With the launch of its all-electric E-Class entrant, the 2023 EQE-Class, Mercedes
has the Tesla
Model S squarely in its sights. The self-proclaimed inventors of the combustion-powered car (see 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen) felt no compunction to emulate any of the characteristics that helped the Model S popularize electric cars on a global scale—and which led to Tesla outselling Mercedes by 17,147 cars in 2021 to become the No. 3 luxury brand in the U.S. There's no frunk in the EQE, no Ikea minimalist interior, no record-setting acceleration or range figures, no rainbow-road or fart-noise "Easter eggs." Rather, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE-Class simply aims to be the Mercedes-Benz of premium E-segment electric sedans. Should the Teslarati (or those considering an Audi
i4, Lucid Air, or Porsche Taycan) hold out for a Mercedes EQE-Class?
No Rail-Gun Rocket. Yet.
The 2023 Mercedes EQE will launch in 350+ guise; the plus is meant to suggest long range, and indeed, the rear-drive 350+ with the skinnier 19-inch tires will undoubtedly travel the farthest on its 90.6-kWh battery, but no smaller battery options are planned. The hypermilers at Europe's WLTP say it's good for 660 kilometers, which we're betting will translate to something like 330 more realistic EPA miles. Mercedes says this 288-hp, 391-lb-ft rear-drive variant wafts to 60 mph in a dignified 5.6 seconds. That's a half-second-plus quicker than a Chevy Bolt, with which it shares its weight-to-power ratio. The 402-hp/633-lb-ft dual-motor EQE 500 scheduled to follow the 350+ to market before the end of 2022 drops that pounds-per-horsepower figure to base Ford Mustang Mach-E 4x levels. As such, it feels considerably quicker, but it still won't pin your head back and blur the scenery. Ludicrous acceleration is more the purview of the AMG team, which is readying an EQE 53 that'll churn out 617-677 hp and 701-738 lb-ft of torque.
Up in the hilly Hessian countryside just outside Frankfurt, the 2023 Mercedes EQE 350+ comported itself with the poise we've come to expect from modern air-suspended big-battery e-sedans featuring low centers of gravity: confidently, with very little body roll and even less steering feel. Fortunately, what the helm lacks in road feel it largely compensates for in precision. The two-motor EQE 500's front motor helped yank it out of the corners more smartly, though the 255/40R20 tires on our base 350+ and 500 seemed to give up their grip a bit earlier than expected. We then sampled a 350+ First Edition fitted with the staggered 21s (255/35 front, 285/30 rear) that hung on with noticeably better grip (obviously at some cost to range). Note that all were branded Pirelli P Zero MO-S. Our biggest gripe with these EQ sedans continues to be the weird brake pedal, which moves on its own during regenerative braking. When moving from accelerator to brake, drivers often find the pedal already in motion. This feels unnatural, and although the brakes worked great and the pedal remained firm, a hard run down a mountain had them smelling pretty cooked at the bottom. Bottom line: Most of the listed competitors feel more lithe—as the EQE 53 AMG undoubtedly will.
Would-be Mandalorian spaceship pilots have three synthesized powertrain noise profiles to choose from—Vivid Flux, Silver Waves, and Roaring Pulse, most of which struck the assembled journalist corps as silly. Dedicated EQ infotainment screens let the driver monitor consumption history, locate charging stations along a programmed route, opt to extend range by curtailing individual interior and climate functions or by activating ECO drive functions, and program charging times and limits. As we've noted in our first look and first ride reviews, the EQE can accept 170-kW DC fast charging (which can fill a third of the battery in 15 minutes) thanks to refrigerant cooling of the battery. Using the Mercedes Me Charge green charging network (60,000 U.S. chargers), drivers can plug and charge—free for two years—without further authentication, knowing Mercedes will offset every kWh with green energy.
The One-Bow jellybean design ethos shared by the EQE and EQS pays off in impressive aerodynamic drag coefficients (0.20 for the EQS, 0.22 for the shorter-tailed EQE) but results in a high cowl that heightens these cars' feeling of heft and substance. The interior execution is also uniquely Mercedes-Benz—vastly more opulent than any Tesla and more carefully crafted than early Lucids we've experienced. That higher One-Bow roof (and a trunk that eliminates the EQS hatchback's overhead hinges) delivers reasonable rear headroom in a seat positioned at a comfortable height above the floor, unlike in some e-sedans like Lucid Air models with the biggest battery and the Tesla Model 3. Oh, and you could manufacture semiconductors in the clean air afforded by the 600-cubic-inch HEPA filter that consumes the space that might otherwise be a frunk.
Technophiles may be drawn to the optional pillar-to-pillar Hyperscreen (directly shared with the EQS), but the standard setup (which shares its basic instrument-panel and infotainment screens with the combustion-engine S-Class) is preferable in many ways. The same info gets displayed, and the various trim-panel options that otherwise span the dash are more attractive. Besides, how often will your passenger really play Sudoku, Shuffle-Puck, or Pairs, browse the internet, or watch video on that third screen? (That screen now achieves safety compliance by monitoring driver eye gaze and pausing/dimming the video content if the driver looks at it.) There's also a huge, colorful head-up display that depicts more info than practically any other we've experienced. Our biggest complaint with the 2023 Mercedes EQE's interior is its almost complete reliance on capacitive-touch switches and its total dearth of knobs for volume/tuning/climate controls. At least "hey Mercedes" will handle most of what these switches do, if you can bring yourself to converse with your car.
Should You Wait For An EQE, Arriving This Fall?
For loyal Mercedes-Benz E-Class owners looking to upgreen their ride, no other option will do. Air-quality worrywarts and screen-size braggarts will find the frunk-sized filtration system and Hyperscreen irresistible. And many new mainstream EV-buyers will be beguiled by the EQE's sumptuous interior and smooth, silent operation. But driving enthusiasts will find similar-priced and more compelling offerings from the competitors, and hardcore EV enthusiasts will be lured by the Lucid Air's innovation and efficiency.