The all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQS is among the most sublime cars on the road right now, an understated exterior wrapped around a sumptuous interior, featuring all the niceties you’d expect from an S-badged Merc with the effortless acceleration of an EV and stellar ride quality to boot. The flagship EV is, quite simply, very good.
It’s also very expensive, big and exclusive.
Thankfully, there’s now a more affordable option — well, slightly more affordable, anyway. Welcome to the Mercedes-Benz EQE: an all-electric sedan that’s about a foot shorter, 230 ponies less powerful, goes 45 fewer miles on a charge and, crucially, costs $30,000 less.
Despite all that, don’t call this a downgrade.
The EQE is a perfect choice for anyone who doesn’t quite need the dimensions, performance or that little bit of extra range of the EQS.
If there’s one thing wrong with the EQE it’s the look. Where the EQS manages to be somewhat globular yet stately from the outside, the EQE is anonymous front-to-rear.
It’s not a bad-looking car by any means, basically a nine-tenths-scale version of the EQS, but with its amorphous profile it just sort of disappears into a parking lot.
The detailing on the nose looks fresh; the three-pointed star sits bold and centered within a radiating field of stellar echoes, an arrangement far more appealing than the fake grilles found on a lot of other EVs.
It’s all downhill from there, though.
The way the lines flow from the bulbous headlights to the pert tail lights with nary a crease in between doesn’t do much to get the juices flowing.
There is, at least, a good reason for the anonymity: The EQE has a remarkable 0.20 coefficient of drag, helping it deliver a remarkably good 305 mile EPA-rated range in the rear-drive, EQE 350+ configuration.
The higher-power, all-wheel-drive EQE 500 you see here still doesn’t have official EPA figures, but in ideal conditions it shouldn’t be too far off. In my testing, I averaged 2.0 miles per kilowatt-hour, which would mean a theoretical maximum range of 180 miles from the 90-kWh battery pack, but my conditions were hardly ideal. This EQE not only came on snow tires, which generally offer a 10 to 15% range penalty, but during some extremely cold weather with icy and often wet roads. Your mileage should be much better.
That nondescript exterior is in sharp contrast to the interior.
It’s perhaps a few steps down from the general opulence of the EQS, but you’d hardly know it.
The EQE 500 you see here has the ($2,100) AMG Line interior package, which means sport seats, a racier steering wheel, some extra branding and the contrasting red seat belts.
There’s also generous Alcantara and microfiber surfaces throughout, which pair beautifully with the Black Linden wood on the dashboard. That, plus the stunning turbine vents, make for a clean, modern, beautiful dash.
That Multifunction Sport steering wheel is a bit busy, with numerous capacitive touch surfaces controlling everything from the cruise control to gauge cluster modes. However, unlike the thumb-controls on the Volkswagen ID. 4, everything here is well separated and easy to use without looking down. I never found myself toggling the wrong control. Only the headlight buttons are a little clumsy, hidden under the dashboard on the left, but they’re so precisely automated that I rarely had to worry about that.
If there’s one drawback here, it’s the volume of the space.
Inside, the EQE can feel a bit cramped. The way that uber-stylish dashboard sweeps in makes things just feel a bit claustrophobic, and while there is plenty of headroom up front, it’s a little limited out back despite the panoramic glass roof.
Legroom, at least, is decent, and all the seats are comfortable. Even if there isn’t a lot of room to move around you won’t feel much need to squirm. Massaging up front just gives all the more reason to settle in and enjoy the trip.
There’s decent storage, with a massive cubby beneath the center console and generous pocket inside the arm rest as well. The trunk is narrow but still offers 15 cubic feet of storage, up from the 13.1 in the E-Class sedan.
The EQE is swimming in tech, assistance and safety features, starting up front with the superb Digital Light LED headlights, a $1,100 option. They are incredibly bright with faultless auto-dimming and lots of surprisingly fun extra features. They’ll paint an arrow on the asphalt when changing lanes on the highway, for example, and even highlight the road markings should you start to wander out of your lane.
The EQE you see here does not have the epic Hyperscreen dashboard, with displays that run virtually the entire length of the dashboard; I didn’t miss it.
This car’s 12.8-inch center display is still generous, while the 12.3-inch gauge cluster is remarkably feature-packed. You will not be lacking for information.
Nor customization. The EQE is among the most tweakable cars I’ve ever driven. You have a bevy of drive modes at your disposal, endless ambient lighting colors, three fake engine noises, five gauge clusters (each individually customizable), eight seat massage routines, flexible charging rates and times, four regenerative braking levels and even a trio of individual HVAC modes to let you prioritize driving distance versus tush toastiness. It can be a little overwhelming, but I love that you can make this car drive exactly how you want it, and Mercedes’ clean MBUX interface makes it all easy. And yes, there’s wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, too.
As far as safety and assistance features go, the standard suite of features on the EQE offers almost everything you could want, including front and rear automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise, which ensures the vehicle maintains a safe following distance and stays within the speed limit.
The lane-keeping and adaptive cruise systems are extremely good. The EQE stays rock-solid in its lane and smoothly flows with traffic. If there’s anything missing, it’s some sort of hands-off mode like you can find in some Cadillacs and Fords, but it’s coming — eventually.
The EQS is not a sports car and the EQE very much follows in the same template. However, with 402 horsepower and 633 pound-feet of torque in this EQE 500 4Matic, it certainly accelerates like one. In Sport mode the EQE is eager, its acceleration paired with one of three somewhat silly but fun fake engine noises.
The car’s comfort-tuned suspension is a bit on the soft side and the car pitches and rolls like a dinghy through the corners, but even on Pirelli Sottozero winter tires it had plenty of grip. Meanwhile, the ($1,300) rear-steering system makes everything a lot more lively than it would otherwise be, also enabling impressive U-turns. You’ll need never worry about a three-point turn again.
The smart choice
You can get into an EQE 350+ with rear-wheel-drive for $74,900. This one, though, came out a good bit higher. The base price on the faster, more powerful EQE 500 4Matic is $88,000. Add in all the options mentioned above plus a few more, like $1,750 for the red paint and $1,620 for the lovely linden wood, plus a $1,150 destination charge, and you have an as-configured price of $104,470.
For that money you could get yourself into a base EQS, but then you’d have to start the options game all over again. For me, a well-equipped EQE is the smart choice. It ticks all the boxes for what luxury electric motoring should be today while pointing to a bright future of calm, cosseting, emissions-free motoring.