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Long-term review

Mercedes EQE 300 - long-term review

£68,810 OTR /£87,040 as tested /£820 PCM
Published: 22 Mar 2024
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What role does the EQ range actually fulfil for Mercedes?

What is this car for? That’s the question I need to answer here. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to take me a few months to work it out. But I’ll make an early prediction. Once the EQE’s likely eight-year model cycle is over, it’ll disappear. So will the EQS, the EQE SUV and all the rest of them.

Here’s why: we’re in a transition period. Every car manufacturer is watching each other to see what works in the electric era and what doesn’t. BMW got its fingers burned with the radical i3 and i8, so everyone else is playing it conservative. They’re either electrifying their regular cars or creating these virtual sub-brands but using their existing models as a template. Different, slightly more futuristic, styling to appeal to the EV early(-ish) adopters, but conventionally packaged. So VW has its ID range where ID.3 and Golf overlap, Audi has etron and Merc has EQ. Eventually it’ll ditch EQE and revert to E-Class. Because that’s what buyers understand.

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The German brands in particular are playing a defensive game. In the petrol era, where everyone understood the hierarchy, these premium brands stood apart. Now, other marques see opportunities to get in on the upmarket action. The Kia EV9 could tempt potential EQE SUV buyers, Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 streamliner might pull in floating EQE voters.

None of this tells you anything about this particular car aside from hinting that it’s a relatively conservative, obviously more slippery, take on an electrified E-Class. So let me stop the chin-scratching for a while and tell you what we have here. It’s an executive saloon. Shaped like a semi-sucked lozenge, with seating for five and a boot out back. It’s the kind of car you’ll see in corporate car parks across the land.

Merc does the EQE in several varieties, including a twin motor EQE 53 with well over 600bhp. This is the entry-level EQE 300. It has a single motor on the rear axle, developing 242bhp and 405lb ft, fed from an 89kWh battery pack. It’s the model that makes most sense to me because there’s absolutely nothing sporting about the EQE. It’s a cruiser, a wafter, a car that claims a range of up to 380 miles. Just not my particular one. It’s a Premium Plus, wearing fat 21s instead of 19s, which means more friction and knocks over 10 per cent off the range. 337 miles is the claim. It’ll come as little surprise to learn I’m not getting anything like that, but I need to give things a chance to settle down before I tell you more.

All EQEs come pretty well equipped, but so they should when prices start at £68,810 (E-Classes start at £55k now). The Premium Plus is almost £20k more than that, at £86,345. We’re talking a lot of tech here, from the stuff we’re pretty familiar with (air suspension, Burmester hifi and rear steering) to more conceptual stuff (augmented reality nav, million pixel LED headlights and a rising sense that the Merc phone app knows far more about me and my habits than I’d like it too. That will need some investigation). The only option this adds over that is the £695 Opalite White paint.

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First impressions? That it’s very smooth and silent to drive (shocker, I know…), and comes across as well engineered. It’s the initial touch points. Compare the motorised door handles of this and my previous long term Range Rover. In that they felt flimsy – in fact one of the covers once came off in my hand – here the motors that whirr the handles in and out are much quieter, and the grabs are attractively illuminated at night.

But there’s a sense the EQE is dependent on this to create a sense of occasion. The puddle lights and headlights dance and pulse when you walk up, there’s a veritable theatre of ambient lighting and graphics. None of which prevented me noticing the seats are firm, flat and not that supportive. I know I shouldn’t compare this with the dearly departed Range Rover, but that did a wonderful job (literally I can’t think of a single car that does it better) of calming you, enveloping you and putting you in the right mood for a journey. I got in that and sighed with happy satisfaction. So far the EQE is making me slightly tense.

I will say this though: it’s easier to navigate the central screen than I expected. I’m glad I resisted the chance to spec the £6990 Hyperscreen. Yes the one-piece glass dash looks dramatic, but think of the fingerprints. And, more pertinently, the fact there’s nowhere to brace your hand while jabbing. But I’m managing to cope with menus and find my way to disabling lane keep more easily than I feared. And I like the built-in Google-linked sat nav. Helpful at tracking down charging stations.

But I’m finding it a hard car to get hold of, if you see what I mean. It’s like trying to grab wet soap. Apt, given the physical resemblance.

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