Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV first drive review: Silent luxury
Meet the Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV. The EQE 500 SUV, to be precise. The EQE is meant to be the electric counterpart to the GLE, and has been launched in India for Rs 1.39 crore (ex-showroom). At that price, it squares off against other luxury electric SUVs in the same ballpark — the Audi Q8 e-tron and BMW iX. The EQE is available only with one drivetrain and spec. Santosh Iyer, the managing director of Mercedes-Benz India said that customers in this segment expect nothing less than the best and that is what they’re going to get. So here we are, in the mountains of Kashmir, driving the new EQE SUV.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV spec and features
Merc isn’t holding back on its spec. It is on sale in India in just one variant — the 500. This means 402bhp and 858Nm. Those numbers in a family SUV with zero sporting intentions! The kit on the inside is suitably wild. The 56-inch Hyperscreen is standard. As are the ventilated / heated / massage seats and Burmester audio. Air suspension with dynamic dampers too. 20-inch wheels. Mercedes-Benz has been pushing in to a more premium space, and this is another example. From the driver’s seat, I’m not complaining.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV interiors
You have to sit in the cabin to believe it. The hyperscreen steals the show with that single digital slab making up the entire dashboard, only interrupted by the air-con vents. All-white leather isn’t something I would recommend in our conditions, but it felt right in the mountains. Good thing Merc will offer you the EQE with black leather as well. One element that really stood out to me was the open pore wood in the centre console, with the three-pointed stars etched on to it — an organic touch to this otherwise high-tech cabin.
I think the EQE has solved a big problem that EVs face in the back seat — the lack of under-thigh support, that is. With a lower floor and a scooped-out backseat, this seating position is much more comfortable than the knee-up position so many EVs have because of their high battery-laden floors. In terms of outright space, both knee and headroom are good and the cabin feels spacious. Would’ve liked a backrest that could recline some more, and some sunshades on the window to amp up the comfort and privacy though.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV performance and battery
In terms of straight-line performance, the EQE is properly quick. It does 0-100kmph in a mere 4.9 seconds. And you can feel that potential every time you get on the throttle. It picks up speed so effortlessly, overtakes are brisk and AWD combined with that level of torque means you will be the quickest off the lights. Out here in the hills, it was unbothered by gradients and altitude, just going about its business as it would have in city streets. Performance is never lacking with this one.
As for the battery that powers it, you get a 90.56kWh battery that runs on a 400V architecture. In terms of range, the claimed figure is 550km and on our tests, we noted that the charge did drop to 80 per cent with 340km of range left. Which means, on a full charge, it should do north of 420-450km of real world range. Which is plenty. The EQE also gets three regen settings — an aggressive one, a balanced on and off. I sat in the balanced one for the most part and found it the most natural.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV ride and handling
The roads in Kashmir are narrow and the EQE isn’t small. At 1940mm wide, it is about the width of a GLE and I felt like I’d have to pay extra attention to its girth on these roads. Not true. From behind the wheel, you have great visibility and the car doesn’t feel as imposing. At low to medium speeds, you can thread it around the narrow bends confidently and place the car accurately when you’ve got oncoming traffic coming your way. These electric cars all have their batteries in the floor and with the low centre of gravity, changing directions doesn’t make them feel too unwieldy. You also get big, wide 20-inch wheels the deliver plenty of cornering grip. That said, when you do pick up the pace, you are reminded that the EQE SUV weighs a significant amount. I didn’t feel too comfortable grabbing it by the scruff of its neck and throwing it around bends, partially because the margin for error was so small here but more because I didn’t want to go flying around a corner and find an army man in a Gypsy with a machine gun barrelling towards me.
As for ride quality, it certainly improves things from the EQS — there’s more plushness and comfort dialled in to the springs and dampers. It soaks up the typical unevenness of Indian roads without braking in to a sweat, delivering the composure and attitude you would expect of a luxury car. That said, it is still a heavy car and the air springs need to be able to manage all that weight on the go. Over slightly sharper bumps, it did feel a bit firm but never enough to be uncomfortable. The fact that you do have air suspension all round means you can raise the suspension up — dealing with another EV bugbear. Low ground clearance. I remember the EQC would scrape everywhere, and driving it anywhere would involve a lot of wincing. No more. This EQE can rise 25mm which gives it genuinely good go-anywhere ability. We were scampering up and down the meadows along the roads in these parts without batting an eyelid.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV: The stuff I didn’t like
Hard to criticise, this EQE SUV is. Photographer Abhishek Benny said he felt a bit carsick in the back seat, and a lot of people do so in electric cars — a combination of their immediate torque and lack of aural stimulus to tell you the car is accelerating / braking. Not so much the EQE’s fault. The fact that the electric charging port is only on one side, could be counted as a drawback. You only realise it is one once you a drive a car with a port on either side, meaning charging is convenient no matter which side the vehicle is parked in the parking lot. I’m not a fan of the name. There’s an EQE sedan and an EQE SUV. Why wouldn’t they just call it the GQE, keeping with their G nomenclature for SUVs and get it over with? Lastly, and this one is deeply personal, I’m not too big a fan of this EQ styling. Its too soft and lacks character to my eye. A lot of that is because form has followed function and this family of cars is incredibly aerodynamic. However, I would like my big EV SUV to look a bit aggressive.
Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV verdict
You know a car has impressed you when you don’t want to hand it back. And I certainly didn’t want to hand it back. We drove it all the way from Gulmarg to Srinagar airport, and in that whole time, what stood out was how serene and comfortable the driving experience is. At some point when we got out of the mountains, the windows did come up, the music started playing and the air purifier started working hard again but the EQE SUV continued to pamper us. At Rs 1.39 crore, the EQE SUV goes up against the likes of the Q8 e-tron (Rs 1.14 crore to Rs 1.28 crore) and BMW iX (Rs 1.21 crore). It may be more expensive than this lot but it certainly comes packing the kit, the performance and the comfort to go toe-to-toe with them.