The focus on delivering EVs to the market is unmistakably present within the automotive world. The Germans at Mercedes-Benz underline this focus with the release of their brand new, medium-size electric saloon, the EQE.
Available along its bigger brother the EQS, the new model comes in five variants; the EQE 300, 350+ and the twin-motor EQE 500, are positioned alongside the EQE 43 and EQE 53, which are both AMG variants. The 350+ will be the first model in the UK market, offering clients an answer to their current E-Class if they want to go for a zero emissions variant and don’t want to head into the direction of the competition.
To understand the EQE lineup, we would need to look back at the release of the EQS last year. The all-electric equivalent of the S-Class stands on the EVA2 platform and uses the same battery and electric motor technology as its smaller brother, the EQE. The main differences are the size, plus design of both vehicles and the technology, which has been adapted to these pointers. Alongside the EQE, we’ll see an SUV variant next year.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz EQE 350+ test (UK)
My initial experience in the EQS left me recalibrating my senses. The drama-free experience behind the wheel felt immensely polished and I was, as a driver constantly reminded of what I would miss so dearly when it comes to an EV. My experience in the AMG version of the EQS altered my position on the EV S-Class. The vehicle felt more connected to the road and enabled you to be more precise. The more communicative steering feel was never like a sports car, but did allow you to feel a lot more confident through the corners. All of this input left me intrigued on what a smaller and lighter EQE would be able to showcase on German roads.
The location of the first drive was Frankfurt. For years, home to the biennial IAA car show, the city breathes the future of electromobility. The EQE felt at home on the city roads and the nearby Autobahn, where it did show its sheer differences with the EQS, but also its ability to differentiate itself from the “normal” E-class. The EQE is truly a proposition on its own, while it takes a lot from its bigger brother and future family members at a more affordable price point.
Full focus on design; both aerodynamic as well as refinement
Looking at its design, the downsized EQS offers a design nature of trying to minimise its air resistance. It’s teardrop-shape is combined with door handles that sit flush inside the slippery bodywork, smooth body panels and special wheel designs, which help the drag coefficient of the vehicle. The overall dynamics of the design can be enhanced using the AMG-line appearance package, which adds some details making the car stand out more. Please don’t get me wrong, the EQE isn’t a beauty that is able to leave you marvelled by its exterior brilliance. On the contrary, the shorter and smaller footprint (Wheelbase is 90 mm shorter than the EQS), makes the EQE less attractive from the outside than its EQS brother. Aerodynamics were clearly the aim here, not creating a visually pleasing package.
Inside the interior, the story is the opposite. Especially when it comes to our test car, which features a lovely white leather interior with an open-pore wooden surface on the dashboard. It must be hell to keep clean, but when it is clean it is lovely to look at and it doesn’t differ that much from what we saw in the EQS. It is just smaller and offers considerably less headroom in the back. Even when you have opted for the panoramic sunroof. Our set up didn’t have the MBUX Hyperscreen infotainment system, which didn’t feel like a real miss. It is a nice extra though if you like gadgets, but you can do without if it doesn’t fit your budget range.
The EQE feels like a special place to be in. The standard level of technology onboard is immense and feature-packed, but often a bit overwhelming and lacking intuitiveness. The seating position is higher than a standard E-Class, but feels lower than the EQS. It resembles the first-ever A-Class or R-Class. The cabin is roomy and offers enough space. The seats have loads of adjustability, but the bases are still relatively short. In the rear, your knees and legs are positioned quite high up because you are sitting on top of the 10-cell 90 kWh battery pack. One additional point of note is the rear visibility, which is mediocre due to the rear window being quite small. The boot capacity is 430 litres, which is smaller than the current E-Class.
Time to take it for a spin, but not before we run through the different drivetrain options. Due to the modular architecture of the EQ-platform, the Germans are able to offer a total of five versions of the EQE. Different markets will get different models with the UK dealers offering you initially the EQE 300, EQE 350+ and the twin-motor, four-wheel-drive AMG EQE 53. The EQE 500 and EQE 43 are not destined for the UK yet, but will be available across other markets.
The main difference between each of the models are the availability of two-wheel or four-drive wheel set ups, single and dual e-motors, and the available specification levels. Of course, AMG models will be tuned for a more sporty and connected driving dynamic. Between each of the models the range levels will also be different. The single-motor, rear-wheel drive E350+ I drove offers range of up to 394 miles according to the WLTP test cycle, which relates to a real world range of close to 300 miles. The 288 bhp rear-mounted drive motor has 565 Nm of torque. It will bring you from zero to 62 mph in 6.4 seconds and up to a top speed of 131 mph.
Jumping behind the wheel shares most of all a familiar cabin feel resembling outings in the EQS. It just feels a lot smaller to begin with. The first few metres immediately showcase the smaller footprint and the swift and seamless ability in which the EQE moves you forward. Everything about the car feels lighter and smaller than the EQS. Even though it is a heavy vehicle it shares this less than the EQS. The EQE is closer to what you know from a “conventional” car. The ride comfort is lovely, and the air suspension communicates better with you than in the EQS.
The 350+ steers surprisingly well, also helped by its rear-wheel steer, but is not so plush like its bigger brother. The smaller footprint really helps, especially in the streets of Frankfurt. Use the paddles behind the steering wheel and you can really impact the energy recuperation when you lift off the accelerator pedal. Just opt for no or intelligent recuperation in case you search for the best setting. The brakes are decent, but you do require a learning curve to get used to them. The vague connection between your foot, the pedal and the brake pads requires some getting used to.
On the Autobahn, the EQE isn’t in its element. Even though it is able to pilot you from A to B in sheer comfort, offering all kinds of assistance systems to make your life easier, the car isn’t a Rocket ship and never seems to impress. The acceleration forward has no kick in the back and feels immensely linear. Don’t get me wrong it is pleasantly quick, but it never blew my mind. It even unconsciously urged me to drive slower and be less forthgoing behind the wheel. All in all, it is nothing other than a cruiser at heart.
The EQE is pretty much all that I had hoped for. Smaller, lighter, more practical, more connected to its driver and a lot less plush than its bigger brother. Unfortunately, it’s not a looker. However Mercedes’ wheel choice and AMG line do make a difference in case you have budget available to dress it up more.
For those who would be using the EQE on a daily basis, I have to share that the EQE can accept charging speeds of up to 170 kW, less than the EQS. At a suitable rapid charger you would get about 155 miles of range in 15 minutes. A full charge will take eight hours if you use a 11 kW home charger.
The mid-size EQ Merc is a welcome addition to the lineup of full electric German saloons. The combination of refinement, efficiency and cruiser-like ingredients offers something new in the current market space destined to become the new “normal”. The EQE would however not be my preferred choice in this space, but that is purely personal with more and more EV choices becoming available right now.