Mercedes-Benz EQE first drive: high-performance power play

Damien O'Carroll
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As manufacturers have raced to get a slice of the burgeoning EV market, there have inevitably been compromises - the most prevalent one being the emergence of new electric models based on existing ICE platforms modified to take all the electrical bits.

While these make for perfectly good EVs - as Mercedes-Benz itself has proven with the likes of the EQC, EQA and EQB - the ICE underpinnings mean that some of the other benefits of a dedicated EV platform can't be taken full advantage of, particularly when it comes to design and interior space.

And while the previous crop of Mercedes EVs have been very good cars indeed, the full potential was realised with the launch of the company's first car on a dedicated EV-only platform, the EQS, which saw truly cavernous interior space in a package roughly the same size as its ICE equivalent - the S-Class. This was due to the packaging advantages of a long wheelbase platform that could push the wheels out to the extreme edges, with minimal body overhang, which also led to its distinctive "cab-forward" design.

Now that philosophy has moved down a size to what is Mercedes-Benz's electric equivalent to the E-Class, the EQE.

While it would be cynical to describe the EQE as "the same, but smaller", it would also be quite accurate, as while it is roughly around the same size as the E-Class on the outside, the EQE is 270mm shorter than the EQS, but its 3119mm wheelbase is only 91mm less than the larger car. The overall height is the same, but the wheels are pulled out further towards the corners, making for a chunkier, sportier stance for the EQE.

That smaller stance means that the EQE packs a smaller 89kWh battery (the EQS only lands in New Zealand with a 108kWh battery), which is still more than good enough for some serious range - the EQE 300 kicks off the line up with a range of 626km recorded under the NEDC test cycle (the WLTP test cycle gives results that are closer to real world conditions, and will be less than this, however), while the more powerful dual motor EQE 350 has an NEDC range of 590km and the top dog Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 has an NEDC range of 500km.

The EQE 300 is the entry point of the range and packs 180kW/550Nm from a single motor on the rear axle. It lands in New Zealand at $132,100, while the EQE 350 4matic will up this to $145,000 and add a second electric motor to the front axle for AWD and a grand total of 215kW/765Nm. Interestingly, both are actually cheaper than the nearest equivalent E-Class, the E 300e PHEV, which costs $146,900.

The top dog of the range, however, is the mighty AMG EQE 53 4matic+ that costs $195,000 and bumps the power up to 460kW, with torque hitting a hefty 950Nm. Again the AMG clocks in at less than its $239,200 ICE equivalent - the 450kW/850Nm AMG E 63s - although the E 63 is still fractionally quicker to 100km/h, knocking it off in 3.4 seconds, as opposed to the EQS 53's 3.5 seconds. However you can tick the box for the optional AMG Dynamic Plus package that will pump the power and torque up to 505kW and 1000Nm respectively and trim the 0 to 100 to just 3.3 seconds...

Of course, the EQE comes highly equipped as standard in all of its guises, with the 300 and 350 being essentially identical in terms of spec - the 350's extra motor and increased power being the only real difference.

On the road the EQE 350 4matic possessed a wonderfully plush ride, with a surprisingly agile feel for such a large and heavy sedan. In fact, the only time you were really aware of the weight was if you head into a corner a bit too hot and have to really jump on the brakes. Of course, this is largely because Mercedes still hasn't quite nailed the brakes on its EVs yet - like other Mercedes EVs and PHEVs, the EQE's brake pedal has an unpleasantly mushy feel that doesn't really inspire confidence, even though they still haul the big fella up impressively well.

The AMG EQE 53, however, has utterly fantastic brakes, with a soild, hefty feel to the pedal and some seriously confident stopping power on display. In fact, while the brakes were the only real slight downer on the standard car, the slightly harsh ride quality of the AMG version of the EQS was a downer there, however the EQE AMG has also addressed this nicely, with a far more forgiving ride in the Comfort setting.

Even Sport wasn't too harsh on Melbourne's rural roads, which are of a similar quality to New Zealand's, although Sport + is still more suited to the track. If you really want to take you two and a half tonne EV on a track that is.

Brake feel aside, the standard EQE is a rather astonishingly good car and the fact that it is actually cheaper than its PHEV equivalent just adds to the impressive case it makes for itself as Mercedes-Benz's most accomplished all-electric offering yet. However, the AMG EQE 53 takes things to a whole different level of impressive by offering all the luxury and tech of the standard EQE and adding staggering performance and serious attitude into the mix.

ENGINE: 98kWh battery with single or dual electric motors
POWER: 180kW/550Nm, 215kW/765Nm or 460kW/950Nm
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD or AWD
RANGE: 500-626km (NEDC)
PRICES: $132,100-$195,000


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