Mercedes-Benz brass will be the first to admit that the fourth vehicle to be built on its new dedicated electric EQ platform is the most important yet.
The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV follows the flagship EQS sedan, slightly smaller EQE sedan, and the Tesla-fighting EQS SUV. So why does this latest one bear such significance? In short, the premium small sport utility segment is red hot, and this five-seater is diving into the burgeoning electrified end of the pool along with a few other fresh players like the Cadillac Lyric, Genesis Electrified GV70, and BMW iX.
A Look All Its Own
The EQE SUV uses the bones of the EQE sedan, although it casts a smaller shadow thanks to its slightly shorter wheelbase and overhangs. Like its bigger sibling, the EQS SUV, there’s a reserved elegance here that doesn’t shout about its electric powertrain, yet its unadorned, flowing countenance points to this SUV’s impressive drag coefficient of 0.25 on standard 19-inch wheels – mighty slippery for a tall sport utility with a large front end. This has been accomplished by cladding the underside with panels (made from recycled plastic), aerodynamic wheels and tires (from 19- to 22 inches), flush door handles, and obsessive tuning of the rear end that incorporates two subtle spoilers and other tweaks to keep the atmosphere undisturbed as it passes over the vehicle.
Electric Motoring the Mercedes Way
The Canadian market is getting two models – the EQE 350 SUV, and the EQE 500 SUV. The American market also gets a rear-wheel drive version called the 350+, while the two versions sold in Canada sport standard all-wheel drive. Both also pack a 90.6-kWh battery driving a permanently excited synchronous electric motor on each axle. Power output lines up with the EQE sedan; there’s 288 hp and 564 lb-ft of torque for the 350, and 402 hp and 633 lb-ft for the spicier 500.
First setting out in the EQE 500 SUV, it certainly proved to be a calming ally in our escape from deep within the ancient city of Lisbon. Portugal’s capital is an endless warren of extremely narrow one-way cobblestone streets that were laid out, oh, about 600 years ago. Traffic is a 24/7 tangle, yet the locals seem to go about it with calm acceptance. This electric SUV’s rear-wheel steering (standard on the 500, optional on the 350) paid dividends here, shrinking its turning circle from the standard 12.3 metres to a more manageable 10.5.
Once out on the highway, the EQE 500 SUV is a smooth operator, showing effortless, linear acceleration and a velvety ride. All the testers on this media event were fitted with optional air suspension that can raise the vehicle by 25 mm (one in) when using the off-road program. Other drive modes include eco, comfort, sport, and the customizable individual.
The following day was spent driving the EQE 350 SUV, and its 288 hp and 564 lb-ft proved more than adequate. While not blazingly quick like the 500, the 350 still provides instant and impressive giddyup when called for. This white tester was fitted with the standard 12.8-inch central touchscreen with 12.3-inch digital cluster, and while perfectly fine its downside is the textured slab of hard plastic that covers the rest of the flat dash panel. It feels uncharacteristically cheap for a Mercedes.
In a nod to increased efficiency, the EQE SUV comes with a standard front-axle disconnect system that has the front wheels freewheeling under light acceleration loads and when coasting. This Mercedes EQ first provides up to a six per cent improvement in efficiency. Also new to the EQ line is a standard heat pump, which harvests heat from the powertrain components (battery and both motors) and uses it for cabin heating.
Slick Interior Treatments
The cabin features a floating console and is resplendent in rich materials and fine workmanship. For the full experience, skip the standard 12.8-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen display and 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and go for the optional hyperscreen that wows with its door-to-door swath of glass. It seamlessly integrates three screens – a 12.3-inch driver’s display, 17.1-inch central screen, and the 12.3-inch display with its own interface for the front-seat passenger that can entertain with movies, games, and more.
The 2023 EQE SUV gets the full complement of safety and driver aids along with this brand’s daunting layers of tech. A haptic HVAC control panel is found in the lower central screen, and myriad haptic controls live on the steering wheel. There’s a lot going on here, but getting a handle on the basics is fairly straightforward, while a quick utterance of “Hey, Mercedes,” followed by a specific command, is there to help with most requests.
When reaching the smooth winding roads of the Portuguese countryside, selecting sport mode buttoned down the suspension a bit and gave more urgency to the throttle pedal. Still, this 500 never veers too far towards the sporting, maintaining its hushed compliance in lieu of stiff-legged cornering prowess. This is a heavy vehicle, and its avoirdupois makes itself known when leaning into a corner with a tad too much pace. Even so, I’ll take the EQE SUV’s well-judged comfort and “sporty” handling over a more aggressive setup. What I don’t like are the blind-spots created by the thick A-pillars.
Having driven its big-brother EQS SUV last year and not being enamoured with its drive-by-wire braking that felt unnatural and sometimes had a mind of its own, I was afraid the EQE SUV would be similarly affected. Not so. Mercedes has taken the criticism seriously and has quietly recalibrated the system. Specifically, the intelligent braking setting that automatically adjusts the level of regeneration, depending on conditions, has been tweaked for better feel.
The front seats are suitably comfortable (heated and ventilated) and, in a first for Mercedes, the EQE SUV’s cabin is completely cow-free (although leather can be specced). The carpets, air vents, and some interior panels are made from recycled plastic, carpets, and fishing net. Rear-seat room is class-competitive and with the massive panoramic roof, the cabin feels airy. Cargo capacity measures 520 L with the 40/20/40 split-folding second row in place, and expands to 1,675 L when it’s stowed. Maximum towing capacity for both models is 1,800 kg (3,968 lb).
Pricing and Packaging
In Canada, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV comes in three trim levels. The Executive gets all the safety systems and driver aids, 19-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control with map-based speed adaptation, active ambient lighting, and augmented reality for the navigation. Moving up to the Pinnacle trim adds a head-up display, additional USB-C ports, four-zone climate control, digital lighting with steering code, and more. The AMG Line Exterior package adds AMG styling upgrades to the Pinnacle trim.
With its 400-volt electric architecture, EQE SUV is capable of charging at up to 170 kW at DC fast-charging stations, jumping from 10 to 80 per cent in 32 minutes in ideal conditions. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger, a zero-to-full charge takes almost 11 hours. Range for the 350 is 407 km, while the 500 claims a higher 433 km.
The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV is built in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and will be available sometime in May. Pricing starts at $94,900 before freight and taxes for the EQE 350 SUV, and $104,900 for the EQE 500 SUV. And with its premium interior, massive tech, and calm, luxurious demeanour, this sport utility spells out the Mercedes brand of luxury in no uncertain terms.