Mercedes-Benz new EQE electric SUV is aimed at the brand’s heartland.
The five-seater family wagon costs roughly the same as its GLE petrol equivalent but comes loaded with more tech and features, including the first automotive application of Dolby Atmos surround sound.
The newcomer is based on the same electric platform that underpins the EQE sedan but the brand expects the practical SUV body to lure more buyers. The EQE will initially be available with a single-motor version, the EQE300, as well as dual-motor EQE350 and EQE500, although the EQE500 will only be around for a few months. An EQE53 AMG performance hero is also in the wings.
We sampled the EQE300, which starts at about $143,000 drive-away.
Mercedes claims it is capable of 446km between charges and takes 32 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 per cent.
Slower home charging is capped at 11kW or you can option a 22kW charger, which lowers the charging time to about 6.5 hours. Use a single-phase home charger and that full charge time is more like 13 hours.
Despite the range of different motors – each of which steps up in power and performance – each model shares the same features.
They include 21-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, leather trim, a powered tailgate, wireless phone charging, a 360-degree camera, 64-colour ambient lighting, heated and electric front seats and no-cost metallic paint. Mercedes also includes a charging cable as well as a charger to plug into a home power point.
There’s also a pumping Burmester sound system that can play songs in Dolby Atmos surround sound, which not only provides stereo and surround sound but also overhead audio for a more immersive experience.
The Atmos featured can only be played via Apple Music (there’s an Android app for it) with songs that have been coded for the advanced surround-sound decoder.
The EQE also has a highly customisable 12.3-inch digital driver display – there are six very different layouts – and a 17.7-inch central OLED touchscreen.
Another $6700 buys another 12.3-inch screen in front of the passenger, creating what Benz calls the Hyperscreen. Other options include Airmatic air suspension ($3400) and rear wheel steering ($2900) that can tighten the turning circle and improve high-speed stability.
Inside, the EQE is strictly a five-seater, something that could limit its appeal against the seven-seat petrol and diesel SUVs it competes with, including the Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW X5 and Audi Q7.
Mercedes’ only seven-seat alternative is the EQS SUV, which costs upwards of $200K.
The cabin is futuristic and beautifully presented, with a modern take on traditional materials, from leather and metal speaker grilles to the red stitching and woodgrain across the dash.
The back seats provide loads of head and legroom and there’s ample space for feet under the front seats, although three across the back could test the friendship.
The boot has a shallow floor but a deep bin that’s perfect for storing the two standard charging cables.
A 40/20/40 split-folding back seat adds to the versatility of the cabin.
On the road there’s no hiding the weight – the EQE300 is more than 2.5 tonnes – although it feels solid and reassuring any time you call on it to change direction swiftly.
It’s impressively comfortable for the most part, although sharp bumps will sometimes be felt through the 21-inch tyres.
That sudden movement can also occasionally catch out the anti-lock brakes as they struggle for traction. And the brake pedal feel generally doesn’t always have the consistency some may want.
The EQE300’s power delivery is smooth and relaxed. Accelerating mid-corner can trigger the traction control but it’s so composed it’s almost imperceptible. The modest 180kW of power is backed up by a more substantial 550Nm of torque.
It doesn’t have the thrust of some EVs but delivers a meaningful surge that makes light work of city traffic and highway cruising. Dial up Sport mode and the throttle is more responsive but the overall equation doesn’t change markedly.
There’s little doubt the EQE300 SUV mounts a solid EV case against internal-combustion alternatives, although the lack of seven seats limits its appeal.
Glamorous large SUV provides a compelling reason to consider electric, if you can live without seven seats.
PRICE: From about $143,000 plus on-roads
WARRANTY/SERVICING: Five yrs/unlimited km, about $4000 for five years
SAFETY: 10 airbags, auto emergency braking, lane-keep and blind-spot assist, driver monitor, radar cruise
POWER: Single electric motor, 180kW/550Nm
SPARE: Repair kit
LUGGAGE: 520 litres