REVIEW | Mercedes EQE 350 is serene but generic

The EQE looks like the EQS that shrunk slightly in the tumble dryer.
The EQE looks like the EQS that shrunk slightly in the tumble dryer.
Image: Supplied

Once upon a time, the letter “E” in the Mercedes-Benz lexicon denoted the presence of a fuel-injected motor.

“Einspritzmotor” was the word — deployed in those earlier days of the car where features now commonplace had novelty factor, warranting a good boast.

In the modern world, “E” forms part of an important acronym for the German manufacturer: its EQ division of electric vehicles. The zero-emissions portfolio just about mirrors the internal combustion range, from compact (EQA) to luxury flagship (EQS).

“E” is also key in Mercedes-Benz speak to identifying one of the longest-standing and top-selling nameplates of the firm. The good old E-Class, with a lineage reaching deep down the timeline of the manufacturer, remains in the eyes of many the archetypal Mercedes-Benz.

Its essence has been translated into electric form with the EQE in saloon and SUV body styles. My turn came recently to experience the latter, in 350 4MATIC guise. It costs R2,185,000 in basic guise or R2,307,180 for the AMG Line version.

It looks, well, like every other Mercedes-Benz SUV in the EQ range. Blob-like in profile, with a glossy black grille inset and derivative lighting cluster shapes, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for the larger EQS.

The brand was going for a degree of consistency, familiarity throughout the range, but the result is a line-up that is not very easily distinguished beyond the clear size differences.

From some perspectives, maybe that works in favour of the EQE, being the medium-sized offering and therefore just right. Not as compact as the EQA nor as cumbersome as the biggest blob of them all, the EQS.

Hitting the unlock button on the key fob sees the door handles extend from their retracted position flush with the bodywork. A nifty, if somewhat superfluous feature of certain models in the Mercedes-Benz range.

An airy and spacious cabin makes for a pleasant space in which to luxuriate.
An airy and spacious cabin makes for a pleasant space in which to luxuriate.
Image: Supplied

With a length of 4,863mm, width of 1,940mm and height of 1,686mm this is a sizeable vehicle. You get that impression instantly from merely opening any of its doors, with large apertures that you sort of fall into, upon your seat, like slipping down a dark hole. With a softer landing though. Small detail but there are no grab-handles in the headliner for any of the occupants.

The layout is textbook Mercedes-Benz with the expected central MBUX interface through which virtually all functions are controlled. Buyers can go one further with the optional Hyperscreen, merging the centre display and the digital driver instrument cluster with a third screen in front of the front passenger for a 141cm feast of digitisation.

We have complained about the capacitive touch surfaces in reviews of new Mercedes-Benz products before so allow us to spare you the same song and dance.

Perceived quality is of the usual Mercedes-Benz standard, enhanced by exquisite trimmings and swanky decorative inlays. Artificial leather as standard fitment is an environmentally-friendly bragging right.

But let us not forget Mercedes-Benz did it many decades ago already, with the MB-Tex upholstery that is technically vegan.

And a material that has stood the test of time, as proven by countless W123 examples still on the roads today with unblemished seats.

Electric powertrains make sense where luxury vehicles are concerned. The silent, seamless delivery of momentum is complementary to the point of a luxurious motoring experience: being gently conveyed from one event to the next in a cabin totally isolated from disturbances.

The EQE 350 4MATIC manages a wonderful job of this. With (optional) pneumatic suspension and near-silent, the sensations are relaxing.

For a few minutes I thought a pesky family of mosquitoes had moved into the cabin, but that buzzy irritation was the synthesised acoustic note, mimicry of the ambient noise one would hear in an engine-powered car.

Wrap-around lights and a rounded shape define the rear.
Wrap-around lights and a rounded shape define the rear.
Image: Supplied

Sorry, Mercedes-Benz, but BMW has you beat in this department with their soundtracks fettled by Hans Zimmer. The background noises developed by models in the EQ range are hit and miss. The EQE 43 sedan comes to mind, sounding like a Wahl hair clipper when the accelerator is mashed.

Speaking of mashing the accelerator, the EQE 350 SUV is clearly geared towards a more laid back experience rather than trying to be an outright sprinter. It is brisk, make no mistake, with a claimed 0-100km/h of 6.6 seconds putting it in the realm of junior hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

But the way it gathers pace is steady, measured, a more natural and linear type of characteristic. The total output of the EQE 350 is 215kW and 765Nm. Top speed is 210km/h.

With the 90.6kWh battery completely juiced, expect a range of between 461km and 551km. On collection, our fully charged test unit showed a range of 463km.

The EQE 350 4MATIC is a pleasant prospect overall if you want a zero-emissions SUV with premium credentials.

But comparing apples with apples it would be difficult to recommend the model over the R1,735,000 BMW iX xDrive40.

Not only does it offer more standard kit (like air suspension), it also boasts slightly better acceleration (claimed 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds).

Yes, the battery capacity is less (71kWh) but the quoted range of 425km is not to be sneezed at. Then there is the overall price difference

Perhaps this is why they gave the iX such a strange (ugly?) outward appearance and radical interior execution. An unique identity is strong currency in a sea of electric vehicles offering similar levels of silence, swiftness and efficiency.


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