The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept glides along the track at the company's Immendingen Test Center in southeastern Germany like it's been in development for years, rather than 18 months. Such a short gestation for a concept car is not unusual, but the EQXX is not your typical concept.
More a rolling test bed draped in the fineries of an auto show debutant rather than your typical fragile, hand-built concept, the Vision EQXX previews the future technology and philosophy of Mercedes' electric vehicles. Last month, the EQXX completed its second ultra-long-range, single-charge journey. That 747-mile trip from Stuttgart, Germany, to the UK's Silverstone Circuit bettered a 621-mile drive in April from Sindelfingen, Germany, to Cassis, France.
And now I was taking it on two 10-mile jaunts around the Immendingen facility. For anyone that thought extreme range demanded extreme sacrifices, the effortlessly refined and rich EQXX says otherwise. At the same time, Mercedes has proven that current mass-market EVs have barely scratched the surface of electric efficiency.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept: First Drive
One For Work
Efficiency was the literal name of the game. Rather than just setting me loose on a loop that was designed to mimic two-lane roads and highways in various countries, Mercedes challenged me and the other media in attendance to complete the route in the most efficient manner possible. With Dr. Julien Pillas, an electric drive system engineer and one of the pilots that drove the EQXX from Sindelfingen to Cassis, riding shotgun, I was intent on winning.
But efficient driving is far more than simply being gentle on the accelerator (although that's a big part of it). It means avoiding the mechanical brakes and their lightweight aluminum discs in favor of motor regeneration. Unlike the EQS and EQE, which have three different regen settings – strong, normal, and off – the EQXX adds a stronger-than-strong mode that provides substantially more stopping power.
Avoiding the brake pedal means the wheel-mounted paddle shifters are effectively my brakes. Tugs on the left increase regen and the opposite reduces it. The good news is that the EQXX is never more than three pulls of the paddles from maximum or no regen, so making rapid adjustments is a cinch. And even with Strong or Stronger (shown as “D-” or “D- -” in the digital cluster) regen, the accelerator pedal is immensely easy to modulate.
But more exciting is what happens when you let the aerodynamics work. There's a tendency to only consider the impact of drag on wind noise and when maintaining speed in a highway setting – a low CoD generates less wind noise and requires less fuel to hold a constant speed – but the EQXX proves how a sleek body allows long-distance coasting.
Accelerate gently, deactivate regen, and lift off the pedal to feel the EQXX almost surge forward on pure momentum. Once that fades, gravity takes over – the body manages the air so well that the EQXX gains speed on even the slightest downhill grade. On multiple occasions, I had to reintroduce some regen to keep below Immendingen's GPS-monitored speed limits, which varied from 60 to 100 kilometers per hour (37 to 62 miles per hour) on the route.
Mercedes' aerodynamics work is a combination of novel and familiar. In the latter category, an air curtain on the leading edge of the front wheel wells channels air to a breather on the trailing edge, reducing turbulence from the semi-flush magnesium rollers. The coke-bottle shape and excessively long tail are also familiar aerodynamic aids. But the EQXX benefits from other newer touches.
I managed to eke out a consumption figure of just 7.4 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers (8.4 miles per kWh), beating the 7.9 kWh/100 km (7.9 miles/kWh) of Mercedes test driver.
For example, there are adaptive aerodynamic aids at both ends of the car, including a deployable rear diffuser that's as extreme as any dinner-table-sized rear wing. The rear track is 2.0 inches narrower than the front and keeps the back tires flush with the tapered rear end. Active shutters in the front fascia and a cooling plate in the underbody manage air flow without compromising cooling (supremely important with an air-cooled battery pack)
This ability to coast almost endlessly was key to the EQXX's journeys from Germany to Cassis and Silverstone, and it was equally important during my test. I managed to eke out a consumption figure of just 7.4 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometers (8.4 miles per kWh), beating the 7.9 kWh/100 km (7.9 miles/kWh) of Mercedes test driver on the same stretch]. That said, my average speed was about 5 kph (3 mph) lower than Mercedes’ own test driver, so I’ll call this contest a draw.
Still, the EQXX was nearly three times more efficient than the production EVs I usually test. But even if I wasn't driving in such a pokey way, most of my colleagues recorded efficiency figures in the 8.0 to 8.5 kWh/100 km range (7.8 to 7.3 miles/kWh) while driving nearer the 49-kph average Mercedes saw along the same route. Those consumption figures aren't far off the 8.3 kWh/100 km Mercedes recorded driving from Stuttgart to Silverstone.
One For Fun
On a second run around Immendingen, I was able to drive the EQXX a bit more like I would my own personal EV. In short, if you don't care about saving electrons, neither does the EQXX. It's like the best grand tourers in the way it hides its extreme capability until called upon. Weighing in at 3,858 pounds and packing a single rear-mounted electric motor with 241 horsepower, the EQXX has more power and a lower curb weight than the single-motor versions of the Polestar 2 (231 hp and 4,396 lbs) and Volkswagen ID.4 (201 hp and 4,568 lbs). Heck, the EQXX's power-to-weight ratio is better than an EQS 450.
The Vision scoots along happily when given a boot full of pedal, at one point dispatching a brisk run to 100 kph while traveling uphill with surprising authority. It won't win any acceleration contests with Tesla Model S Plaid or a Porsche Taycan, but the performance is equal to almost any other single-motor electric vehicle on the road.
If you don't care about saving electrons, neither does the EQXX. It's like the best grand tourers in the way it hides its extreme capability until called upon.
The ride quality is, as Senior Editor Brett T. Evans noted in his ride-along, on the firm side. But I didn't mind it, as the EQXX felt like it found a happy balance between the performance-focused stiffness of a mid-range AMG with the focused ride quality of a mainline Mercedes model. Road noise from the super-skinny Bridgestone tires is noticeable, but without wind noise, powertrain sound, or even the radio you'd find in a production EV, I was expecting more tire roar.
I couldn't push the EQXX too hard through corners – priceless concept car problems, I know – although the steering seemed well weighted. But despite the stiffness of the suspension, the EQXX didn't handle with the usual poise I'd expect of a Mercedes. The weight felt poorly balanced, even if the center of gravity was super low, and as a result there was more body motion than expected. Still, I doubt Mercedes put in the kind of time tuning the EQXX's handling as it did the powertrain. After all, this thing came together in just a year and a half.
See The Future
It's easy to get wrapped up in the EQXX's world-beating range and efficiency. And I'll admit, I spent a lot of time dwelling on that. But as I write this a few days after my drive, all I'm thinking is how completely that misses the picture. Yes, it can go a long way on a single charge, but Mercedes could have achieved that with a huge battery.
Instead, the EQXX is a mission statement, test bed, and design and engineering inspiration that will serve as a roadmap for the future. The lessons the company learned, both during development and with its two single-charge road trips, will shorten the time from conception to production and result in smarter, more efficient EVs. The EQXX is named Vision because that's exactly what it will provide as the automaker prepares for the future of motoring.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX Concept