► Merc’s EQE gains some height
► Twin motor four-wheel drive only for the UK
► Could do with a bit more polish
As you might have guessed from the entirely unimaginative name, the all-electric Mercedes EQE SUV is the crossover flavoured cousin of the regular EQE saloon. Although it’s not quite as long as its saloon-shaped sibling, a bit more height boosts practicality.
However, while you EQE saloons are rear-wheel drive unless you opt for a pricey AMG 53, the EQE SUV comes exclusively with twin-motor four-wheel drive. An AMG 53 version is on the way, but for the moment the choices are EQE SUV 350 4Matic and 500 4Matic.
Not only do other markets get rear-wheel drive versions, they’re also available with lesser trims that help bring the price down. As it stands, the UK range starts at over £90k, putting the EQE SUV head-to-head with the recently refreshed Audi Q8 E-Tron and the exceptionally good BMW iX.
How far will it go?
Opt for the 350 and you’ll get an 89kWh battery, while the 500 gets a whole 2kWh more. Either way, Merc claims an e-range of up to 341 miles. Both are available with a towing package rated at up to 3500kg, although expect the range to plummet when you’re hooked up.
While the 350 makes do with a lowly 288bhp, the 500 boosts this to 402bhp for acceleration times more in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from pricey EVs. Neither is slow, with the 350 whipping from 0-62mph in a junior hot hatch-rivalling 6.6 seconds, and the 500 chomping at the coat tails of serious performance machinery with its 4.9 second effort.
On the road the 350 is only likely to disappoint if you’ve got used to the neck strain a Tesla Model X can generate. Is the 500 overkill? Maybe, although the way it effortlessly surges past slower moving traffic and makes mincemeat of short slip roads is certainly appealing.
So it’s quick, but is it good to drive?
In some situations, yes. The EQE SUV is impressively refined and quiet on the move, with precious little tyre noise and that rather weird-looking body shape cutting through the air cleanly. Got a gentle motorway commute? This will eat up miles easily – in that particular scenario.
When you reach a corner, though, the EQE drives like a bit of a porker – which makes sense given it’s a 2.5+ tonne car. Body roll isn’t too bad, but the many imperfect roads of the UK only really make the EQE jiggle and undulate like you’re sitting on a half-filled water bed. It almost feels like the EQE SUV never really stops moving around.
The rear-wheel steering also takes some getting used to. In the first few miles, it can feel a little fierce and aggressive at low speeds. But, overall, the EQE’s handling is better than the flobbery ride; there’s loads of grip and you can chuck it into corners with some conviction.
What about the inside?
The EQE SUV’s dashboard will be familiar to anyone that’s recently been in an EQE or EQS. Lesser trim levels get a 12.3-inch digital display for the driver and a portrait-oriented 12.8-inch touchscreen to control the infotainment. It’s a responsive system with sharp graphics and menus that make sense after a little bit of acclimatisation.
Alternatively, AMG Line Premium gets the option of Merc’s Hyperscreen. Standard on Premium Plus and Business Class, it spins the central touchscreen to landscape, adds another 12.3-inch touchscreen for the passenger and puts them all under one piece of glass.
To be honest, it puts the instruments at an awkward angle, moves what few shortcut buttons there are into a worse position and costs nearly £8000. Yes, the passenger screen works well and can be useful, but it feels like one step forward and at least three back.
How’s the quality and space?
Perceived build quality is a little mixed. You’ll find some surprisingly cheap and scratchy plastic inside the centre console and on the bottom of the door cards, while the interior door pulls flex noticeably when you pull them. It’s a shame as the softer materials in areas you touch regularly feel pleasingly plush.
We’ve no complaints when it comes to space. Even with a big panoramic roof, four six-foot plus adults will be able to get comfortable thanks to generous head and legroom front and rear. Boot space is around 100 litres down on the Mercedes GLE at 520 litres, although this is a little better than the BMW iX.
Mercedes EQE SUV: verdict
There’s undoubtedly a good car in the EQE SUV. Space impresses, the promised range is useful and it’ll rapid charge from 10-80 per cent in just 32 minutes if you can find a 170kW charger. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem like Mercedes’ engineers have quite finished setting it up.
It genuinely feels as if a few calibration tweaks could do wonders for the ride and handling, something that’d make it far more recommendable. Even if this was fixed, this is still an awfully expensive e-SUV that’s no more practical than SUVs costing far less, and it doesn’t feel as luxurious than the similarly costly BMW iX.