The Mercedes-Benz EQE sedan is a polarizing figure in the modern EV marketplace. From the cab-forward stance to the tech-laden cabin, the EQE does nothing to hide its electrified credentials, looking more like a space pod than the E-Class to which it is nominally related.
But there’s more to the mid-size Mercedes EV than meets the eye. With a dual-motor powertrain pumping out 402 horsepower and 633 pound-feet of torque, the 2023 EQE500 is as overpowered as it is overstyled. And yet, I can’t help but be charmed by its insistent futurism, with Speed Racer four-wheel steering and synthwave interior illumination keeping things interesting when the off-the-line thrust starts to feel passé.
Like its EQS big sibling, the EQE sedan makes proud use of Mercedes’ “one-bow” styling language for EVs. The low front end and stubby tail are connected with one single brushstroke, the 59.5-inch roofline peaking just behind the driver to give the car a slightly rearward-leaning stance. Unlike the light-barred EQS, the EQE makes do with separate headlights, and bracket-shaped daytime running lights liven up the appearance a bit. Around back, a full-width taillight panel gets coiled lighting elements, just like a light bulb.
Beyond those details, deciding whether or not you like the EQE is a matter of opinion – I enjoy the mid-90s concept car look a lot, personally. What’s not up for debate is how awesome the AMG Line aero wheels are. Embossed with a zillion little Mercedes stars, these wheels measure 20 inches and give the EQE500 some stellar rolling stock.
Inside, the EQE doesn’t offer the MBUX Hyperscreen, but the seeming acre of wood trim on the dashboard is a fitting substitute. The dash top and windowsills dovetail around the interior in a swooping plane, looking crisp and appropriately modern, and the minimalist AMG sport seats fit the spaceship vibe very well. There are a few chinks in the armor, though. The door pulls – a common touchpoint, obviously – are done up in chintzy, aluminum-look plastic, and the high dash inhibits visibility given the plunging front end. Otherwise, the EQE’s cabin hits the right notes.
Bombastic acceleration aside, the EQE500 is a very genteel car in which to motor around town. Adaptive dampers are standard, and they do great work in their softest setting to even out the bumps on bad pavement. A low 0.22 drag coefficient and door-mounted mirrors reduce wind roar, and despite the EQE’s frameless windows, there isn’t much road noise to speak of.
The aforementioned front seats offer a good amount of adjustability and are padded enough to be comfy for a long day of errands, and there’s enough space for a driver and front passenger to get comfy enough. Unfortunately, the rear seats aren’t as accommodating – a high floor necessitated by the 90.6-kilowatt-hour battery saps some toe room and forces a slightly awkward, thighs-up seating position. I have the same issue in the EQS, and it’s a bit worse in the smaller EQE.
Unlike the EQS sedan, the EQE doesn’t offer an MBUX Hyperscreen on its options sheet. But unless you frequently have a front-seat passenger who needs constant entertainment, you won’t miss the dash-spanning panel of glass. The 12.8-inch touchscreen provided me with more than enough digital real estate, and as an added bonus, portions of it don’t get blocked by the steering wheel as they do on the Hyperscreen’s larger center display. One option that does carry over is enhanced ambient lighting, a feature of the mid-level, $850 Exclusive trim package that also includes augmented-reality navigation.
Pushing a combined 402 hp and 633 lb-ft from a pair of electric motors (without any subscriptions), the Mercedes-Benz EQE500 is a surprising thrill in a straight line. Its 60-mile-per-hour sprint of 4.5 seconds doesn’t sound all that impressive in a world of 3.3-second Kias, but the Mercedes doles out its thrust gently from a stop to maintain control. Once on the fly, the dual motors provide blistering passing power, and onramp acceleration is far more ferocious than any Mercedes not wearing an AMG badge has a right to be.
If only the EQE500 had the brakes and tires to back up the power. Although the regenerative braking system is strong, bringing the car to a halt with ease, the pedal itself is difficult to modulate, and hard panic braking doesn’t feel as stout as it should be given the power on board – blame a 5,424-pound curb weight and all-season tires. Those two coconspirators rear their heads again in hard cornering, where the EQE releases its grip up front sooner than I’d like. At saner speeds at least, the car turns corners quite nicely, thanks in part to the standard 10-degree rear axle steering.
As usual, Mercedes-Benz charges extra for its admittedly excellent suite of Level 2 active safety and assistance features. Although active lane departure prevention is standard, my tester’s Driver Assistance pack is the only way to get adaptive cruise control, active lane changes, and stop-and-go functionality. C’mon Mercedes, just make it standard. It’s so good at keeping the car distanced from surrounding traffic that it’s a shame to keep it behind a $1,250 wall.
The single-motor, 288-hp Mercedes-Benz EQE350+ starts at $76,050 with destination, but getting into the EQE500 is a minimum $87,050 investment. My tester carried an additional $11,300 in options, the biggest tickets being a $2,100 AMG Line interior and $2,200 AMG Line exterior, as well as $1,600 for a black microfiber headliner. Ditch those bits and you’re left with substantively the same vehicle for just over 92 large.
But even if you exercise some restraint with the options, the Mercedes-Benz EQE is still a darned expensive vehicle when you could get the faster, quicker-charging BMW i4 M50 with every single option checked for $84,370. A loaded Tesla Model 3 Performance is cheaper still, at $71,240 including the pipe-dream Full Self Driving option. Or, for about the same price of the EQE I drove, I could also purchase the more spacious Tesla Model S, which gets at least 375 miles of range and hits 60 in a fleet 3.1 seconds.
The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE500 sedan does a few things very well. It’ll wow onlookers who spot its rear wheels cranking around the parking lot, and the nicely finished cabin turns into a Miami nightclub when the sun goes down thanks to the ambient lighting. It’s quiet and refined, too, and the look-at-me styling broadcasts its EV pretensions to the world. For me, this mid-size EV is at least $10,000 too expensive to be a smart buy, so thank goodness it has some intangibles to help compensate.