being the second highest in the world, only trailing Norway. Naturally, government policy helps the take-up but with its unique positioning on the European and North American tectonic plates, the country creates 99.98% of its power using hydro and geothermal generation. There is a constant surplus of electricity which makes charging an electric car much cheaper than filling a petrol or diesel car with imported oil.  


This, combined with the rapid turnaround of manufacturer's line-ups to include electric cars has led to a surge in demand for battery powered cars in all corners of the market. Ten years ago, a Mercedes-Benz was a relatively rare sight on Icelandic roads but fast-forward to 2023 and I lost count of the number of EQA, EQB and EQCs I spotted floating around Reykjavík.  


All of this leads me to visit my friends at Askja, the operators of the one and only Mercedes-Benz passenger car dealership in the country. It is a wonderful showroom which has recently been overhauled and brought up to the latest standards that the three-pointed star has set. There are nine cars on display and only two of them feature engines; a white GLE and a black G 400 d. The other models make up the entire EQ range from EQA to EQS and I get my first glimpse of the new EQS SUV which we are yet to see in our Hertfordshire showrooms.  




The first thing to say is that it looks better in person than in the photos; the seemingly blunt and tall nose has more of a soft, rounded shape to it than I'd expected. It also, surprisingly, looks a little smaller than the launch photos would have you believe and takes up more real estate than a GLE but not quite as much as the GLS which requires its own postcode wherever it's parked. 


The model in question is an EQS 450 4MATIC in the Iceland-specific Progressive trim finished in grey with a macchiato beige interior and 21" two-tone wheels. It looks powerful, modern yet familiar at first glance - feelings that are echoed when the humungous doors are opened to reveal an equally cavernous interior that seems like it has enough space to park an airship within it. The EQS SUV in the showroom isn't the only one in the country though - along with the examples that have been delivered already, there is a demonstrator to which I am invited to try.  


I'm hardly going to say no, am I? 


The bright silver model I find myself with the keys to is in the POWER (a brilliant equipment level name, by the way) trim which is broadly similar to the AMG Line models we get in the UK but with the addition of the night package and the Mercedes star interior trim that I wish was at least an option for our home market. Four days of a rented "Volkswagen Golf or similar" (read that as Hyundai i30 Estate) had me missing my C-Class daily driver at this point, so you can imagine how nice it felt to get back into a leather clad interior with an enormous star on the steering wheel. The cabin feels as good as it looks with soft materials everywhere, easy to reach adjuster switches for the electric front memory seats with heating and ventilation and two perfectly placed armrests. Space and the sense of space available is truly vast with a commanding view of the road surface and good visibility thanks to large glass surfaces all around.  



The second row also features electrically adjustable seats which can also fold out of the way at the touch of a button to allow access to the sixth and seventh seats on row three. I didn't try these out on this occasion but the EQS SUV is able to carry adults on all seven seats. The floor is completely flat and low so there is nothing other than a natural seating position to enjoy on row two; headroom is more than plentiful with enough space above to allow you to leave your bowler hat very firmly on.  


What I'm keen on doing though, is finding out what the EQS SUV is like to drive - admittedly in more challenging conditions than we ever face in Hertfordshire. 4MATIC all-wheel drive from the twin electric motors makes light work of getting this 2.8 tonne behemoth moving; traction levels are high and the car remains sure footed as the snow turns to ice before relenting to the freshly cleared tarmac roads. 


The electric motors deliver 360 hp and 800 nm to the wheels which can launch the car towards the Esjan volcanic range that overlooks the capital with enough force to dislodge some of the snow from the roof, or gently and truly effortlessly encourage the car up to the speed limit. When slowing down, having two electric motors to harvest energy makes for much, much smoother regen and braking than in the car's rear wheel drive, single motor stablemates. Whilst the brake pedal still needs a bit of work doing to it, the response from the motors under acceleration is smooth, easy to modulate and their ghostly presence contributes to an almost silent drive. I say almost because the Burmester surround sound system is able to play two synthesised driving noises that I can only describe as what I imagine a microwave's thoughts to sound like. 




Either way, having an electric hum to match what the powertrain is doing could be seen as a gimmick as it's far louder and more intrusive than the engine in a GLS but it is a nice gimmick to have nonetheless. The only other sound I can pick up in the cabin is the sound of me sighing from pleasant relaxation and the occasional beeping from the omniscient blind spot assist warning me of a wayward Mitsubishi Pajero. The ride is truly sublime with a long wheelbase and four comfort-oriented air springs to make it feel as though there are no bumps bigger than a USB stick on the ground. Top marks for ride and refinement, I must say.


Through industrial estate roads narrowed with snow banks and 90 degree turns, the EQS SUV does a brilliant job of hiding its size thanks to the 10.5 degree rear axle steering. The rear wheels being able to turn to such an extent in the opposite direction to the front gives this 5 metre long car the turning circle of an A-Class; it only feels like a big car when you check over your shoulder to see that your blind spot is very far away from you. The roads once again turn from tarmac to ice and then to snow and I park the EQS SUV next to Askja's demonstrator fleet of Mercedes-EQ models with a few thoughts to chew over.  


I knew what to expect from an SUV based on the EQS and that was to be an SUV equivalent of the EQS. That said, it would be fairer to refer to this car as an EQS+ because it takes the EQS as a base and builds on it; more space, greater comfort, superb visibility and improved driveability thanks to the twin electric motors...take the SUV part out of the name and the car makes sense to me as one of the finest luxury cars available today - regardless of fuel type, ride height and body style. In short, the EQS SUV realizes all the potential that came with the EQS limousine.



 Til samstarfs vina minna hjá Öskju. Takk fyrir síðast og fyrir að leyfa mèr fyrstum að keyra bílinn! Óska ykkur alls hins besta og við sjáumst fljótt á ný.

Got a question on the EQS SUV from Mercedes-EQ? Please fill in the below enquiry form and our team will be in touch with you soon.

We are committed to protecting and respecting your privacy. Read our privacy policy to understand how we use your data safely