2022 Mercedes-Benz EQE 350 Ride-along Review

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We sample Mercedes-Benz’s new electric sedan ahead of its Australian introduction later this year.

The EQE is where Mercedes-Benz’s aspirations to seriously challenge the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan move into top gear.

Styled along similar lines to the larger EQS, it is the second model to be based on the German car maker’s dedicated EVA electric car platform, and the sixth fully electric Benz production model since the introduction of the EQC back in 2019.

In rear-driven EQS 350 form, with its single electric motor and 90kWh battery, the new saloon has a claimed range of up to 660km on the WLTP test cycle – a figure Mercedes is banking on to lure a greater number of customers into its fast-growing electric car ranks.

Set to be priced broadly in line with the combustion-engine E-Class, alongside which it will be sold in many of Mercedes’ existing markets, including Australia.

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Besides the Model S and Taycan, the EQE is also aiming at electric competitors such as the Xpeng P7 and soon-to-be-launched Nio ET7 in China, Mercedes’ largest market by sales volume.

Production of the V295, as the EQE is codenamed internally, is planned to take place both at Mercedes’ Bremen plant in Germany and a factory run in a joint venture with its largest shareholder, BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation), in Beijing, China.

We will know a lot more when we actually drive the EQE later this year, but for now, after riding along with development engineers on roads around Stuttgart in Germany, it is clear it is a compelling alternative to the car it is planned to eventually replace, the E-Class.

 

The EQE 350 prototype we’ve travelled to Mercedes’ research and development headquarters to experience is described as pre-production. However, it is devoid of disguise following the EQE’s world debut at the Munich motor show in September last year.

The relationship with the EQS is immediately clear in the shape of the blanked-off black panel grille, heavily tapered corners, clamshell bonnet, distinctive cab-forward silhouette and high beltline.

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It is not merely a shrunken EQS, though. Differences in appearance are apparent in the shape of the headlamps, which receive Mercedes’ Digital Light projectors used by our prototype as an option. It also does without the light band set between the headlights in its more luxurious stablemate. There’s a greater curvature to the hunches over the rear wheels, too, giving the EQE a slightly more muscular look than the EQS from certain angles.

The biggest difference between the two, however, is at the rear. In place of the large liftback-style tailgate used by the EQS, the EQE receives a conventional bootlid. As well as incorporating a very subtle tip-style spoiler, it houses a full-width light band connecting each of the tail-lights.

Smooth surfacing and developments such as flush door handles, aerodynamically optimised wheels ranging in size from 19-inch to 21-inch and a fully enclosed underbody with flat panelling to smooth airflow help the new Mercedes model cut through the air with greater efficiency than any combustion-engine model wearing the three-pointed star.

Oliver Röcker, head of EQE development, won’t reveal the final drag co-efficient just yet, though he confirms it doesn’t quite match the record 0.20 achieved by the EQS.

“With a shorter roofline and more rounded rear end, it was always going to be hard to achieve a drag co-efficient close to the EQS. We’ve done a lot of wind tunnel work, though we’re still waiting on final figures. It will be significantly better than the E-Class,” he says.

At 4946mm in length, 1961mm in width and 1512mm in height, the EQE is 117mm shorter but 101mm wider and 18mm taller than the existing fifth-generation E-Class saloon. Against the EQS, it is 270mm shorter, 35mm wider (owing to it being certified with different door handles) and exactly the same height. The EQE also uses a wheelbase that is 90mm shorter than the EQS, at 3120mm.

Just one EQE model, the rear-wheel-drive EQE 350, has been confirmed ahead of a planned start to Australian deliveries in late 2022.

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With 215kW and 530Nm from a single rear-mounted electric motor, it represents the entry-level point to what will eventually be an extended range of both rear- and four-wheel-drive EQE models, including two from Mercedes-Benz’s AMG performance car division set to be unveiled later this month. Drive is achieved through a single-speed gearbox with three primary driving modes: Comfort, Sport and Sport+. There’s also an additional Slippery mode, for driving on damp roads.

Electric energy is provided by a 90kWh battery, which can be pre-heated or cooled on the run in a pre-conditioning process aimed at ensuring it is always ready to accept the fastest possible charge. In the EQE 350, the lithium ion unit is claimed to provide a range of up to 660km on the WLTP cycle. With 10 individual modules, it can be charged at up to 170kW – some 30kW less than the EQS, with Mercedes-Benz claiming 250km can be gained in just 15 minutes of charging on a high-powered charger.

 

The EQE is underpinned by a standard steel suspension with multi-link arrangements at the front and rear. Alternatively, buyers can specify an optional air suspension, as used on the prototype we ride in.

So what’s it like, then? There’s a sense of familiarity when you step into the EQE. This is because a lot of it, including the optional Hyperscreen digital dashboard, multi-function steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, floating centre console and broad and generously cushioned seats of this pre-production prototype, is very much in common with the larger EQS.

Together with 12.3-inch digital instrument and 17.7-inch infotainment displays, the Hyperscreen – which uses a single, 1410mm-wide pane of curved aluminium silicate glass – also houses a 12.3-inch display ahead of the front passenger. This allows them to view television and videos, surf the internet and check on vehicle functions while on the move.

The brightness and clarity of the various displays are very impressive, as is the precise feel and nicely damped action of the analogue controls. Indeed, the perceived quality and finish is as good as you’ll find on any Mercedes-Benz production model.

The Hyperscreen may be impressive, but it is set to be a rather expensive option: like the EQS, the EQE receives a digital instrument panel and 11.9in portrait-style infotainment display similar to that seen on the latest S-Class as standard.

It doesn’t take long to conclude the EQE lacks the outright plushness of the EQS. The cushioning of the seats is firmer and the door inserts are less intricate in design, for example. It is more business-like, in keeping with the target customer. That said, it is very high on quality, with liberal expanses of Alcantara or Micro-Cloud fabric as Mercedes-Benz prefers to call it on the prototype. Connectivity, including a USB port that allows you to charge at up to 100W, is also a high priority.

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Predictably given the smaller external dimensions, you don’t quite get the same feeling of space as you do in the larger EQS, either. However, there is far greater accommodation than you find in the more conventional E-Class. You sit 65mm higher than in the traditional combustion-engine Mercedes-Benz saloon and the cabin is 84mm longer, giving the EQE a truly impressive amount of rear-seat leg room.

Boot space is put at 430 litres, which is a rather significant 180 litres less than the EQS and somewhat disappointing when you consider the E-Class saloon offers 540 litres. Still, the rear seatbacks can easily be dropped down to extend load carrying capacity when the rear seats are not in use.

As in the EQS, a HEPA filter occupies the space underneath the bonnet. As such, there is no front luggage space and, as on the fully electric EQ flagship, a fixed bonnet also sees the windscreen washer bottle filler confined to a port within the front left-hand side fender.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to drive the EQE 350 ourselves. Even so, there is a lot we managed to discover, even without a steering wheel in our hands.

The electric drivetrain is every bit as smooth as it is in the EQS. Even by the haughty standards of the latest crop of luxury electric cars, the EQE is exceptionally quiet with nary a whisper from the rear-mounted electric motor under load and it also displays very low levels of road noise at constant cruising speeds, even on the 20-inch winter tyres fitted to our prototype.

The slippery shape of the EQE also contributes to exceptionally low levels of wind noise. We didn’t get to run for extended periods on the autobahn, but at typical cruising speeds on country roads around Mercedes-Benz’s R&D centre, there was little evidence of buffeting even in stiff head winds. Part of this can be attributed to the optional double glazing used by the prototype. Even so, it is already clear the new electric-powered sedan will be one of the most refined offerings in its class.

The excellent refinement has its origins in the super-stiff body structure. It is similar in design to that used by the EQS but incorporates a greater percentage of steel, giving it much higher levels of torsional rigidity than that used by the E-Class.

In time there will be a number of EQE models to choose from. This initial one obviously majors more on delivering a reasonable range than overall sprinting ability.

“The EQE 350 is the entry point to the line-up. We think it delivers a good blend of performance and economy but it is no secret there will be more powerful and faster models in the longer term,” says Röcker.

Just how much of the maximum torque is placed at the driver’s disposal depends on the driving mode: Comfort, the most economical of all, gives you 80 per cent; Sport 90 per cent; Sport+ 100 per cent. In Slippery mode, the reserves are wound back by a significant 50 per cent.

The instant-on torque qualities ensure the rear-wheel-drive EQS 350 gets off the line smartly. Even with just one synchronous electric motor working to propel the 2450kg saloon, there is an urgent feel to the acceleration in Sport+ mode. However, it is never as explosive in nature as some four-wheel-drive dual-electric-motor saloon rivals.

Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-100km/h time of 5.6sec, so expect E450 4Matic levels of performance. For perspective, the mildest existing Tesla Model S model, the four-wheel-drive Long Range, has a claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.1sec while the rear-wheel-drive Porsche Taycan is put at 5.4sec. The top speed of the new Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, is limited to 210km/h.

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As with the EQS, the driver can choose between three different levels of energy recuperation, D+, D and D-, via steering wheel-mounted paddles. The former sees the EQE roll on without any discernible mechanical drag, while the latter sees it pull up quite abruptly as braking force is applied. The middle mode, meanwhile, has been calibrated to emulate the characteristics of a conventional combustion-engine model on a trailing throttle.

With the large battery mounted within the floor, there is a very low centre of gravity compared with the E-Class. As a result, the EQE feels very well planted when Röcker switches into Sport+ mode and begins pushing it through more tightly apexed corners.

The new electric sedan doesn’t make any great excuse for its size and weight; body movements are progressive and overall lean is nicely controlled when lateral forces begin to build.

There are measured and unruffled qualities to the handling. Part of this can be traced to the fast reactions of the standard variable damping and optional air suspension – the latter of which uses the three-chamber plungers like those found on the EQS and S-Class for constant ride height adjustment.

It is very agile for such a large and heavy car. Credit for this can be traced to the optional four-wheel steering system. As in the EQS, it is offered in two different set-ups, one with 4.5deg of rear steer angle and the other with a full 10.0deg – the latter of which is claimed to provide it with a turning circle smaller than that of the C-Class.

With firmer damping as well as a shorter wheelbase, the EQE can’t quite match the outstanding ride quality of the Mercedes-Benz EQS. However, it nevertheless displays excellent compliance and delivers nicely controlled shock absorption on most surfaces on the 265/50- and 295/40-profile tyres and air suspension fitted to the early example we rode in. There is an occasional jarring on larger transverse ridges and expansion joints. However, it soaks up potholes and broken bitumen with great control. It is light years ahead of the Model S in this respect, making it a very pleasing and relaxing car to travel in over extended distances.

Clearly, we will need more time behind the steering wheel ourselves before giving the EQE a definitive thumbs up, but on the strength of this first ride, it appears very accomplished. In terms of build quality, refinement, dynamic traits, ride quality and interior ambience, the new Mercedes-Benz model looks set to be a far more satisfying proposition than its ageing Telsa rival and the more conventional combustion-engine E-Class, too.

The initial rear-wheel-drive EQE 350 model is not exactly overflowing with performance but it delivers more than adequate accelerative ability. It is the sort of car that I suspect will be very easy to live with if you have access to charging facilities. And even if you don’t, the relatively large battery and a sophisticated energy recuperation system should give it a very competitive range and the sort of economy to match the best in class.

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