Mercedes-Benz has been very aggressive in ramping up its all-electric portfolio. With the new EQE aboard, it now has six EVs and counting. As with the larger EQS, the EQE arrives in both sedan and crossover models. Subjectively, it’s the slippery sedan that steals the style crown.
While there is the 288 horsepower EQE 350, it’s the EQE 500 that trumps it in every area. The two electric motors combine to deliver a welcome all-wheel-drive extension along with 402 hp and 633 lb.-ft. of torque. These numbers transform the EQE into a gentle giant that’s seriously quick when needed, but it can also prowl suburbia in a near-silent manner.
When the hammer is down, the EQE 500 runs to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds. Now, that’s fast enough to be more than entertaining, and it will be plenty for most potential customers. However, when enough is never quite enough, there’s always the coming AMG EQE — the output soars to 677 hp, which chops the acceleration time to just 3.3 seconds!
The EQE 500’s electric motors get their juice from a 90.6 kWh battery that delivers a posted driving range of 418 km. During the test the distance to empty routinely averaged around 380 km — rather than displaying a hard range it shows the low and max ranges, leaving the driver to make the ultimate decision. It takes 32 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 per cent using a 170 kW DC fast charger and 9.5 hours to do the same when using a home charger.
Opening the EQE’s hood is best left to a trained technician, because there’s a lot of heart-stopping stuff under there. So, how do you do fill up the washer fluid? In this case, it’s as simple as popping the small door in the left front fender. It’s easier than doing the same thing on a regular car, but the work-around engineering must have cost a bundle!
Where the EQE misses the mark is the regenerative braking strategy. There is Coast (no regen), Normal and Strong modes, all of which are accessed through steering wheel-mounted paddles. Even when in Strong mode, the EQE is not a one-pedal drive, as the regen switches to a coast mode when the vehicle slows to around 12 km/h. This action makes the EQE feel like its speeding up, which forces the driver to reach for the brake pedal smartly.
The other alternative is Intelligent regeneration. It uses sensors and navigation information to determine how much regen to apply in a given situation. It’s works quite well on the open road, but it’s either invisible or overly intrusive in the city. The message? Consistency is key!
The EQE 500 is a dynamic delight, so it easily outdrives its sophisticated look. It starts with a fully-independent steel coil spring suspension and a sharp steering setup. The two combine to point the EQE into a corner with a flat attitude and laser-like precision. Part of the reason the EQE feels so planted and nowhere near as heavy as the 2,475-kg curb weight suggests it should be is down to the use of four-wheel steering.
At low speeds the rear wheels turn up to 4.5 degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels, which cuts the turning circle to that of a C-Class so it’s a cinch to park. At speeds above 60 km/h, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels. This action hones the response and explains the precision. It instills the level of confidence needed to explore the EQE’s considerable limits, yet when the twisty road ends it becomes a very easy city drive. But making four-wheel steering a $1,300 option on a $95,000 car is a questionable move, given the magnitude of its contribution.
On that note, there is an Airmatic suspension option. Along with the air springs comes continuously adjustable damping. Frankly, this option is only necessary if a potential customer finds the steel suspension too firm.
Of course, there are the mandatory drive modes. Eco is for the birds, Comfort for everyday use and Sport for the fun times. Unlike many setups, there’s a marked difference between the modes, especially the step up to Sport. It makes the EQE feel eager and ready to rip. Individual mode allows the driver to pick comfort or sport for the powertrain, steering and stability program and then save their preferences.
Inside, the EQE is beautifully crafted, with body-hugging front seats, enough space for two adults in the rear seat and a 430-litre trunk complete with split/folding seatbacks. The issue is a taller rider has to duck to access the rear seat, as the swoopy roofline that makes the EQE look so sleek does put a minor crimp in the functional side.
No complaints with the layout, as it is first class all the way. The 12.3-inch instrumentation is clean and reconfigurable, and it’s a highlight in its own right. However, it’s the next-generation MBUX infotainment system that really stands out. The 12.8-inch OLED multimedia touchscreen is crystal clear and adopts a zero-layer strategy. This means, unlike many systems, there’s no need to delve into sub-menus to access the key infotainment, comfort or vehicle functions.
In this case, everything is just, well, there. Yes, it’s intimidating at first, but it proved to be surprisingly easy to live with and, more importantly, use. Part of the ease of use boils down to a voice recognition system that understands plain language. Say, “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold” and it cranks up the heat.
The issue is while there are three ways of adjusting the audio volume not one of them works as well as a good old fashioned knob. The capacitive touch points on the steering wheel and control bar at the bottom of the central screen are just too small. The on-screen slider is large enough, but still needs the driver’s eyes to operate accurately. Finally, there’s an option for the A-pillar to A-pillar 56-inch Hyperscreen. As with the suspension, the base twin-screen setup renders it all but redundant.
While the EQE shares its platform with the larger EQS sedan, the two models are worlds apart. The EQS is an opulent boulevardier. The EQE 500 delivers the right luxury and it’s a proper driver’s car without giving up on comfort. It all comes together to make it a very compelling and likeable package.