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First Drive

Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 review: AMG’s impressive take on electric

£125,000 when new
710
Published: 05 Jul 2022
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Isn’t AMG more famous for big petrol engines and bahnstorming? What’s it done with an EV? Can you even twin-turbo an electric motor?

Whoa, stay calm, that’s a lot of questions. What we have here is an AMG-ified version of the Mercedes-Benz EQE - Merc’s electric E-Class equivalent - although that is a pretty loose definition, seeing as the EQE is based on Merc’s EVA2 electric-only platform and doesn’t resemble the traditional E-Class at all.

And the EQE is not pretty. It’s lightly menacing - especially with a double-bladed AMG front end, big wheels and vestigial spoiler - but not beautiful. It looks bulky and chunky on the road, but not in a way that makes you think of muscles. There’ll be two variants with different power outputs - the 43 and 53 - and we’ve got the bigger one here. Because TopGear.

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So this is an AMG and Mercedes co-production based on the Mercedes basic, rather than a bespoke AMG. Jochen Hermann, Chief Technical Officer of Mercedes-AMG GmbH says that the compact (one assumes he failed to add ‘compared to the EQS’) EQE lends itself to a series of ‘AMG-specific solutions’ for applying some electric excitement, including “the areas of drive, chassis, brakes and, above all, sound.”

Which means that AMG is now having to come up with more nuanced technical solutions to elevating an electric Merc to AMG standards - the company can’t just lob a V8 at it and call it good.

You can lob a V8 at anything if you try hard enough and have enough crowbars. 

True, but then you’d be unable to sell the cars: emissions regs and efficiency targets mean that even mad, bad AMGs need to play within new rules. So it’s either start learning about how to make electric AMGs, or eventually fail.

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So tell me about the EQE 53 then?

Good-looking specs, to be fair, especially in terms of traditional petrolhead headlines; 626bhp/700lb ft of torque, with 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and a 137mph top speed. Then there’s an optional AMG Dynamic Plus pack option that gives all that the giddy-up to 687bhp/738lb ft, dropping the 0-62mph time to 3.3 seconds and upping the top speed to just under 150mph.

For most, it’ll be the acceleration figures that matter - unless you live in Germany near one of the unrestricted sections of the autobahn and have easy access to a large rapid charger. After all, hitting super-140mph speeds in an electric car hoovers up electrons like a black hole with air-con and leather seats. Still, you’re talking a motor at each end for all-wheel drive and a continuously and infinitely variable torque split, instant and seamless traction control and a single-speed transmission. If you want to win the traffic light GP consistently, there’s not much that’ll beat it short of another electric big-hitter.

So what has AMG actually done to the EQE to make it an AMG, then?

More than you might think, actually. The motors fore and aft are AMG-specific PSMs (permanently excited synchronous motors) with adapted windings and laminations, higher currents and a specific inverter. If that means nothing to you, it essentially enables the motors to spin faster and do so more quickly, which equals more power. More instant than instant, then.

Want to do repeated 3.3-second 0-62 runs? You’ll be able to in this, mainly because AMG has made sure that the motors can stay in their peak performance envelope for longer, thanks to some extra cooling and heating tech. There’s a ‘water lance’ in the shaft of the e-motor that can cool it down, as well as cool-looking ceramic cooling fins in various places like the inverters.

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There’s also a transmission oil heat exchanger and an oil heater that operates in cold weather to increase efficiency. Oh, and all that heat wrangling has positive effects when it comes to charging the battery, too - it’ll precondition to your heart’s content and work from the sat-nav to also make sure that battery is at optimum temperature for rapid charging.

So that’s the going sorted, but what about the rest?

Stopping this behemoth is a set of AMG-specific brakes, including an optional set of carbon-ceramics. We’ve only tried the CCs at this point, and they’re reliably awesome - offering the kind of stopping power you really need given the speed the car can achieve in a very short amount of time. There’s also excellent three-stage brake recuperation via switches on the steering wheel and it’s strong enough to use instead of the friction brakes in most normal situations. 

After that there’s rear-steer for the back axle, something that really does add to low-speed agility and help keep the car feeling rock-solid at higher speeds, as well as fully variable 4Matic all-wheel drive. And this is probably the EQE 53’s trump card when it comes to clawing traction out of any surface it comes across: there’s no physical connection between the axles and an electric-specific system checks torque split 160 times per second to make sure the metering is effective.

The AMG part comes in when you flick between the driving modes: in ‘Comfort’ mode the focus is on maximum efficiency and range, while in ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport+’ the torque is more rear-biased in the interests of sporting pretension. And it does feel sporty. When you wind in the AMG ride control adaptive damping that changes between the modes, it gets down a road.

Not a sports car, but the way this car can figure out the best way around a corner is deeply impressive. It’s not just fast, it’s kind of startling. But you’re always aware of the weight and electronic magicianship keeping things in check - it’s a supremely effective machine, but not a very involving one.

Ok, so it goes like an AMG, but what about noise? That’s always been a big part of AMG-ness.

This bit is going to be controversial, because the EQE 53 can be Very Noisy. Comfort mode is pretty much silent - just a tiny susurration from the wing mirrors. But twiddle the dial on the steering wheel to Sport or Sport+ and the ’53 generates a kind of Star Trek digitised hum that’s genuinely eye-widening, and rises and falls with the throttle position. So there’s some aural feedback on what the motors are doing. Honestly it feels like a gimmick, but it’s a good one, and kids will absolutely love it. And there’s something about hearing the inputs you make that helps when going fast - it’s feedback, Jim, but not as we know it. 

What about the boring stuff?

You meant the things you need to know if you actually wanted to drive one day-to-day? Well, slung under the car is a 90.6kWh battery (and that’s useable capacity) that punts out between 275 and 321 miles of range on the official, and usually wildly optimistic, WLTP cycle.

But that depends on what spec you have the car in, and means that the EQE AMG is not wildly efficient. That’s a big battery for only average range, although you are trading off distance for speed and horsepower in this case. Still, those many lithium-ion pouch cells (360, to be exact) are not light - the EQE AMG weighs in at well over 2.5 tonnes basic. That’s no ballerina.

The interior gets some AMG nice bits and extra graphics, but that’s not really the point here. You’ll get standard 11kW AC charging as standard (which will annoy you if you manage to find one of the quite convenient 22kW charging posts and haven’t optioned the 22kW unit) with 170kW DC rapid charging.

That’s good-ish for a non-800-volt system (which tend to run at 230-odd kW DC) but not mind-blowing. Still, just over half an hour on a big rapid for a 10 to 80 per cent charge is fine. An average home wallbox will see that big battery flat-to-full in 14 and a half hours. Almost making a case for having three-phase installed at your house. 

So what’s the verdict?

The EQE 53 feels like an impressive take on what an electric AMG is starting to feel like. Yes, the tweakery is more subtle than it has been for internal combustion engines, but that’s to be expected given the source material. Notions of what actually constitutes the core values of AMG as a brand outside of Mercedes Benz vary, but one thing AMG can’t do with electric cars is stuff a bigger, noisier engine in and call it done.

But they can hop things up in a very AMG way. The EQE AMG is almost comically fast, stops, goes and rides with physical brilliance. And it is genuinely noisy, generating the kind of swooshy hums you usually find in sci-fi films. It’s amazing, in its way. But this isn’t the AMG we know of old. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing, well, the verdict is still out.

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