Mercedes-Benz is all in on electrification, says CEO Ola Källenius. And to prove it's serious about this, the automaker is unleashing a flurry of fully electric vehicles, the latest being the new EQE. The EQE is sized like the venerable E-class and thus positioned right in the heart of the brand's portfolio. The EQE hasn't yet gone on sale in Europe and won't arrive in the U.S. until later this year, but we were able to experience this newest Mercedes-Benz EV, albeit from the passenger's seat.
The vehicle, an EQE 350 with the AMG styling package, was entirely undisguised. Clearly a sibling of the larger EQS sedan, it stands on the same fully electric platform, dubbed EVA2, but its wide stance and shorter wheelbase (122.9 inches versus 126.4) create better proportions. Unlike the EQS, the EQE doesn't need to hide excessive size and height—the overall length is 196.6 inches, almost 10 inches shorter than the EQS. One drawback of the shorter body: Aerodynamics are not quite as slippery.
The bright white car we rode in was fitted with EQ-specific 20-inch wheels and had the panoramic roof that will be standard in the U.S. The flush door handles present themselves upon approach (although entry-level versions in Europe will have conventional door handles). With its advanced intelligent lighting system and wide rear light bar, the EQE looks positively futuristic at night.
The interior does as well, and here you find significant overlap with the EQS—in fact, the entire dashboard and center console are identical. That includes the optional Hyperscreen, a 56-inch glass surface that stretches almost the entire width of the cockpit. It houses three screens giving the impression of a single large screen. The EQE feels slightly less spacious than the EQS up front, although this is still a large cockpit. Entry-level versions of the EQE also get simpler seats.
The size difference between the two cars is a bit more visible in the rear, though the EQE offers plenty of legroom and headroom. In fact, the roominess is virtually on the level of the China-only long-wheelbase E-class, which is why Mercedes-Benz decided the EQE doesn't need a stretched version. This car offers spaciousness similar to that of the Tesla Model S and is far roomier than the Model 3. The engineers made one compromise to achieve sufficient rear headroom: Unlike the hatchback EQS, the EQE does not have a liftgate (so no hinges intrude into the passenger compartment). Instead, there's a conventional trunk.
Mercedes says there will be several versions of the EQE, including AMG derivatives. We experienced the one that will launch first: The EQE 350, which has a rear-mounted motor that makes 288 horsepower and 391 lb-ft of torque and is tuned to achieve especially long range. Final data is still pending, but we're guessing its EPA-estimated range will be around 300 miles. Given the EQE's considerable heft—it should weigh around 5000 pounds—we neither expected nor experienced any miracles in terms of straight-line performance. But the car still charges forward with urgency, until acceleration trails off at speeds well beyond the legal limit in most countries. There is a single-speed transmission, as in every electric Mercedes-Benz, and top speed is limited to a claimed 130 mph. We expect AMG models to go faster.
Fitted with the available air springs and rear-axle steering, the car seemed agile—at least from the passenger's seat. On tight roads, it should be more fun to drive than the capable but positively huge EQS. It's also around 500 pounds lighter, even though the EQE has a higher steel content (around 60 percent versus 40 percent for the EQS). The EQE's weight distribution is claimed to be near 50-50.
We liked the absolute quietness in the EQE. If that silence is too much for you, there's several artificially designed sounds that reflect both throttle input and regeneration, which can be adjusted from coasting to strong regen. Beyond that, the EQE allows the driver to manipulate additional parameters with Comfort, Sport, Eco, and Individual modes. One quirk of the user interface is the optional heated steering wheel; devoid of a button, it can be activated by voice command or preselected for certain climate scenarios.
The brand's early efforts at EVs (in Europe) were somewhat lacking: The EQC shows its GLC roots all too obviously, and we found the EQA to fall woefully short of the GLA's dynamic capabilities. While we must reserve final judgment until we get behind the wheel, the EQE presents itself as a convincing, comprehensive EV. Mercedes-Benz has leaped forward; now let's see how it will perform in the market. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we expect it to be similar to the BMW i4 and comfortably below the Porsche Taycan.
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