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Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

First Drive: The new 2024 Mercedes-Benz eSprinter is everything an electric van should be without the fanfare

Many companies, from established automakers to fresh upstarts, view the quandary of last-mile transportation as a business opportunity best solved by electric vehicles. And now, the big dog of van life has jumped into the fight: Mercedes-Benz with an electrified version of the popular Sprinter vans.

The obvious advantages of stop-start efficiency, low-speed torque, and compact drivetrain packaging make vans something of a perfect use case for electric utility. And not just to help Jeff Bezos earn another penny or two on every Amazon Prime one-day delivery, since mobile detailers, handymen, contractors running a handful of local projects, and even private buyers might view this new electric van as a solid solution. To show off the eSprinter’s capabilities and range, Mercedes-Benz recently invited select media out for a test drive around Southern California.

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Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price & specs

Base price:$71,886 (standard output)
As-tested price:$75,316 (high output)
Motor/battery choices:Single permanent magnet synchronous motor w/ 113 kWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery pack
Transmission choices:single-speed
Drivetrain choices:rear-wheel drive
Power:134 horsepower (standard), 201 horsepower (high output)
Torque:295 pound-feet (for up to 30 seconds)
Weight:6,746 lbs
Top speed:75 mph
10-80% fast charge time:42 mins (at 115kW)
Range:approx. 273 miles

eSprinter exterior design

Other than branding on early vehicles that Mercedes-Benz brought to Newport Beach for media testing, the eSprinter flies under the radar next to ICE vans. And that’s kind of the point: avoiding any of the frill or futuristic styling that more consumer-focused EVs might prioritize to woo any early adopters unless that’s your jam like the Koreans would like to hope.

The big Benz logo on the front hides a charge port, so the eSprinter lacks a fuel filler door. But even the open grille allows airflow to support an impressive cooling management system that combines the drivetrain and climate control circuits to best maximize range and battery life cycles. Otherwise, the sliding side door, double rear doors, and high roof all create a familiar profile.

What’s hot?– Electric drivetrain is perfect for urban delivery or work vans
– Mercedes’ expertise and engineering at work
– Peppy and quick below about 50 mph
– Planted handling helps make this big van eminently easy to drive
– Just enough range for some freeway cruising

eSprinter pricing breakdown

A base eSprinter starts at $71,886 with a 113-kWh battery, a 170-inch wheelbase, and a 100-kW electric motor powering the rear wheels. The battery pack and exterior dimensions remain the same across the lineup, though an optional high-output 150-kilowatt motor bumps that sticker up to $75,316.

The rest of Benz’s planned options pricing remains something of a mystery. On other vehicles, the MBUX infotainment system typically runs between $1-2,000, but keep in mind the eSprinter’s version will include specific navigation software that takes into account traffic and charging stops, even elevation topography to better estimate potential range remaining. Other eSprinter options will include the choice of dual bucket seating layouts or different access configurations for the rear cargo area.

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Mercedes will build the eSprinter at a plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, which may make government incentives and rebates possible for buyers in the right income bracket.

Pricing and destination, however, totals $2,295—not an insignificant number, and likely attributable to the eSprinter’s serious size.

eSprinter interior and tech

In something of a surprise, but one that also makes sense, the eSprinter’s interior can best be described as Spartan. Maybe the Benz logo suggests another rung up the luxury ladder versus Ford’s E-Transit, the eSprinter’s main competitor at this point, but the design hews more closely to the utilitarian ethos. Severely upright seats that require a choice between legroom or seat recline especially prove the point—for drivers jumping in and out constantly rather than taking long road trips, presumably, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

The steering wheel will look familiar to anyone who owns a Benz, but for construction workers or delivery drivers, getting used to haptic buttons will require an adjustment period. Whether the buttons can sense finger movement through work gloves also remains a mystery. Plenty of cupholders and room for central storage, at the very least, round out the compact front cabin.

In terms of tech, the optional MBUX gets those aforementioned EV-specific helpers, displaying range remaining, navigation, and drive modes in addition to the standard media screens. A perfectly serviceable, happily basic gauge cluster also provides a minimum and maximum range estimate, as well as displays for power output and regen, plus battery state of charge and speed. Using paddles on the steering wheel shifts between five different regen modes, from “D-” for the closest to one-pedal driving all the way to “D++” to allow for full coasting.

A variety of configurations for the front seats include dual buckets, a driver’s bucket, and a single passenger jumpseat with a narrow door to the rear cargo area in between, or a driver’s bucket with a double bench for two passengers—the latter requiring a solid wall blocking access to the cargo area.

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

In the back, the eSprinter’s large canopy and compact electric drivetrain packaging allow for a 79.1-inch standing height at the center of the 173.6-inch-long bed. A variety of tie-downs and shelf mounting points dot the floor and walls, respectively. But in another surprise, the rear does not include any power outlets for powering tools or accessories. Benz reps on site in Newport suggested that upgrade will almost certainly arrive for later model years.

SUV: Sport Utility Van? Not quite…

For drivers accustomed to either gasoline or diesel-powered Sprinter vans, the eSprinter’s 201 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque might sound a bit underwhelming (and that’s the high output motor’s rating). But first things first, rest assured that the little e-motor does just fine. Low-end torque means that pulling off the line at a stoplight or stop sign requires just a bit of light toe into the go pedal (can’t call it “throttle” here). Though power dies off a bit from there, once wound up, the eSprinter accelerates most happily from about 30 to 50 miles an hour.

Note that Benz mounted a 440-pound box in the cargo area to allow journalists to mimic tools or packages for delivery. Meanwhile, the modular low-slung skateboard chassis (which all Benz vans will share starting in 2026) helps to prevent body roll and top lean much better than on ICE Sprinters. But that composure comes at a cost, mainly felt when harsh reverberations jolt up into the van while rolling over pitted road surfaces or speed bumps.

Still, the eSprinter is surprisingly easy to just get in and drive. At 92.3 inches wide without mirrors, the tall sidewalls squeeze through traffic without much concern for the overall 280-inch length, and the rear tires even track closely to the fronts thanks to a 170-inch wheelbase. Visibility sometimes presents a challenge, though large rearview mirrors and blind-spot monitoring help a ton.

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Playing around with electric drive modes

Once accustomed to the sheer size and speed of the eSprinter, fiddling with the three drive modes came next. Starting in “Comfort” allows full access to every last horsepower and pound-foot of torque, but dropping into “Eco” or “Maximum Range” cuts max output to 100 and 80 kilowatts, respectively. The difference is immediately noticeable, especially at low speeds in Maximum Range mode where full “throttle” all day becomes necessary. In reality, does that then save range versus driving as economically as possible? Sounds like a game that employers can play with employees.

In each drive mode, the “+” and “-” paddles on the steering wheel can then toggle between five regen settings. With “D++” selected, the eSprinter coasts almost more smoothly than an ICE car, with zero engine braking. Three steps down to “D-” and the van almost approaches one-pedal driving, but not quite. 

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

For those eagle-eyed readers keeping track of their abacuses, D- to D++ only adds up to four regen settings—correct, because holding the + paddle also activates “D-Auto,” which allows the eSprinter to adjust regen based on the scenario to maximize range. The concept sounds good, taking the onus away from flawed or distracted humans, but in execution, D-Auto requires serious attention while used in traffic because the rate of regen changes from moment to moment.

The lack of one-pedal driving, meanwhile, makes a lot more sense within the context of last-mile deliveries. After all, if a driver in one-pedal mode comes to a stop without touching the brake, they might then forget to put the eSprinter in Park before hopping out and dropping off a package. Not ideal, from both logic and liability standpoints.

In Comfort mode with full power available, the eSprinter can get up to highway speeds just as fast as average traffic. The top speed of 75 miles per hour means employees don’t have to risk incurring their employer’s wrath after getting a speeding ticket, though reaching that pace creates a fair amount of wind noise within such an upright vehicle.

On other electric Benzes, reducing NVH clearly took far more of a priority during the development process. Not so for the eSprinter and that Spartan ethos. Even the leather seats seem fairly firm—though, in another surprise, also very well bolstered for a confirmed non-sports car. Maybe with all the climbing in and out, the seats will break in more, though the walled-off cargo area means that taller drivers definitely face a tough choice between knee room and back comfort.

Real-world range performance

Range performance clearly took a higher level of priority than M-B’s more standard silent and sumptuous interiors. And the eSprinter absolutely delivered over the course of 100-plus miles in traffic and on the highway around Newport, despite confirmed journalistic drag racing.

Part of the impressive range performance for such a large, aerodynamically inefficient van comes down to effectively managing the battery and inverter temps, so a nifty setup that combines the routing for coolant used in climate control and drivetrain components probably plays a big part in maintaining accurate range estimates.

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Mercedes-Benz’s research indicates that the average delivery van travels much less than 100 miles per load anyway, so the eSprinter’s claimed ability to drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on a single charge should do the trick just fine. But a few shortcomings do arrive due to the electric drivetrain, as well. Mostly a significantly reduced payload compared to ICE Sprinters, officially rated at 2,624 pounds or less than half of a gas or diesel van. The lower number stems from the batteries making up more of the official Gross Vehicular Weight Rating, though if the batteries actually weigh 1,007 pounds as Benz claims, the math doesn’t quite add up.

A few other practical questions arose in Newport, too, in addition to the payload and whether haptic steering wheel buttons can sense work gloves. No, Benz currently has no plans to build an all-wheel-drive dual-motor eSprinter. Outlets in the rear will almost certainly arrive later, as will a fully open cockpit and cargo layout with no wall divider behind the seats. 

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And most importantly for a company running eSprinters as delivery vans: charge times. Benz claims the eSprinter can manage a 10-80% charge in 42 minutes, which falls in line with the large battery pack. The lithium-iron phosphate battery itself also uses zero cobalt or nickel to help reduce the environmental impact of mining rare-earth minerals.

And yet, the eSprinter maxes out at only 115-kW charge speeds, so the best fast charging stations will need to throttle back. That’s a bummer because two drivers working together can probably pack in another load of boxes and reach the max payload faster than the van can top up on electrons. Presumably, the guesstimated drive routes under 100 miles for each delivery run fit into this equation, as well.

What’s not?– Not particularly comfortable seats
– Needs 120-volt outlet(s) capacity in the cargo area
– No all-wheel-drive version in the works
– No wide open layout so far

Built to satisfy very specific use cases

Mercedes-Benz eSprinter
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

In many ways, the eSprinter seems catered to very precise use cases rather than satisfying the full gamut of the van market, from utilitarian delivery spec to uber-expensive overlander platform. But the electric drivetrain kind of cancels out camping or overlanding as a market segment, anyway. 

Without a doubt, the few production-line vans in Newport showed all the quality expected from Mercedes-Benz, and pricing seems just about right for the commercial buyer. More refinement, increased range, and more configurations will almost certainly arrive in years to come. But for now, Benz clearly waited this long to make their first step into the electric van game a strong one.

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VW Golf GTI (top left), Mazda CX-5 (top right), Corvette C8 (bottom left), Mercedes Sprinter van (bottom right)
Best CarsFeaturesHot Takes

These are the best cars we’ve driven

What qualifies a vehicle as being among the best? Is the best car the one with the ferocious powertrain, that zips from zero to sixty miles per hour in the shortest amount of time? Or is the best car the one that lasts the longest with the least amount of maintenance required? For some people, the best car is the one with the most luxurious interior, the highest towing capacity, or the roomiest cabin for the price. Because everyone has different criteria, rather than embarrass ourselves attempting to narrow a car recommendation for every type of person down to a tidy list of 10, we’ve chosen instead to please no one by telling you about the cars we feel are the best, based on our own experiences.

Sure, we’ve driven faster, more expensive, and more technologically advanced cars. But this is a consensus rooted in pure subjectiveness. It’s not about what cars we’ve driven were the most innovative or groundbreaking, and it certainly isn’t about the cars we found to be the most practical. This group show-and-tell by the Acceleramota team is all about which cars are nearest and dearest to our hearts after some time behind the wheel, no matter the length of the stint or the circumstance in which we drove them.

What’s the best car you’ve ever driven? Let us know in the comments.

Jeric Jaleco: Ford Mustang Shelby GT350

Image credit: Ford

The market has seen its fair share of spectacular driver’s cars, but only once in a blue moon does one really scratch that itch. Or at least my itch for something catering to my mixed tastes, having coveted cars like the E92 BMW M3 and Shelby GT500. The Shelby GT350 is among that elite bunch and the perfect combination of their philosophies in my headcanon. And listen, I’m not one to incessantly bemoan the loss of purist machines from years past, but this glorified rental car proves they just don’t build sports cars like they used to and probably never will ever again.

The GT350 launched to widespread acclaim for pretty much being the second coming of Car Jesus. It snatched top spots in numerous comparisons, even placing second in Motor Trend’s Best Driver’s Car for two years, bested only by McLaren’s 570S and a 911 Carrera S. It’s far from the fastest muscle car at Woodward Avenue, but it’s certainly one of the most beloved sports cars of recent memory, and my time behind the wheel of a 2017 example from Turo of all places taught me why.
An all-natural V8 screaming to an 8,250-rpm redline, six-speed stick, and track-ready suspension? Yes, please! The precise, well-weighted steering and MagneRide suspension enable rapid direction changes evocative of cars hundreds of pounds lighter. The shifter delivers that just-right notchiness that’s snickety-snick-snick sensational, and the 526-horsepower 5.2-liter Voodoo will go down as one of the best engines of all time, oiling issues be damned! My time with the GT350 was limited to only a few days, but it easily proved its worth as one of the most intoxicatingly soulful modern cars on this side of a Ferrari and at a fraction of the price.

Gabe Carey: Chevrolet Corvette C8

Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

Those familiar with me, whether from the Acceleramota Discord server or beyond, probably wouldn’t expect the Corvette to be among my top 50 cars, let alone my favorite. In part, that has to do with my affinity for European cars – not to mention my high tolerance for frequent trips to and from the shop in my 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. I’m also not 65 years old. 

But this isn’t about my favorite car. It’s a list of the best cars we’ve driven, and I’ll tell you straight up, the Quadrifoglio is far from perfection. That’s not the case for the 2024 Corvette C8 I cruised around in with our Editor-in-Chief, Jeric Jaleco, during the LA Auto Show. The first night I took it back to my hotel after a long day of travel, despite suffering from a horrific hunger migraine, I felt so alive that I even went out of my way to take a detour. “Fun at any speed” is a basic principle I feel every sports car should abide by, and most don’t. At least not anymore.

The first generation of Chevy’s mid-engine Corvette, however, is an exception. What it lacks in a manual transmission, it more than makes up for in good ol’ fashioned fun factor. The paddle shifters are responsive, it hugs corners like a dream, and the two pedals it does have are harmonious with the input of the driver. 

Given the intimate arrangement of the Android Automotive-powered infotainment system, video game-like drive mode controls, and the rest of the center stack, it’s like sitting in the cockpit of a luxurious racecar that’s just as comfy to drive on the road. It’s a grand tourer that out-grand tours the McLaren GT. Add to that the thunderous roar of a naturally aspirated V8 breathing down my shoulder, and you’ve got yourself a near-perfect sports car. Jeric will disagree, as he did on the podcast, but he’ll understand when he’s older.

Nathan Meyer: Volkswagen Golf GTI (Mk5)

VW Golf GTI Mk5 on a track
Image credit: VW

Fast, fun, and fantastic. Any VW fan will tell you that the Mk5 (pronounced mark-five) Golf GTI revived the nameplate and ushered in a new era of hot hatch. 

As of 2023, it is an 18-year-old car, so it is not the fastest hatch. You’re bound to be disappointed if you compare it to a modern hot hatch. One thing this car has that even the Mk8 Golf GTI does not is fun in bucket-loads. Pulling away from a stoplight will give you the widest smile. You feel connected to the car through corners. Somehow, it does this while still providing insane practicality, so much practicality that even you can entrust your husband’s best friend to bring it back in one piece.

Sure, you will drive faster cars and experience more fun cars. But no car plays the Golf GTI’s role better than the Mk5 GTI. You can summon its power at any moment and take your daughter to ballet the next. It’s the duality of the Mk5 GTI that makes it one of the best cars to drive.

Sheilah Villari: Chevrolet Camaro (Gen 3)

1992 Chevy Camaro RS parked in front of mountainscape
Image credit: Chevrolet

It might be a bit nostalgic, but my favorite car will always be my first. It was so beautiful, and being handed down to me by my mom added an extra layer of specialness. My high school and most of my college car was a teal 1992 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport. My mom was a Camaro and Chevy enthusiast, and this was the sixth one she had owned. Growing up in a beach town, this was the perfect car to park near the waves, pile your friend into, and pull out all your gear. Even if the two-door and hatchback were a pain, she was a shiny gem in the hot southern sun.

The fact that I never got pulled over in this car was a miracle as well. Going around 100 on 95 was not hard. I barely did anything, and this glorious green missile would just glide. And while I did find it hard to see sometimes (being so low to the ground), it handled beautifully. The nights cruising with the windows down, the salty ocean air forced in, and seagulls serenading you on a coastal drive were absolute perfection.

There is something romantic about our fond memories in vehicles like this. They say you never forget your first, and I certainly won’t. I often think about trying to get that sparkly wonder back into my life, broadness and all. 

Joe Tilleli: Mazda CX-5

Red Mazda CX-5 interior shot
Image credit: Mazda

I’m a simple man. My first new car I leased was a 2015 Mazda CX-5. Comfortable, roomy enough for my needs, handling is great. It’s the perfect crossover vehicle.

When the lease was up after three years, I couldn’t be bothered to go shopping around. So what’d I do? I leased another Mazda CX-5 — the 2018 model this time. And what do you know, another three years blinked away like nothing. I can see the cycle I’m about to be in, so I broke free. I bought out the 2018 model. In hindsight, it would have been better to just finance it from the start but I didn’t account for my laziness to hop around from dealer to dealer in future years. I’m gonna be driving this Mazda CX-5 until it doesn’t drive anymore. Then I’ll probably get another Mazda CX-5.

Ural Garrett: Mazda RX-8

Mazda RX-8 parked by mountainside
Image credit: Mazda

I wouldn’t get my driver’s license and first whip until my last semester at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but there hasn’t been a car that’s imprinted itself on me throughout my lifetime as the Mazda RX-8. As a kid growing up in Los Angeles who was a fan of both the Fast & Furious series and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, the best car I’ve ever driven will be my first car, which I dubbed “05Wankel.” The car fits my personality in so many ways: uniquely built, slightly problematic, but pure, unadulterated fun. 

In 2009, there wasn’t a cooler feeling than blasting Teriyaki Boy’s “Tokyo Drift” as I shifted the six-speed manual and sped down the I-10. I can even vividly remember the first time I did burn out and parking lot donuts.

For a solid six years, the amount of money I spent on replacement tires and cans of motor oil could have definitely gone to the private student loan used to buy the car in the first place. The 255 horsepower allowed me to hit 60 mph in around six seconds, but the way that 9,000-rpm rev limit made my car scream was the real treat. Driving it years later around LA made me appreciate it even more.

Roger Feeley-Lussier: Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter van going off-road
Image credit: Mercedes-Benz

In my past life as an unpopular indie pop musician, I spent a lot of time in vans. My first band had a modified Dodge shuttle bus that kind of always felt like it was on the verge of exploding but looked good in our music video. It didn’t have air conditioning, and I’m sure it smelled strange, but it was home for a few years. By that, I mean we literally slept it in 90% of the nights we were on tour (hence the smell.) My next band toured with a Ford cargo van that we think had a past life as a Stanley Steemer fleet vehicle. The quarters were a little tighter, but fortunately, we didn’t sleep in it (unless absolutely necessary.)

On one of Pretty & Nice’s tours, I got a chance to drive a Sprinter van. It belonged to Bobby Burg, a member of the midwestern indie outfit Joan of Arc, as well as dozens of other projects. I can’t remember how it happened, but one day, Bobby, who was touring solo, invited a couple of us to ride with him for the drive across Indiana. He let each of us take a shift, and I don’t even know how to describe the sensation of driving a Sprinter for the first time. 

You feel like you’re on a cloud. You’re very high up but also somehow very close to the road. It corners and accelerates like a much smaller vehicle. The entire time you’re driving a Sprinter, you forget how massive the vehicle you’re piloting is – but it never feels unwieldy (like a box truck.) It’s almost a miracle of engineering.

In my post-touring life, I briefly worked as a rebalancer for Hubway, the Boston bikeshare program. There were (I think) 8 Sprinters in the fleet, and even the “bad one” was so much better than my band’s van that it felt like a dream every time I turned the key. And I haven’t even touched on the most important thing about Sprinters: they can be whatever you need them to be. I’ve seen them modded into campers, offroad vehicles, mobile disaster response vehicles, and more. 

Sure, it’s not a Maybach, but you can’t put very many drumsets into a Maybach. 

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Mercedes-Benz Drive Pilot dashboard
New Car Reviews

We tested a Level 3 self-driving Mercedes, and it’s better than expected

As I watch YouTube videos and catch up on my emails, traffic flows around me on the 10 freeway headed east toward Downtown Los Angeles. Eventually, I look up – yep, still bumper to bumper with no hope of respite. I send a few texts, then glance around at the drivers stuck next to me, most driving every bit as distracted as me. If a CHP officer passed, they’d be breaking the law. Not me, though, because I’m behind the wheel of an all-electric EQS equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s new Drive Pilot system.

Mercedes recently brought a fleet of cars out to LA hoping to show media the industry’s latest and greatest in the inevitable, yet sluggish, crawl toward self-driving vehicles on public roads. Benz also brought a team of engineers along to answer any questions we might come up with while testing the first and only Level 3 system approved for use in the United States — and yes, there were many questions worth asking and answering.

What’s the difference between Level 1, 2, and 3 autonomous driving?

Before I let a German robot pilot me around the universe’s main hub for rush-hour traffic, I spent some time giving myself a quick primer on what exactly the autonomous driving levels 1 through 5 actually mean. And the differences bear repeating to fully comprehend Mercedes-Benz’s achievement as the first automaker to earn official Level 3 approval (at least in California, but more on that later). 

Levels 1 and 2 are already commonplace: Level 1 is either adaptive cruise control or lane keep assist programs that still require a human driver’s hand on the wheel while Level 2 is able to take on multiple functions of steering, acceleration, and braking with a human’s oversight still present. Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise, for example, qualify as Level 2 autonomy — though systems that can manage a lane change are now sometimes called Level 2+.

Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Level 3 ups the ante into a realm much nearer to true autonomous driving, albeit bounded by very tightly defined scenarios. On paper, Mercedes-Benz calls Drive Pilot “SAE Level 3 conditionally automated driving” to satisfy the requisite legalese. In short, that means the system will only work on some roads, at some speeds, and within frameworks that clearly delineate risk management and liability for the system hardware, software, and programming.

To an extent, Level 4 remains somewhat theoretical, taking the onus off the driver entirely and letting the car intervene in every scenario. A human can still override in the case of emergency, though — think robotaxis and delivery shuttles undergoing tests across the planet for the past few years. Level 4 only exists currently in certain parking garages in Germany, which are very controlled environments, to say the least. 

Level 5, meanwhile, is the full dreamboat, with no driver required and possibly not even steering wheels or pedals in the vehicle. We’re talking full robotic overlords — a new world order that will likely require separate roads with no humans to throw off the synchronized dance too much.

To clarify, the technology to enable Level 5 autonomy already exists. While Tesla led the charge (pun fully intended) toward Level 2, Elon Musk’s vision was limited (literally) by using only video-based analysis of road conditions. Level 3 so far requires more detection hardware, in Mercedes-Benz’s case a combination of stereo multipurpose camera angles to simulate three-dimensional vision, along with long-range radar that scans the road and environment using electromagnetic waves, and long-range lidar that scans with swiveling laser beams at various heights. The combined radar, lidar, video, and even audio (to detect far-off emergency sirens) includes many hardware redundancies to prevent a single failure from bricking the system or causing potential gaps in analysis that might lead to an accident.

Which Mercedes-Benz models come equipped with Drive Pilot?

Benz’s backups and redundancies run the gamut, from two separate electric steering motors to double ECUs, a rear camera dedicated to emergency vehicle overtaking, microphones inside the cabin, a new antenna for satellite positioning accurate to one centimeter, maps that take into consideration continental shift over time, and even a road moisture sensor that detects the sound of water within the front wheel arches. Model year 2024 EQS and S-Class cars will be available with the suite beginning in early 2024 — surprisingly, at no additional cost upfront.

Actually using the hardware requires committing to a subscription of $2,500 per year, though, and only customers in California and Nevada get the option because Drive Pilot is only approved in those two states. To achieve that certification, Mercedes-Benz mapped out over 100,000 miles of testing in California within what engineers called Drive Pilot’s “operational design domain” (ODD), which means on freeways where stop-and-go traffic is common. Challenges included teaching the computer to recognize lane stripes versus reflective dots, mapping GPS locations for multi-level freeways, and sorting out the proper use of carpool lanes. 

The California Highway Patrol actually worked closely with Mercedes to develop the system and even requested a potentially novel turquoise light visible outside cars using Level 3 programs so that emergency responders can identify what they’re dealing with more easily. Nevada, on the other hand, only required self-certification (because of course, it’s Nevada).

Drive Pilot’s ODD requires speeds below 40 miles per hour, clear lane markings, not too much road curvature, clear weather and lighting conditions, and a high-definition map to be available in the system’s memory. Mercedes declined to confirm exactly how many miles within California and Nevada the system currently covers, though, presumably because the stat will pale in comparison to Autopilot or Super Cruise.

How to use Drive Pilot

Many fewer miles might sound less than ideal in headlines, but Drive Pilot theoretically delivers an entirely different level of capability. So how well does it work? I got assigned an EQS at random, with a quiet, knowledgeable engineer in the passenger seat. First, we watched a mandatory educational video on the large center console screen, which all customers will need to complete before being allowed to activate Drive Pilot. Then I purposefully drove us into rush-hour traffic headed towards Downtown LA from Santa Monica — exactly what I try to avoid on a Friday afternoon. As soon as we hopped on the 10, we hit a bumper-to-bumper jam. Perfect!

Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The EQS immediately recognized the situation and blue lights above the two buttons on the steering wheel lit up. The gauge cluster also prompted the fact that Drive Pilot was now available. I touched the button and slowly felt the steering wheel begin to shift underhand. Hesitant, of course, I hovered for a few seconds to make sure everything stayed hunky-dory. Then I laughed.

After all, at this point, we’re not too far removed from the Level 2 systems I’m used to testing. But for those, I can usually count to only 10 seconds before the cars start dinging for me to give the steering wheel a nudge with my hand and fake like I’m paying attention. Not so here. Time to mess with robots, then.

Trusting the ghost in the machine

First, I picked up my iPhone to see exactly how distracted Mercedes believes is too distracted. No problem, until I essentially buried my face in the phone to the point that the infrared eye-tracking system could no longer detect my eyes for an extended period. Ding ding, time to take over driving again. After a few seconds with my hands on the wheel, the blue lights illuminated again and I ceded control back to the car again.

Next, I reclined the EQS’s sumptuous seat, which reps had earlier said would cue a warning. Not so, I found, until my eyes once again lost sight of the infrared camera’s viewing angle. Once more I straightened out with my hands on the wheel and activated Drive Pilot. This time around, I put on sunglasses — which the Lexus RX500h I tested earlier this year struggled with during even Level 2 driving. Not the case here.

Finally, I started fiddling with YouTube and pulled up some rally racing videos as a proper distraction. Not only did the Dolby Atmos sound system blast those banshee engines screaming past, but I could click around and fully absorb in finding good vids without Drive Pilot fretting. All the while, the EQS kept a comfortable following distance from the car ahead of me and I even noticed the car almost imperceptibly shifting over in the lane a few times when motorcycles came up from behind while lane-splitting — a uniquely Californian concern for autonomous driving software.

Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

I never pushed the limit much past 30 seconds of dinging, but Mercedes-Benz reps explained that should I have been completely derelict in my duties, videos playing on the center console would have frozen, a yellow message would have lit up, red lights and acoustic warnings would have increased, and then the seatbelt would have jerked for 10 seconds. In the off chance a driver still remains unresponsive, the car will then slow to a standstill while staying in its lane and, assuming a medical issue may be underway, turns the hazard lights on, calls emergency response automatically, and unlocks the doors.

Staying in the lane is a critical point here. But so is the top speed of 40 miles per hour (or 60 kilometers per hour in Germany, where Drive Pilot began customer sales earlier in 2023). If traffic clears up enough for the car to exceed that speed, Mercedes-Benz’s Level 2+ system can initiate, with lane keep and adaptive cruise activated and lane changes allowed up to 85 miles per hour.

Other than the physical hardware and computing power to analyze the data from all those sensors and cameras, Level 3 also requires human programmers to finetune the way Drive Pilot interacts with a human driver. And I found myself almost concerned by how quickly I developed confidence in the Level 3 system. Dropping back down to only Level 2, on the other hand, requires a bit of a mindset shift that needs to be very clearly delineated for the driver — and Benz nailed that transition, too. 

We’ve come a long way from Level 1 and 2 autonomy, largely because of the smoothness by which Drive Pilot steers and manages speed. No lurching or sudden braking, no ping-ponging off lines or cracks in the road, no random freakouts in my hour-plus of driving (or riding, I suppose, would be more accurate). I only drove the EQS, though, and no S-Class. Theoretically, an EV might be better for modulating speed and braking.

Theory in practice… and liability

You might have noticed my frequent use of the word “theoretically” to describe many of Drive Pilot’s capabilities. But this is the real world, and autonomous driving theory is now being enacted in real life. I went into this day of testing with Isaac Asimov on my mind, ready to apply the three rules of robotics to the best of my abilities. But Mercedes-Benz clearly designed Drive Pilot’s Level 3 ODD to reduce liability the best it could.

The Mercedes reps I spoke with declined to share any stats about how Drive Pilot’s debut in Germany has performed, other than to say that no major incidents have occurred so far. But we don’t even know how many customers shelled out that annual fee this year. Still, I brought up the classic conundrum: What if the Drive Pilot needs to make a split-second decision between hitting a pregnant mother or two children? 

Highly unlikely on the 10 freeway, was the answer, though I’ve seen stranger things — like when I was testing Super Cruise in a GMC Hummer EV and an E90 BMW came crawling across traffic at a full right angle. Super Cruise balked in that scenario and forced me to a full ABS stop in a 9,000-pound brick. Would Drive Pilot pick up the E90 on lidar or radar earlier and response quickly enough? I don’t know, but I do know that the EQS would not leave its lane to miss the BMW in that scenario. The ODD wouldn’t let it.

More realistically, imagine a motorcycle cuts into the lane without signaling and brakes hard. Driving 40 miles per hour, would Drive Pilot slam on the brakes and risk being hit by a hypothetical semi truck following too closely behind? Probably, because that would put liability on the semi-truck driver even if the resultant accident would be more damaging than swerving into the side of an SUV in the next lane while avoiding the motorcyclist.

But therein lies the big question: liability. Even if Drive Pilot was truly programmed with liability in mind, who exactly makes the final determination of liability in the case of an accident becomes a critical question. 

The liability question fits into the definitions of Level 2 and 3, to an extent: In Level 2, the driver is responsible but for Level 3, the vehicle is responsible. As long as the driver uses a Level 3 system as intended — which does require keeping the car well maintained so that all the hardware and software can operate as intended — then if the system fails, Benz is on the hook.

I asked whether Drive Pilot records the passenger compartment video to make sure that drivers didn’t cause problems. Apparently not. Next, I can’t help but wonder whether insurance companies will be happy sorting out the blame game when robots and massive multinational conglomerate legal teams get into the mix. Sure, California and Nevada (well, Nevada sort of) legally approved Level 3 in such strict scenarios, but we all know how these things play out when big money enters the picture.

For Benz, the next step for Drive Pilot will involve ramping up to 80 miles per hour in Level 3, exponentially increasing the following and stopping distances. Therefore video, radar, and lidar range are required. But then the system will work for real road-tripping, rather than requiring a step back down into Level 2+ (even if Level 2+ works quite well, too).

For me, the most important question only came to mind after the fact. I’m competitive with the robots that will one day take over my driving duties, so I need to know: In an EQS, does Drive Pilot improve EV range versus a smooth, conscientious human driver? Answering that question will require much more testing, but for now, the future of autonomous driving is here — in an admittedly limited, yet still very impressive, capacity.

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Lewis Hamilton sitting next to Formula 1 car
New Car Reviews

Lewis Hamilton’s MasterClass is self-help for the people who need it most – Formula 1 fans

This week Formula 1 sets its sights on the Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal. The 2019 winner of this race was Lewis Hamilton. Lewis might be the best-known Formula 1 driver of the last 10 years. My mom knows his name. Even if you haven’t watched the Netflix docu-series Drive to Survive (or read the companion book), you know Lewis Hamilton. When he’s not shattering world records on the track or getting “fun and flirty” with Shakira, Lewis is showing others what it takes to become the GOAT.

When I was offered the chance to review Lewis Hamilton’s “Winning Mindset” MasterClass, my curiosity was piqued. I needed to know how this man has managed to stay calm, cool, and collected over the years in a sport that at times is anything but. In 12 lessons, Lewis reveals how to prepare yourself mentally for a successful life. And with seven World Champions, who are we to argue?

If you’re curious about Formula 1, Lewis could be your gateway. Not only do you get a crash course (so to speak), in the last 20-some years of the sport from a certified GOAT but a very helpful guidebook accompanies the courses. Even I, who is pretty well versed in F1, learned a lot (though I am still very confused about the steering wheel buttons).

I had the very unique experience of going through this class while also reading Jenson Button’s How to Be an F1 Driver. This is significant because Jenson was Lewis’ teammate at McLaren in 2010. A lot of the thought process about training and motivation is the same coming from both. It could be that they are both pretty regimented as Brits, but it could also be that these are the personalities the sport attracts.

But for so many, racing is just in the blood as the great Aryton Senna said. Lewis fought his way in and didn’t come from great money to do so. Humble beginnings might be what makes his attachment so precious. He earned every accolade by being a) very talented, b) obsessed, c) supported, and d) fearless. That’s his winning combo. All of those are easily applied to our own lives and passions.

Image credit: MasterClass

He is quick to remind us several times no man is an island, and neither are Formula 1 drivers. His team at Mercedes is upwards of 2,000 people, and thanks to Lewis’ initiatives, a much more diverse team. Trust is mutual as many have been with him for a decade. Both success and failure are shared, you’re not going through the highs and the lows alone. He mentions a strong support system is key; however, that might look different to you. Lots of credit goes to his father and stepmother for setting a strong foundation, but engineers, team principles, and teammates have played a part. (Sidenote: Valtteri Bottas was his best teammate.)

Forming a close relationship with the late and iconic Niki Lauda was a crucial factor in his arrival at Mercedes. Role models, however they come into your life, can be huge resources for advice and learning your craft. He points out that on more than one occasion he and Niki butted heads. And while there might have been generational differences, he pushed his performance and mentored Lewis, adding value to his life beyond finances.

What stood out throughout the classes is Lewis is a presence who lets his talents do the talking. Outspoken when he needs to be, his words hold more power because he knows when to use them. Thus making him a driver and global celebrity so many look up to. And for very good reason.

Take one race at a time, record-breaking doesn’t happen overnight. World Championships aren’t built in a day. When you’re traveling in a custom-built car that cost millions of dollars moving at aeronautic speeds, staying present is what keeps you alive. The consequences for letting your mind drift can lose you the race, or worse, your life.

Image credit: Formula 1

Deadly crashes are rare in the sport these days given improved safety measures and intricate training, but the possibility is always there, looming in the back of your mind. Each of those 20 drivers connects with a focus and fearlessness within them each race. As the poet Beyonce said, “You got me so crazy in love.” That’s the energy you need to compete in motorsports at this level. So crazy in love with driving that you can’t survive without it.

At 38 years old, Lewis assures us he has plenty of “crazy” left in him and maybe another World Championship title. But one thing is for sure: this man has forever changed not only Formula 1 but racing as a sport. His activism, his talent, and his passion make for a compelling self-help course disguised as F1 education. It takes lessons from motorsports and applies them to other facets of our lives. And, in that sense, it’s one of the best tools for learning the fundamentals of racing before you even set foot on the tarmac.

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This Mercedes-branded MSI laptop puts the AMG in gaming

In an effort to attract more PC gamers to performance cars and vice versa, Mercedes-AMG has announced a long-term partnership with MSI, starting with a 16-inch gaming laptop.

The Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport comes in a stunning “selenite” gray with the Mercedes-MSG branding on the lid. The capital G “Gamer” aesthetic already looks like a racecar (look no further than gamer chairs) so MSI joining forces with a luxury car brand for a new gaming laptop seems like a no-brainer.

“For us, luxury gaming is more. It’s not just playing the games”, said Eric Kuo, MSI’s VP of Global Sales and Marketing. “When the users open up the lids of MSI laptops, it’s the start of a luxury journey. They will be amazed by the superior build quality and elegant design, which is luxurious aesthetic.”

Christoph Sagemueller, Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, goes on to say, “It was crucial for us to find a partner who shares our values and ambition. MSI, a leading brand in the technology and gaming industry, proved to be the perfect fit. They demonstrate a strong commitment to innovation and a passion for high-performance products.”

These are all very kind words, but let’s take a look at what this collaboration is actually under the hood of this collaboration.

Packing serious horsepower

Image credit: MSI

The Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport, according to a press release sent to Acceleramota, is packing the latest 13th Gen Intel Core i9 processor along with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 series laptop GPUs – going up to the 4070. That’ll get you plenty of power you need to play games like Forza Horizon 5 in all its beauty. You can even upgrade to a 4K OLED panel to really make those colors and details pop. Pre-configured RAM and storage were not mentioned, but we do know it supports up to 64GB of DDR5-5200 and features two NVMe Gen 4 SSD slots.

The Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport comes bundled with a special-branded mouse, mousepad, USB drive, and pouch for the collaboration of the two brands. Best of all, however, is the power button labeled “Start Engine,” modeled after an actual push-button ignition found in modern performance cars.

So how much and when can I get it?

MSI hasn’t announced pricing or availability just yet, but based on the specs and branding, you can expect this to be a luxury gamer laptop in a similar vein to the Mercedes-AMG automotive brand. In the meantime, you can purchase the existing MSI Stealth 16 from Best Buy.

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