MIDDLEBOROUGH, Mass. – During last week’s initial discussion of vehicles driven during the 2023 New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) Winter Car (#NEMPAWINTERCAR) of the Year evaluation in Middleborough, Mass., I concentrated on the hybrid-electric (HEV and PHEV) and battery-electric vehicles (EV) within my sample. This week I will wrap up my descriptions with a look at three additional vehicles: an EV (the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580), a PHEV (the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4XE), and a gasoline-fueled beast (the Ford Raptor R).
This annual program brings together the media members of NEMPA to drive some of the award contenders, of which 30 were on hand.
Mercedes-Benz EQS 580
The German luxury-vehicle manufacturer has begun moving towards an electric future with recent introductions of both sedan and sport-utility (SUV) variants where batteries replace fuel tanks. The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4Matic represents the top of the SUV line.
This is a large mid-size – 201.8-inches long, 126.4-in. wheelbase, 6,228 pounds — five-passenger SUV, with a more rounded-at-the-edges, more modern shape than older Mercedes-Benz SUVs.
The interior was more aircraft-cockpit like than traditional motor vehicle. The dash – and interior – were dominated by the MBUX Hyperscreen which combined a 12.3-in. OLED passenger display, a 17.7-in. OLED central display and 12.3-in. instrument cluster display into more than 40 inches of display surface providing everything from navigation maps to 360° camera information to infotainment control (as well as vehicle-system settings). It was impossible during a 15-mnute drive to experience the full potential of the MBUX system (I imagine doing so would take weeks of ownership, at least).
Four-zone climate control system; heated/ventilated front seats (heated ones in the rear); heated steering wheel; augmented-reality head-up display; infotainment system with Burmester® Sound System with Dolby Atmos; heated windshield, and panoramic tilt/sliding moonroof were among the included interior features.
Amongst the systems controlled through the central screen are the extensive advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) which includes PRE-SAFE®; active-brake assist; PARKTRONIC with surround-view system; active blind-spot assist; active lane-keeping assist, and driver-assistance package.
Motivating this futuristic machine were a pair (front and rear) permanently excited synchronous motors producing 536 horsepower and 633 pounds-feet of torque. Quick and silent as well as supremely comfortable and highly maneuverable (10-degree rear-axle steering helping in tight spots) come to mind when thinking about the EQS experience. At the start of my drive three event guests jumped in and as we traversed Middleborough’s streets, exclaimed it was “like riding in a limousine.”
The full ride would be restricted to less than 300 miles as the 108.4 kWh battery pack is rated at providing 285 miles of range with a fast-charge of 31 minutes (from 10-80 percent) or a Level 2 of 12.5 hours (0-100 percent). These are fairly common numbers for all-wheel drive, dual-motor vehicles of this size and power. The price for this thoroughly modern machine is north of $132,000.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4XE
The mostly white 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4XE looked dapper, sophisticated amongst the vehicle crowd with its black top-hat like roof. Inside, leather upholstery, a dashboard filled with displays and electronic controls throughout further belie the off-road capabilities of this Jeep. It may look like an elegant, hi-tech SUV, but it can still more than hold its own in the outback when the terrain becomes difficult.
The most interesting aspect of this vehicle is indicated by the 4XE designation which indicates it is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). This was the second Jeep 4XE I drove that day after sampling the Wrangler Rubicon 4XE described in last-week’s post.
Both Jeep PHEVs are rated to use far less fuel than their gasoline-only siblings. The Grand Cherokee’s 56 MPGe (combining electric and gasoline usage) is more than double that of operating on gasoline alone (23 mpg overall; 19 urban and 26 highway).
It is also one of the most powerful Grand Cherokee models as the combination of the 2-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with electric-motor reinforcement produces 375 hp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque.
The combination provides terrific power – virtually instantaneous acceleration from a dead stop (thanks to the electric motor making up for any turbo lag which might occur) – which comes on smoothly, without any drama.
Inside, the Summit Reserve trim level, which starts at $72,595 and as tested totaled $81,380, includes sumptuous fittings like leather upholstery, Uconnect® 5 infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as navigation; massage feature in both front seats; four-zone automatic climate control system; 19-speaker hi-performance audio with 950-Watt amplifier; night vision; head-up display and seat heat/ventilation front and rear.
The ADAS roster is extensive including adaptive cruise control; electronic-stability control; active lane management; full-speed forward-collision warning plus; surround-view camera system; blind-spot and cross-path detection; side-distance warning; road-sign recognition; intersection collision-alert, and pedestrian/cyclist emergency braking.
Ford F-150 Raptor R
And then there was a vehicle I drove just for fun. I have posted several revues of the Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck family and — regardless of whether it was a hybrid version, the all-electric Lightning or the original Raptor with six-cylinder engine – have been impressed by all of them. So, I was excited to try the latest addition to the iconic range, the Raptor R which is powered by a 5.2-liter, supercharged V8 engine which puts 700 hp and 640 lb.-ft. of torque through its 10-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive system.
The unmistakable burble of a V8 can be heard even in Ford’s quiet Supercrew cabin (massive room for five, with more real legroom than just about anything this side of a stretch limo).
Stepping on the loud pedal brought immediate action, pulling with strength from the first stop sign, but, again, the limited roads of Middleborough never really allowed me to stretch the Raptor R’s legs. Car and Driver was able to properly put the truck through its paces and achieved super-car-like 0-60 miles per hour times of 3.6 seconds! And the 6,000-pound-plus truck, not the most aerodynamic vehicle, hit 100 mph in 9.1 seconds.
This unique, top-of-the-range pickup comes with a price to match, approximately $112,000, and extensive comfort, convenience, ADAS features, as described in other F-150 reviews.
Like all of the other vehicles I was able to sample, the F-150 Raptor R left me wanting more time behind the wheel and the chance to really get to know it.
My choices for Winter Car of the Year
When the driving was done, I sat down for a bite to eat and to cast my vote for NEMPA’s Winter SUV, truck, sedan and EV of the year. My choices were based not on this one-day of driving, but on the reviews I had done during the past 12 months. My choices:
SUV – Kia Sorento
Truck – F-150
Sedan – Genesis G70
EV – Hyundai Ioniq 5
All were difficult because the competition is superb. The SUV vote could have easily gone to the Kia Sportage hybrid or Hyundai Tucson hybrid or Mazda CX-50; the Truck to the Ram 1500, and the EV to the Genesis GV60, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV as well as the Kia EV6.