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Stuttgart continues to expand its family of luxury electric cars with a BMW iX-chasing SUV

When the world’s premium car makers started getting serious about electrification, they said there would be a thinning out of model ranges; a ruthless concentration on what buyers really wanted and a major reduction in model variants.

However, when that trio of deadly German rivals – Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz – made such comments, it always looked like lip service: we suspected they would go right on producing some models just because the others were doing it too.

The EQE SUV has generously dimensioned door apertures, allowing straightforward ingress

So it appears with the new Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV: one big reason for its existence, not to mention size, price and spec, is surely that BMW is having evident success with its BMW iX flagship, and Audi with the Audi Q8 E-tron.

Which is not to say that this new Mercedes EQE variant is anything other than another fine luxury car from a distinguished stable of big cars. Spend a day with one and you will start wondering what other car could do so much so well. But the point is that this new tall EQE joins a list of Mercedes offerings so long that it continues to bewilder.

Thankfully, there’s something reassuring about the name of the company’s latest electric car. It’s an SUV version of the EQE saloon, so it has been called the EQE SUV – natürlich.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 02 panning side

The EQE SUV derivative range is just as easy to understand. At present, there are two twin-engined versions, the 288bhp 350 and the 402bhp 500, both with 4Matic four-wheel drive, air suspension and adaptive damping. A 617bhp Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 version will come along later.

Prices start at just over £90,000, but our AMG Line Premium Plus model pushes that up to £121,760. So even though Stuttgart makes the similar EQS SUV that’s a size larger and pricier than this, clearly it’s not too shy to ask for very serious money for this car.

But it’s also supplying plenty of advanced technology. There are four trim levels, all with impressive equipment levels; but the top two (Premium Plus and Business Class) are available with two of the car’s most eye-catching technical additions: 10deg four-wheel steering and the so-called Hyperscreen, which in effect combines the displays on three fascia screens to make single 56in display that runs right across the dashboard and gives the front passenger dual control of functions like stereo, navigation and ventilation.

Its mechanical specification is equally rational. Like the EQE and EQS, the EQE SUV is based on Mercedes’ Electric Vehicle Architecture, and it offers familiar motive machinery.

Nothing is unusual about its smooth, rounded design, either. In fact, with a drag coefficient of 0.25Cd, it’s Mercedes’ most aerodynamically efficient SUV to date. New wind-cheating developments include patented elements within the front wheelhouses and a flat belly with various turning vanes.

Along with the standard look, there are of course two sporty AMG Line packages, plus a wide array of alloy wheels, ranging from 19in to 22in in diameter.

The EV is roughly the same length as the combustion-engined GLE, at 4863mm, with a similarly long wheelbase, but it’s also significantly narrower, at 1849mm, and lower, at 1686mm.

INTERIOR

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 10 interior

The cabin is similar in style to that of the EQE saloon, with most of its materials fittingly upmarket in feel, quality and ambience. 

As standard, you get a 12.3in digital instrument display and a 12.8in portrait infotainment touchscreen; or for £7995 you can have three screens blended into the dash-spanning 56in Hyperscreen. 

Magnificent 56in-wide Hyperscreen is an £8000 option that can give your front passenger easy-access control of ventilation, infotainment and navigation.

The flat floor combines with the long wheelbase to give a good deal of accommodation, particularly in the rear, with passengers enjoying lots of leg, head and shoulder room.

At 520 litres, the boot is 90 litres down on the EQS SUV’s, although an adjustable rear backrest can be set more upright to liberate an extra 60 litres. 

It’s a broad and flat space, although it has a high loading lip, because one of the two electric motors is mounted at the rear axle.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 09 charging port

The entry-level 350 represents the sweet spot in the EQE SUV line-up. With a kerb weight of 2580kg, performance is strong but hardly overwhelming. Its 564lb ft of instant torque does result in abrupt initial acceleration, but it tails off quite markedly as rolling forces build. 

Move up into the 500 and you find a car that feels quicker, what with 402bhp to propel its two-and-a-half-tonne mass. But even in Sport driving mode (one of four in all), which sharpens its accelerator response, it doesn’t seem to be in the front rank of performance EVs, and the 4.9sec 0-62mph time confirms that. It's brisk but not blistering.

The drivetrains of both models are terrifically refined, exceptionally smooth and vibration-free. The car’s slippery shape also ensures wind noise and buffeting around the door mirrors stay at a minimum, even on the motorway. 

Less well resolved is braking action. The pedal desperately lacks in feel, and there’s an odd movement to it as the brakes are pretensioned and ultimately triggered by the energy-regeneration function.

The EQE SUV is the first Mercedes EV to receive a unit that, at low speeds in Comfort and Eco driving modes, disconnects the front motor from the drive process, minimising mechanical drag losses for a 6% reduction in energy consumption.

As we now expect of any premium EV, the EQE SUV also receives a heat pump in place of a regular air-conditioning unit, bringing another 10% drop in consumption in cooler weather.

RIDE & HANDLING

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 22 tracking front low

Test drives on UK roads rapidly bring to light the extreme suitability of two of the EQE SUV’s most impressive dynamic features: four-wheel steering (which is included on upper-trim level 350s and 500s and as standard on AMG 53s), and air suspension with adaptive damping (standard on all UK-market models).

The former offers what rival 4WS systems do: sharpening steering response in low-speed, suburban manoeuvres by turning the rear wheels in the opposite way to the fronts to tighten the turning circle and stabilising the car in sudden, high-speed swerve manoeuvres (by turning those rear wheels the same way as the fronts) to make control easier for the driver.

The EQE SUV’s system feels perfectly integrated, though, and makes the car seem uncannily smaller than it is (4.86m long – about the size of the Range Rover Sport).

A brief drive in an EQE SUV without it rapidly showed its importance in day-to-day driving.

The air suspension, meanwhile, showed its great suitability for the UK’s neglected road network, coping very quietly (on its standard 19in wheels) with ruts and ripples that would have been fed much more easily into the cabin by a steel-suspension model. What we would brand as class-leading isolation is especially obvious at suburban speeds, where the car will probably spend much of its time.

Selecting Sport mode adds weight to the car’s steering and an underlying firmness to the ride, ramping up the interaction and body control. There’s substantial mass at play, but the EQE SUV is nevertheless quite agile, with reasonable amounts of grip and excellent traction. It also suppresses vertical movements well over winding and undulating country roads. 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 01 tracking front

With official economy of 2.8-3.4mpkWh, the EQE 350 SUV’s 89kWh battery offers up to 342 miles of range.

It can be charged at a rate of 22kW by an AC wallbox or of 170kW by a DC rapid charger - the latter being a little slower than some rivals.

The EQE 500 SUV gets a marginally large drive battery worth 91kWh, but WLTP range (depending on optional specification) of broadly the same figure.

So you can spend a good deal less on an EV that has greater range and will charge more quickly; and, for the money, Mercedes should probably offer better on both scores. But, in this respect at least, the EQE SUV is paying a price for the luxury and technology that it offers manifested in its kerb weight.

VERDICT

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mercedes benz eqe suv review 2023 23 static rear

The EQE SUV would be a very likeable and easy car for anyone to live with, its many positives outnumbering the odd negative. On the evidence of testing so far, it could even be Mercedes’ best EV yet – albeit for a considerable price.

It’s plush, versatile, beautifully made and above all easy to use - despite the roster of advanced digital technology that it comes with. It’s efficient for such a large, heavy car also and both rides and handles remarkably well, in the right technical specification; although it leaves a little to be desired versus some rivals for outright battery capacity, range and rapid-charging speed.

Although it may look like a lazy way for Mercedes to add SUV desirability to one of its EQ model lines without really doing much different to justify the billing, the EQE SUV actually proves that taller may well mean better where Mercedes’ bigger electric cars are concerned.

Additional UK reporting by Steve Cropley