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Car of the Year 2021

Based on reviews from 25 of the top UK motoring websites over the last year, the highest-rated new car of 2021 is the Mercedes-Benz EQS.

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Once you get beyond the obvious global pandemic thing, one of the key stories of 2021 has been the giant leap forward taken in electric motoring. We’re now well beyond the point of no return as the UK and Europe ramp up to a fully-electric future.

For the last decade, electric cars have been evangelised by a few early adopters, but largely resisted by the majority of households who have seen little point in switching away from a familiar petrol car. All of a sudden, the world has changed.

New EVs are joining the market almost every week, with every car company getting in on the action. And they’re no longer simply engineering curiosities that struggle with simple real-world driving tasks.

Our Expert Rating Index shows that EVs are consistently getting better review scores than their petrol and diesel equivalents. Therefore, it’s no great surprise that our first Car of the Year should be an electric vehicle.

Based on all of the car reviews published by the UK motoring media over the last year, the highest-rated new car of 2021 is the Mercedes-Benz EQS.

The Car Expert’s Car of the Year 2021: Mercedes-Benz EQS

Up until now, Mercedes has offered up electric versions of existing models – the EQA, EQB, EQC and EQV all started life as petrol or diesel vehicles that had their internal combustion innards removed and replaced with electric motors and batteries. The EQS is different.

A dedicated EV rather than a converted petrol car, the EQS sets the scene for the next generation of the Mercedes EQ family. It’s an electric S-Class, but it’s not an electric version of a petrol S-Class.

One of the criticisms of electric cars over the last decade is that they are little more than ‘whitegoods on wheels’. Take away the noise, heat and vibration of an internal-combustion engine and you’re left with a soulless appliance that loses its magic.

Led by Tesla, the car industry answered those criticisms with stunning performance numbers – even humble family saloons can accelerate faster than a supercar thanks to the instantaneous torque of an electric motor. That certainly got attention, but it isn’t the whole answer.

The Mercedes-Benz EQS leans into the other characteristics of an electric car. It’s smooth, thanks to a lack of vibration from a traditional engine, gearbox and driveshaft. It’s also eerily quiet. Both are excellent characteristics for a luxury saloon, and critics have highlighted how the EQS uses them to very good effect.

Both the exterior and interior design have a slightly futuristic style, like you’d expect a car of the 2030s to look, rather than the 2020s. It’s familiar yet different. The exterior is smooth from nose to tail, and less boxy than a traditional Mercedes saloon. It is distinctive yet still functional, with none of the attention-seeking controversy of a BMW iX or Tesla Cybertruck.

Inside, the company has made a big noise about screens, especially the optional £8K ‘hyperscreen’ that essentially turns the entire dashboard into an almost full-width touchscreen. Without the hyperscreen it looks similar to the new S-Class but with slightly sleeker touches throughout. As you’d hope for a £100K saloon.

The EQS is the new starting point for Mercedes-Benz in electric motoring. Its influence will be directly visible in next year’s EQE saloon – the electric equivalent of the E-Class – and then onwards throughout the rest of the Mercedes range in coming years. And, like the S-Class has shown for generations, setting the bar high has benefits that flow across the entire car industry.

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