LOS ANGELES — The tricky question for traditional automakers developing their new fleet of electric vehicles is how closely their EV version should resemble its internal combustion counterpart. This is especially true with Mercedes-Benz, which is developing its BEV and ICE cars in parallel, with launch dates often less than a year apart. Should the EV feel the same only differently, or like a whirring futuristic spaceship?
In the case of the next Mercedes-Benz EQE – the electric equivalent of an E-Class sedan, but sharing its architecture with the EQS and not the E-Class – the EV nevertheless drives and feels essentially like an E-Class. And silent. And according to Mercedes product development engineers, it was intentional.
On a 45-minute drive in a pilot-production EQE 350 rear-wheel-drive sedan along the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica to Malibu, the quiet, confident propulsion of the 250-kilowatt (about 350 hp) electric motor revs up. feels as confident as one would expect from a sporty interpretation of a business limo. With approximately 417 lb-ft of torque, the EQE 350 RWD delivers a 0-60 sprint in 5.7 seconds. It’s essentially a full second slower than an E 450 4Matic, but it should still be plenty quick for most US midsize luxury sedan buyers. It’s also 0.2 seconds faster than the base EQS 450+.
The powertrain’s default operating setting is blissful quietude. There’s no accompanying “roar” that people expect from EVs. The loudest sonic intrusion at 45 mph is a hint of tire rumble.
“We didn’t want any whining noise, nothing,” said Mercedes-Benz Chief Technology Officer Markus Schäfer. “A lot of electric vehicles sound like a streetcar. We want ours to be absolute silence.
In short, the EQE feels solid, a throwback to the safe cocoon of the big Benzes of the past. The pre-production model only made one chassis groan the entire ride—while cornering a ripple—but otherwise felt like bullion. Elon, take note: this is what a luxury electric vehicle should look like.
Of course there are people who need it stun to accompany their urge. For them, the EQE offers three faux-noise “sound experiences” to go along with driving the car – including the familiar roar as well as something akin to a full-throttle electronic Godzilla.
What will impress range-conscious buyers is the distance the EQE can cover between charges. Although the EPA has not yet tested it, the EQE 350 has a WLTP range of 409 miles (660 km). Note that WLTP numbers are generally more optimistic than EPA or real-world results. Still, that fits the Tesla Model S, which the EQE is expected to cut in price. (The EQE will go on sale in Europe in April and in the United States in late 2022. Pricing has not been announced.)
But what will really impress most people is the available Hyperscreen infotainment system. Originally placed in the EQS flagship, this digital 3D glass pillar-to-pillar scan seemed like a vision only for the 1%. But those of the mid-range Mercedes will also be able to benefit from it. The front passenger can even watch the video while the vehicle is in motion; The car’s driver monitor will see if the driver is watching and turn off the video until they return their attention to the road. The screens themselves are almost painfully sharp in their detail.
The improved infotainment system also incorporates route planning around charging stops; the augmented reality map includes the charging locations, their availability and current charging power, and whether the electricity for the charger comes from a ‘green’ source. The map function is always “on” as the primary central display; other infotainment options then appear as overlapping tiles. It’s very “minority report”.
As our ride was done at the end of rush hour, there was little opportunity for spirited driving other than the occasional stab of the gas pedal. Additionally, our model came with optional air suspension and rear axle steering, so the EQE offered a lovingly floaty ride in Comfort mode, but felt squashed and nimble when cranked up. switched to Sport mode. (Base models get a steel suspension.) That would be consistent with our experience in the EQS sedan.
Rear steering also allows the EQE to have a turning radius comparable to that of the compact C-Class. Our driver – Holger Enzmann, Mercedes project manager for the EVA platform – easily turned around on a two-lane residential street.
If it’s a business limo, what about the interior space? Mercedes claims there’s almost 3 inches more rear legroom than in the current E-Class. While this may be true longitudinally, the battery intrudes into floor space – a rear-seat occupant’s hips are angled upwards more acutely in the EQE than in the E-Class, and a cutout in the front seat floor barely gains entry for men’s dress shoes (Lady Gaga will have to throw in her platform stilettos). Second-row headroom is decent for a 6-footer, thanks to the glass roof cutout that creates space in the coupe-like roofline reminiscent of the first-generation CLS.
But unlike the CLS, for which Mercedes designers designed a long bonnet to boast of its luxury performance, the EQE cabin is more balanced on its front and rear wheels. With no engine to contend with, the dash to axle ratio is shortened. Does this negate the visual perception of premium quality? Not really. The appeal of the EQE is definitely Mercedes.
So should you buy an EQE instead of an E-Class? The EQE’s interior certainly feels progressive and ultra-modern, as does its quiet propulsion. As a result, while it may carry E-Class Mercedes DNA in its veins, the EQE looks like the future.