Mercedes-Benz’s push into electrification has a spacing problem. The EQB and not-for-North America EQA have mass-market appeal but come with the range/charging penalties of most EVs based on converted ICE platforms. The EQS family is expensive and polarizing, meanwhile, while the EQE is a sedan, and as writers more talented than me have written more eloquently, folks don’t want sedans.
As a marriage of mass-market appeal and the EVA2 platform, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV is a pleasure to drive and sit in, but that does not mean this $79,000 vehicle is without its drawbacks. That’s especially true in the volume 350 4Matic model I spent two days driving around Portugal. The 253-mile range, 6.2-second run to 60, and 170-kilowatt DC charge rate are all behind rivals from Bavaria, Detroit, and Silicon Valley. Despite those significant shortcomings, the fourth Mercedes-EQ is the most likable so far. I just hope there are more like it.
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|Quick Stats||2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE350 4Matic SUV Exclusive|
|Motors:||Twin Permanently Excited Synchronous Motors|
|Output:||288 Horsepower / 564 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||6.2 Seconds|
|EV Range:||253 Miles|
|Base Price:||$77,900 + $1,150 Destination|
I don’t like writing about exterior design unless it impacts the drive experience because, well, design is subjective and I have weird takes like “The Land Rover Discovery is handsome,” which means you probably won’t agree with what I have to say anyway. But I’m struggling to look at the EQE SUV’s design as anything other than the most purposeful, focused EQ so far (not that that’s an exceedingly high bar). Parked on the streets of Lisbon, where Mercedes hosted the media introduction, my first glimpse of the EQE SUV came with a surprised “wow.”
The EQE SUV measures just under 191.5 inches from nose to tail, or 3.2 inches less than the gas-powered GLE crossover. But the 119.3-inch wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer, while the body is nearly as wide at 76.4 inches (versus 76.7) and the 66.3-inch roofline sits 4.4 inches lower. A shorter body, longer wheelbase, and lower height produces a squat, compact, and powerful stance – hell, more than most crossovers, the EQE SUV toes the line between CUV and lifted wagon. It’s easy to forget the EQE is technically a mid-sizer too, because upon walking up, I thought it was a compact vehicle.
I changed my tune as soon as I opened the doors, though, because the EQE is cavernous. There’s a huge amount of space in the second row – Mercedes hasn’t released exact measurements, but the flat floor and compact center console mean even three adults wouldn’t be a tall ask on a road trip. At the very least, I bet the EQE SUV’s legroom and headroom exceeds the GLE’s impressive measurements (40.9 and 36.9 inches, respectively).
Life is even better in the front, mostly. The standard seats are welcoming and supportive, like an old pair of sneakers. The bolsters toe the line between being easy to negotiate while keeping the driver in place, and the cushioning is comfortable across the board. There’s a wide range of adjustability, but Mercedes’ new capacitive seat adjusters are hateful. Since they don’t move, you’re essentially pressing against a fixed object at an awkward angle (they remain on the door) with little confirmation of your input until the seat starts to move. I’ve never used this word to describe a feature in a car before, but these things are garbage.
That’s a subjective complaint. A more objective one is that the EQE SUV’s long, thick A-pillars are a severe hindrance to forward visibility. Thanks to the phenomenon of “constant bearing, decreasing range,” I spent much of my drive surprised to find objects emerging out of my forward blind spot while driving. The windshield is so long and the front pillars so thick that I’d be genuinely nervous to drive the EQE in a neighborhood or parking lot. Rearward visibility is a touch tight too, for a crossover.
All the EQEs I sampled carried the same OLED displays (a 12.3-inch cluster and 12.8-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen). Like the EQE sedanthe Hyperscreen isn’t available, which is all the better if you prefer rich, warm woods over piano black and glass. Some of the trims are lovely and some aren’t – the ship’s deck finish is as glorious as the anthracite Mercedes logo finish is bad – but the Hyperscreen-less (Hyposcreen?) layout is the best way to show off the cabin’s high material quality. Beyond the centerpiece, material quality is excellent across the board, even though there’s an overabundance of piano-black trim.
All You Need And Nothing More
Departing Lisbon, the Alpine Gray EQE350 4Matic SUV I was driving didn’t feel all that quick. The twin permanently excited synchronous motors produce 288 horsepower and a mighty 564 pound-feet of torque (unless you have money to burn purchasing more power). And while the EQE springs off the line and responds suddenly to demands for more speed, eventually the torque fades – and the sensation of acceleration with it. Mercedes cites a 6.2-second sprint to 60 miles per hour for the 350 4Matic, which feels a touch conservative, although that doesn’t change the fact that manufacturer estimates of rivals leave the EQE SUV in the proverbial dust.
The Audi Q8 E-Tron zips to 60 in as little as 5.4 seconds, while the Jaguar I-Pace takes 4.5 seconds and the Cadillac Lyriq does it in around 6.0 seconds. Each of these has a lower starting price than the $79,000 EQE350 4Matic. And on the pricier end, the BMW iX xDrive50 and Tesla Model X Long Range are quicker still (4.4 seconds and 3.8 seconds, respectively). I don’t think luxury EV crossover shoppers are lining up at the lights regularly, and the EQE350’s performance is adequate for traipsing about central Portugal, but if speed matters you can and should look elsewhere.
Such as at the EQE500. The price climbs, but with 402 hp and 633 lb-ft, running to 60 takes a respectable 4.6 seconds while retaining a $90,550 price tag that’s more in line with the $88,000 BMW and well south of the $100,000 Tesla. The straight-line punch with the 500 is ample and entertaining, but frankly, I’d just wait for the AMG EQE SUV (which, yes, is too many letters with too few words) if stoplight drag races are your jam. That’s especially because neither of the two soundtrack options on the standard EQE SUV sounds all that interesting relative to the AMG’s rumble.
The main problem from behind the wheel is less about speeding up and much more about slowing down. Mercedes has polarized drivers with a pedal that changes position based on which of the three regen levels is in play – I’ve acclimated quickly enough in the past, but in the EQE SUV, the variable travel paired with a soft, almost squishy action. Even in high regen, there’s a great deal of travel from the left pedal, and I struggled over my drive time to acclimate.
Turn Up, Turn Out
As I cleared the highways exiting Lisbon and made for the Atlantic coast, the EQE350, equipped with the optional air suspension, adaptive dampers, and 10-degree rear-axle steering made up for its relaxed acceleration with surprising agility on the oceanside roads. In fact, it was almost too agile, and that’s down to the help of the rear axle.
See, rear-axle steering exists to make big, lumbering vehicles feel small and pointy. On a Mercedes S-Classit’s a revelation, assisting turn-in response and tightening the overall turning circle. But the S-Class dwarfs the EQE, at 1.3 feet longer overall and with an extra 7.3 inches between the axles. And yet both cars use 10 degrees of rear steering.
What’s a proportional improvement in handling in the S-Class is too much of a good thing in the EQE. Pushed hard, it feels artificial and video game–like, the overcaffeinated turn-in mismatching with the pleasantly hefty steering weight and the limited and progressive body motions. Driving the EQE SUV quickly on a twisty road is a bit like trying to do the tango to a waltz – the EQE’s handling characteristics never really line up.
Rear-steering is standard on the EQE500 and optional on the 350, and I’d be fine passing on it if I were placing an order. A tougher call is the packaged air suspension and adaptive dampers. I didn’t have the opportunity to test an EQE SUV fixed springs, but Mercedes’ Airmatic system has always had a significant positive impact on ride quality. On the coast roads and along the highways in Lisbon, the EQE smothered even substantial imperfections, with the steering showing off impressive isolation.
The Real World Is Calling
I’m not going to do a whole breakdown on the EQE’s range or charge speeds because a day of driving around twisty roads in Portugal simply doesn’t tell me much. The EPA range estimates aren’t very positive, though, with my 4Matic tester netting a disappointing 253 miles to a charge. The leader is the single-motor EQE350, at 279 miles, while the EQE500 will do 269 miles. Mercedes, for its part, claims the real-world range will be far better than those estimates – I’m working hard on sorting out a loan for Tom Moloughney to test the automaker’s claim with a 70-mph range test.
It’s tough to draw a straight conclusion on the price. While Mercedes has shared pricing for all three trim levels of all three EQE SUV models, a configurator is not live yet and the automaker has only released option pricing on a few items. The big-ticket items like the Airmatic suspension ($1,900), rear-wheel steering ($1,300), and Driver Assistance ($1,250 on the base trim, standard on the Exclusive and Pinnacle) all reasonably priced, so with any luck, the EQE SUV’s $79,050 starting price won’t climb too aggressively.
Still, Mercedes priced the EQE for the heart of the market and kept the prices between the three different trims modest (just $5,950 from the base Premium to the pinnacle Pinnacle). Its $79,050 base price is north of the Audi Q8 E-Tron ($75,495) and Cadillac Lyriq ($58,590), but well south of the iX ($88,095) and Tesla Model X ($101,630). Even optioned up, the price doesn’t stray from the very fat delta between the Q8 and iX, though. The EQE SUV’s range and charge rate may come up short, but Mercedes seems to have mostly threaded the needle on pricing.
“Mostly” is a phrase I think will get thrown around a lot as more reviews on the EQE SUV come out. It’s mostly a joy to drive. It’s mostly nice to look at. It’s mostly comfortable. But mostly, the EQE SUV does enough to attract consumers away from the competition, especially if Mercedes’ claims about real-world range prove true.