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Tested: Mercedes EQS concept car

Australian first drive

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This might just be the world’s shortest but most fascinating road test.

We’re behind the wheel of the Mercedes EQS concept car, a vehicle that points to a hi-tech future, but for now must be handled with care.

The Mercedes EQS took centre stage on the Mercedes stand at last year’s Frankfurt motor show.

It was designed to demonstrate what a future electric Mercedes limousine might look like, inside and out.

We’re at the back of Essendon airfield, adjacent to a hangar that houses private jets. Our test takes place on a 200-metre patch of concrete that leads to a taxiway. We get to lap it a couple of times, having accumulated probably 500 metres at best.

There’s no 0-to-100km/h test times allowed and no swerving through safety cones, because this is a hand-built car that was never meant to be ‘driven’ – other than on and off a truck and a display turntable.

The windows are perspex and the doors must be opened by the car’s helpers who use a hidden switch; there are no door handles inside or out.

The carpet flooring slides from under your feet as you get in because it is just a felt cover that has been affixed with double-sided tape. It looks great in the photos but was never meant to have a queue of media hop in and out as if it were an Uber.

The top of the steering wheel is missing because it’s a design theme, not intended for proper use, which is telling as the car has (I’m guessing) double the turning circle of a standard vehicle. Those 24-inch wheels and tyres look the business, but there’s a trade-off.

So we can’t tell you much about the ‘drive’ itself other than it creaked like a piece of old furniture – as all concept cars do – even when driving it carefully, no faster than 30km/h in a gentle figure eight pattern. Just enough to get photos of the car in motion.

And, like all electric cars, it was otherwise eerily silent.

More interesting is the fact sheet and what Mercedes promises are the capabilities of the showroom version.

The Mercedes EQS electric limousine, when in goes on sale within the next two years, promises a 700km driving range between recharges, able to fast-charge to 80 per cent battery capacity in 20 minutes, and has a 0-to-100kmh time of 4.5 seconds – Porsche 911 pace.

While not everyone will be able to afford this model (think $200,000-plus) the Mercedes EQS is part of the company’s plan to have a carbon-neutral passenger-car fleet 20 years from now.

Its current expectations are to have plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles to comprise more than half its sales globally by 2030.

Meanwhile, the design itself is said to provide a rather large clue to the design themes coming to future Mercedes models – not only the electric cars.

For example, the 360-degree “digital light belt” (a thin blue light bar that surrounds the cabin from the dash, doors and behind the rear seats) could be coming to top-end Mercedes-Benz’s some time soon, as could the “floating” centre console which sweeps up seamlessly into a digital touchscreen.

The entire interior, with four individual seats separated by a continuous centre console, is said to have been inspired by luxury yachts. That may be the case, but with so much white leather to mark, it’s clearly not designed to accommodate kids.

Digital light technology front and rear gives designers more freedom to come up with unique touches, although we’re not sure the tiny Mercedes stars that comprise the awesome tail-light arrangement will make it to production.

For the tech geeks, in total the Mercedes EQS concept car has 940 individual LEDs controlled by 188 circuit boards. The emblem in the grille is digital too, and designed to look like a holograph.

And so with enough photos in the bag to create the perception of ‘driving’, our brief time with the Mercedes EQS comes to an end.

It was incredible that Mercedes allowed a bunch of hacks behind the wheel of such a priceless piece of motor show art, even in a controlled environment.

Clearly the journey to an electric-car future is now as important as showing the world that you’re well on the way.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a concept car only, and with only limited driving time, we have elected to leave this review unscored.