One of the biggest problems besetting electric vehicles is their cost. It doesn’t matter how much you like something if you can’t afford it – and it doesn’t do much good to sell things most people can’t afford to buy.
Like the Mercedes EQS I test drove back in December.
It is essentially an electric version of the Mercedes S-Class, which is Mercedes’ top-of-the-line, full-size sedan. The EQS is, accordingly, a very pricey sedan – $104,400 to start. This means Mercedes won’t sell very many of them, irrespective of its appeal. Because there are only so many who can afford to spend six figures on a car.
Any car – electric or not.
Enter the EQE – which is a smaller take on the EQS that comes standard with a less forbidding price tag that puts it within reach of more people who might like to own it.
But more isn’t many – and that may be this car’s biggest problem, not its range or the time it takes to recharge.
What It Is
The EQE is an electric luxury sedan that’s very similar to the one-step-larger EQS in terms of its looks, layout and features but is mid-sized rather than full-sized.
An EQE 350+ with with dual motors and all wheel-drive stickers for $77,900.
The top-of-the-line EQE 500 comes standard with AWD and the electric-car equivalent of 402 horsepower (vs. 288 in the EQE 350).
Claimed range on a full charge is 305 miles for the EQE 350+ and 260 for the more power-consumptive (but much quicker) EQE 500.
What’s New For 2023
The EQE is a brand-new model and Mercedes’ second electric car entrant in the United States.
Cost $30k less to start than the EQS and is very similar, just a little smaller.
EQE 350 is extremely responsive.
EQE 500 is extremely quick.
What’s Not So Good
Still very expensive; a gas-engined (and otherwise comparable) E-Class sedan can be bought for about $20k less.
EQE 500’s best-case of range of 260 miles limits how far you can go – before you have to wait.
Unlike the EQS, the EQE is not a hatchback and so it only has a 15.1 cubic foot trunk (vs. the EQS’ 63 total cubic feet of cargo capacity).
“Under the hood” is becoming kind of like horsepower – in that both words have their roots in the past. “Horsepower” deriving from the era before there were cars and “under the hood” going back to the time when cars had engines.
Electric motors are also under there, of course – and sometimes out back, too (if the vehicle is AWD). But you often can’t see either and the area is often devoted to storage space. The battery that stores power for the motor(s) is also unseen; it is usually laid out in general congruity with the floorpan, to spread out its weight – so that the vehicles isn’t excessively nose or tail heavy.
Anyway, this EV comes standard (in the EQE 350+) with a 90.6 kilowatt-hour battery pack that powers a single electric motor that produces the engine-equivalent of 288 horsepower and 391 ft.-lbs. of torque. As in most EVs, there is no transmission because the EQE’s motot directly drives the (rear) wheels.
So equipped, the EQE 350+ can get to 60 in about 5.6 seconds, which is about the same as the mid-sized E350 sedan and remarkable given the EQE weighs almost a ton more. The curb weight of the E350 is 3,718 lbs. vs. a staggering 5,424 lbs. for the EQE – almost all of which is the batteries, which are necessary to get this rig to 60 equivalently.
And to give it 305 miles of fully charged range.
However, an E350 has a city range of 400 miles – and 539 miles on the highway. It can also be “fully recharged” – to use EV lingo – in less than five minutes whereas the “fastest” the EQE can be partially recharged – to 80 percent – using commercial-strength DC “fast” chargers – is about 30 minutes.
The “partially charged” is important to bear in mind because it means that even at a “fast” charger, you leave with 20 percent less charge than the fully-charged capacity. This amounts to 61 less miles of range than than the fully charged 305 miles of range you cannot get at a “fast” charger, without waiting a lot longer than 30 minutes (it is necessary to slow the rate of charge after 80 percent to avoid risking damage to the battery). To get to full charge means waiting closer to an hour – at a “fast” charger. It’s either that or get back on the road with 244 miles of range.
In the more potent EQE 500, the loss of 20 percent (or rather, not-gained) charge would mean leaving the “fast” charger with 208 miles of range, having sacrificed 52 of the maximum 260 miles in order to get back on the road in less than an hour.
But your compensation for that is 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.
Like all EVs, you can also recharge at home. Just not “fast.” The very high DC voltage needed to do that isn’t available at home, where the most you’ve got is 240V of AC current, assuming you have an extra dryer-type outlet within range of your cord. If not, it will be necessary to have an electrician come out to wire one up for you.
Mercedes says either version of the EQE can be fully recharged on “Level II” – that is 240V AC current – in about 9.5 hours.
On The Road
When many of us were kids, we watched the Jetsons, which was a cartoon about the future from the perspective of the ’60s. George Jetson flew in a car that was powered by something that wasn’t an engine, that made futuristic sounds.
The EQE doesn’t fly – in the air – but it does make futuristic sounds that sound a lot like George Jetson’s flying car. A kind of beeee beeee beeee beeee beeep! that increases in intensity the faster you accelerate. It is not the sound of the motors – they are silent. It is the sound of something, which EVs would otherwise lack. People are used to hearing the roar of an engine when you floor it, of the revs building – and the transmission shifting. EVs are by nature as silent as an express elevator, which is desirable in a commercial context but not desirable in a product that people want to feel an emotional attachment to, especially if they are paying Mercedes money for the experience.
Hence the sound generated (in Sport mode) when you put the pedal to the metal.
There is also an eery-ethereal UFO kind of sound when you first get in, before you even take it for a spin. This is accentuated by eery, UFO-esque glowing LED lights tracing lines from door panel to door panel, across the dash – and the glowing array of LCD displays for the main gauge cluster and infotainment system. It makes you feel like Data at the helm of the Enterprise.
A feeling that is further enhanced when your Inner Picard says, make it so – and the Benz goes. It does not fly, per se – but it feels as if it might. The thrust of powerful electric motors and the immediacy of direct drive is a lot like the feel of a jet aircraft on its take-off roll. Speed just builds, without any sense of slowing down along the way.
You will not be displeased with the get-going capability of this Mercedes. Nor with the ride, which is as serenely quiet and smooth as the delivery of all that power. Even the handling is good, which is remarkable given how heavy this thing is. With two people on board, this mid-sized Mercedes will weigh almost three tons. That is a lot of weight to keep under control. Mercedes chassis engineers have done a fine job of that. The EQE does not wallow, dive or roll like the whale it weighs almost as much as it does.
The chief driving deficit here – as always, with all EVs – is that you start out with the equivalent of a half a tank of gas, which is about all the energy that an EV’s battery pack can store. This is why even the longest-range EVs don’t have that much range. And this leads to the second deficit, which is the more frequent need to stop for “fuel” – electricity, in this case.
And then the third deficit, which is the wait to “refuel,” even at a “fast” charger.
Another thing to know before you buy an EV is that actual vs. indicated range can vary, sometimes as much as 10 or 20 percent and to some extent because of factors you have no control over, such as the weather. EVs don’t like extremes of cold – or hot – which saps range directly (reduced battery efficiency) and also by use of necessary electrically powered accessories, such as the AC and heater/defroster.
Your driving style also matters – a lot. If you drive gently, accelerating moderately, keeping your speed down, you might be able to get the advertised range out of an EV – assuming it’s not too cold or hot out. But that sets up a paradox, as regards high-performance/luxury EVs, including this Mercedes:
Of course, the fact that’s available to use – when you need to or just want to – is probably the point. But it will cost you. In terms of rapidly diminishing charge (and so, range). But it might not be an issue for you if your drives are mostly within range – or you have the time to recharge.
You can choose a rear axle steering set-up (in the EQE 500) that reduces the turning circle at low speeds – but the car as it comes isn’t difficult to maneuver at all.
At The Curb
But there are differences.
One is simply in terms of length. The EQS is just shy of a foot longer (207.3 inches) than the EQE (196.9 inches). Another is that even though the two have very similar “coupe-like” styling, the EQE has a trunk, like a sedan, while the EQS has a rear hatchback – which leads to a big difference in terms of cargo capacity.
The EQE’s trunk offers 15.1 cubic feet of available capacity, which is more than the mid-sized E-Class sedan has (13.1) cubic feet). But – courtesy of its rear hatch – the EQS has much more than both of them, as well as more versatility. Behind the seats, the bigger Benz has 22 cubic feet of cargo space – which is more than its S-Class sedan sibling – and if you fold the rear seats forward you can open up the entirety of the car’s interior from the driver’s seat rearward, creating 63 cubic feet of available cargo-carrying space.
Electric or not, the hatchback layout makes a car a lot more practical – and more competitive with crossovers and SUVs.
Another difference is inside. The EQE has a tablet-style LCD screen for the dash complemented by another (larger) one built into the center stack. The EQS has a “one piece” LCD screen that covers most of the dashboard facing the driver and front seat passenger. Both share a common display theme/operation, including a “tach” to the right of the speedometer that displays how much power your right foot is summoning, rather than engine rpm.
The secondary LCD cluster is the interface for the various apps and other functions, including EV-specific things such as charging parameters. You can “ask” the car to do various things – such as change the radio station, for instance – by saying Hey, Mercedes – and then asking it to do whatever it is you’d like the car to do.
Both the EQE and the EQS have LED interior lighting embedded all around the interior’s perimeter and that plus the glow of the display screens accompanied by the futuristic, UFO-like sounds makes it feel as though you are driving one.
If you drove this unit onto the base at area 51 in 1980, they’d probably have taken you to their leader.
One disappointing thing about the EQE 500 – which is an almost $90k car – is that it does not come standard with massaging seats. This is a significant omission in a car of this stature. They can be ordered as optional equipment – and for just $1,100 – which is a small sum in this scheme of things and begs the question as to why Mercedes doesn’t just include them? Well, it is probably for the same reason that a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats and heated windshield wipers are also optional. They all burn power – that is, electricity – and the use of these electrically-powered accessories will reduce the car’s range.
The Bottom Line
If you like the EQS but can’t quite swing a six-figure EV, here’s an EV that might be more within your range.
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