2023 Mercedes EQE SUV

PHOENIX — There's yet another EQ-branded fully electric Mercedes and the EQE SUV tested here is its newest offering that shares its platform and styling cues with the mid-sized Mercedes EQE sedan. If you're familiar with Mercedes' popular gas-powered GLE the EQE is similar in size, but totally different and not just because it's all- electric.

Offered in two models, the base model we tested here is the EQE 350 with a starting price of $79,050 including the $1,150 destination and delivery charge, and the upgraded and more powerful EQE 500 starting at $90,650. The biggest difference between the two models is performance with the 350 delivering 288-horsepower and a choice of standard rear-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive Mercedes calls 4MATIC and a total electric driving range advertised at 279 miles. Our test EQE 350 came equipped with the 10-degree rear axle steering ($1,300 optional) that we thought was superb. 0-60 mph is reached in 6.3 seconds according to Mercedes.

The EQE 500 is standard all-wheel-drive only and produces 402-horsepower and an electric driving range rated at 269 miles and a 0-60 mph time in just 4.6 seconds. Both vehicles are capable of utilizing DC (direct current) fast charging meaning a 5% charge to an 80% charge in about 30 - 35 minutes if you are able to locate a charging station that offers it. ChargePoint, Electrify America, EVgo for example generally offer it if you can find a station. DC fast charging is not suitable for residential settings.

As it is with all Mercedes fully-electric vehicles the exterior of the EQE is intentionally smoothly rounded in appearance to advantage its aerodynamics and driving range. Style is certainly an individual preference but we think it looks terrific and unlike the lion's share of SUVs that lean heavily on chiseled, rugged design cues suggesting a more adventurous experience.

Accessing the EQE is via lighted door handles that until unlocked are smooth to the body and pop out, lighted and easy to grab. Inside, you'll immediately crush on its gorgeous interior with impressive materials throughout the cabin that look and feel expensive with exceptional build quality. There's ample room for five-adult as there's no third-row seating option. Our test 350 comes standard with a convincing faux-leather upholstery (genuine leather hides are optional) and front seats are both heated but a cooling feature costs extra as does a front seat massaging function.

Oddly, there's no heated seats for the rear. The instrument panel was lit and outlined by contoured 64 color $850 optional ambient mood lighting strips that gently and attractively change color as you motor about or you can adjust to keep it a continuous color of your choosing.  An extra large panoramic sunroof is standard but we found opening and closing the roof that no longer uses a switch in favor of a pad that you just swipe your finger on it to open and close took some practice to get it to open or stop where you desired challenging.

There's no shortage of technological wow features including the classy looking 12.8 OLED Portrait Display screen that gently rises from the center console to mid-level on the instrument panel but we aren't a fan of the ample amount of dust and fingerprint showing piano black panels that make up the center console. There's also a slim control strip at the bottom of the OLED screen for numerous touch controls like hazard flashers, audio mute button, settings etc. There's also a small black square button that's a fingerprint sensor that when set up and and pressed brings up your memory settings for the seat, mirrors and more.

Most all operating function are controlled by either a swipe of your finger, your voice command, or touch screen. There's almost no buttons or switches. Audio volume for example is simply a slide of your finger left or right on the strip panel to increase or decrease the volume. There's an air purifier display that when pressed will display the outside air quality then the air quality inside the cabin once its been purified by the vehicle's ionization feature. The vehicle can also deliver a fragrance via a vial that fits within the instrument panel will emit small scents of the chosen fragrance through the climate control system. You can buy numerous different fragrances from the parts department counter at your Mercedes dealership for your pleasure.

The infotainment system itself in the EQE is nothing short of fantastic and one of the easiest and intuitive to use we've found in any vehicle and brilliantly designed. There's also a tab in the menu labeled EQ that can give you immediate information on what your electric driving range is, what's stealing range such as the climate control system, along with what you can do to maximize your range. You can control it individually or just press a large circular button on the screen that says "Maximize Range" and the vehicle will change all the settings necessary to improve your range and tell you how many additional miles will be added if you accept the changes.

The other instrument panel screen is the gauge cluster immediately behind the steering wheel. It too is one of the best digital screens we've used in any vehicle. It's evident an incredible amount of logical thought went into its design and functions. The center panel of the cluster between the odometer and the % power gauge is configurable to show you just about anything you want to know including navigation screen, audio information and station choices. You can also change the configuration to show full-screen just about anything you want including navigation map, audio information, driver assistance and even off-road mode except it's highly doubtful this vehicle will ever go off road.

Rear storage is acceptable in the cargo area and since there isn't a third row of seats the floor cover lifts to reveal additional storage space for items you want to keep out of sight or from moving around in the cargo area. And unlike other electric vehicles on the market the EQE does not have a "frunk." A frunk is a cargo area under the front hood of the vehicle that some automakers use for additional storage since there isn't an engine up there. In the EQE not only is there no frunk, the hood doesn't open at all. If you want to add windshield washer fluid most vehicles would do so by opening the hood of the car. The EQE has a small door on the front fender that when pushed pops open and that's where you add the fluid.

So what's it like to drive the EQE 350 SUV? While certainly not as quick as the EQE 500 we found the 350 to be legitimately quick and for the vast number of buyers more than an ample amount of power for cruise driving, quickly getting up to interstate speeds and when passing another vehicle with thanks to immediate torque that's part of electric powered vehicles.

We were also impressed with the ride quality which in part probably seems even nicer given you're riding in such a beautiful interior. It's feels comfortable and luxurious. And of course, since it is electric it's also quiet making travel all the more enjoyable. And one more word about the rear steering feature. We absolutely loved it. It makes parking a snap, cornering exact and the handling feel exceptional. It's well worth the additional money.

So with all this goodness the biggest hurdle for us to overcome with the EQE SUV is the price. At close to $90,000 with options, and the EQE 500 over $105,000 that's an enormous price jump from the excellent Mercedes non-electric GLE, especially considering it's basically a mid-sized five-passenger crossover utility vehicle. A regular, gasoline powered GLE starts around $62,000 and in reality most car buyers still prefer gasoline powered vehicles.

Overall, even though our take is that it's expensive for what it is, it's still a very nice vehicle with well thought out features and technology. We weren't completely sold on the exterior looks that seems to be missing a wow feature and uninspiring given the price. However, if you've decided you want to go luxury and want luxury and an SUV we think the EQE SUV, with good range, great technology, and a satisfying driving experience will more than satisfy what you are looking for.

Vital Stats

Base Price: $77,900
Price as Tested: $86,790
Powertrain: Permanent-magnet synchronous AC, with 90.6 kWh liquid-cooled-ion, battery pack and a direct-drive automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 288 combined horsepower with 564 lb.ft torque
Driving Range: 279 miles
Seats: 5
Where Built: Vance, Alabama

Crash Test Safety Ratings: The EQE SUV has not been crash tested for safety ratings by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as of this writing.

Competes With:
Audi Q8 e-tron
BMW iX xDrive50
Cadillac Lyric
Genesis GV70
Jaguar I-PACE
Rivian R1S
Volvo EX90

Luxurious, stylish cabin
Decent driving range
Impressive rear steering

Subjective value proposition
Missing a wow factor
Heated rear seats are unavailable

— Jim Prueter