Mercedes EQE SUV is exceptionally refined and mostly comfortable, making short work of challenging British roads and their broken surfaces. But as with many of Merc’s big EQ products, there are still some issues concerning its packaging, build quality and general handling. At over £90k for the base model, or £107k as tested here, it’s an expensive proposition, too.
It’s fair to say that there have been mixed reactions to the Mercedes EQ range over the years, but if there’s been one consistency it is a general improvement as each new version arrives. The EQE SUV is the latest in this series of new EV models, tested here in the UK for the first time in £90,560 EQE 350 form. It will have to size up against rivals from BMW and Audi.
If you baulked slightly at the price point don’t worry, we did too. In fact, the mid-level Premium model on test here is actually closer to £100k, with the optional Hyperscreen that’s also fitted adding a further £7,995 to the bottom line. It is worth remembering, however, that many of the EQE SUV’s key rivals share price points up in the ‘nose-bleed’ section, with the BMW iX 50 also kicking itself over the £100k mark.
As this is the entry-level EQE SUV in the UK, peak power is a relatively restrained 288bhp yet torque is rated at a much more impressive 765Nm. Both come from two motors, one mounted on each axle. Performance is more than adequate, reaching 62mph in 6.6 seconds and topping out at 130mph. The two motors draw power from a 90kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery pack, unlocking an impressive 285-340 miles of WLTP range. It’s capable of charging speeds of up to 170kW, which will add as much as 130 miles in 15 minutes.
Stepping up into the EQE’s cabin you won’t feel shortchanged on the gadget front, either. In contrast to the BMW’s clean presentation, Mercedes has gone for more of a maximalist vibe. Regardless of whether it’s fitted with a Hyperscreen or the standard setup which pairs an upright 12-inch touchscreen with a more traditional digital driver’s display, the sheer amount of digital real estate in all EQE SUVs is vast. The screens display a single-layer version of Merc’s MBUX infotainment that uses up every inch of pixel space.
From a user experience perspective, it isn’t quite as intimidating as feared thanks to a clear interface with most functions only a few presses away. If you get really lost, there are also some physical shortcut buttons on the centre console and, with a bit of initial setup and familiarisation, the whole digital experience will eventually fade into the background.
Once you’re done playing with the screens, however, some more fundamental issues with the EQE SUV cabin are revealed. The first is quality, which just doesn’t feel like it has taken a correlating step up to match Merc’s elevated price points. The materials are fine, but more worrying are things like the slightly sagging LED lighting, or the fact that they don’t line-up between the dash and door. This isn’t something limited to our specific EQE. It’s generally shared with many high-spec EQ models we’ve driven and at these prices it becomes harder to forgive.
There are other issues, too. The vast, high-set dashboard means you’ll need to sit a few inches higher than what might feel comfortable just to see over its highest point. Yet when you do lift the seat – and there is plenty of adjustability to them – some might be raised too close to the ceiling for comfort. It feels like you’re being perched right at the front of the cabin, akin to being on the bridge of an ocean liner.
The space left behind, though, is vast, with a cavernous and light-filled second row on account of the car’s low beltline and this Premium model’s glass roof. The 520-litre boot doesn’t sound big on paper, but is square and very usable. With the second-row folded down space is increased to a massive 1,675-litres.
On the move there’s no doubt as to the EQE’s superb refinement. The near-silent running of the e-motors, plus excellent calibration of the throttle and regenerative braking means it’s very easy to drive smoothly. Road and wind noise is exceptionally well suppressed, and at low speeds the ride is also brilliant. There’s a definite feeling of the car’s significant mass keeping the ride under control, gliding over the road surface in a deeply impressive manner.
As speeds rise, however, there are some things of note. At a constant motorway speed, there is an odd resonance from small bumps that enters the cabin. We tested it back-to-back with other similarly-sized SUVs on a specific section of the M1 motorway, and found it wasn’t a problem in those. This was the sole blot on what was a generally very impressive scorecard for motorway driving manners.
On A and B-roads the combination of the EQE SUV’s fast steering rack and rear-wheel steering system can accentuate the amount of body movement when cornering. It also doesn’t like big undulations in the road – this is where the sheer physics of a high-riding 2,580kg vehicle come in to play. No one is expecting an SUV like this to drive like a sports car, but it quickly feels out of its depth in a way the BMW iX rarely does.
The EQE SUV is a car of quite distinct highs and lows. The ambition in Mercedes’ engineering is clear to see, and in certain circumstances has resulted in a tour-de-force of comfort, tech and refinement. But the car’s spread of abilities still has gaps, especially given the price point. We’re in a phase of many EV products emerging onto the market needing to find a certain extra layer of final polish to their overall package, and in this case here. Mercedes-Benz needs to keep buffing away at those rough edges.