The proliferation of models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup has all but undone established relationships between the stars in Stuttgart’s product constellation. But two of the company’s luminaries remain gravitationally locked, a binary star system: the S and the E. The S-class is Mercedes’s supergiant, its brightest light. The E-class is the secondary star, still effulgent yet merely giant, shining at somewhere around eight-tenths the intensity of the S.
This is why, not long after the debut of the all-electric EQS sedan, cosmic symmetry has us sampling the all-electric EQE. The former is the expected technological showcase. But Mercedes wasn’t content to make the latter merely the expected eight-tenths replicant, so the EQE is designed to be the EQS’s “sporty smaller brother.”
This starts with the EQ subbrand trademarks of a black fascia panel and a solid light bar across the rear, connected by the “one-bow” greenhouse that arcs from cowl to tail. Among the superficial differences between the two EVs, the EQE lacks the EQS’s solid light bar across the top of the grille and fits slightly different headlights and DRL signature.
The EQE’s dimensional changes accentuate sportiness. Overall length is about nine inches shorter than the EQS, but the wheelbase shrinks by only 3.5 inches. The EQE maintains the visual connection to the EQS despite truncated overhangs rendering the side view somewhat stubby, an impression bolstered by the EQE being the same height as the EQS but fractionally wider.
The battery tucked within the wheelbase is a 10-module version of the 12-module unit packed into the EQS. It’s good for 90.6 kWh of usable energy and what we’re told will be a range beyond 300 miles. As on the EQS, maximum charging rate is 170 kW.
The cabin gives up nothing but a few sybaritic frills to the EQS—the Burmester audio’s Atmos system isn’t available here, for instance. The interior adds an inch of front shoulder room and three inches of overall length compared to the current E-class, a sedan we’ve lauded for its luxurious digs.
There’s a quirk to the rear quarters, however, especially on entry. The condensed one-bow greenhouse also curves downward along its edges. This creates a noticeably compact rear door aperture, requiring a duck of the head to get past the curved lintel. Mercedes fitted the EQE with a trunk instead of a hatch as on the EQS, eliminating overhead hinges to increase headroom. Nevertheless, the floor-mounted battery pushes the rear hip point 2.5 inches higher than in the traditional E-class. It’s comfy back there, but adult rear passengers will find the curved cabin ceiling ever-present in their vision.
Moving to the front row gives a glimpse into our autonomous future. It feels like sitting in a tailored pod. The top edge of the door panels sweeps up from the windows and forward toward the windshield. There’s barely any width to the door panel at the shoulder line, so forget about resting your elbow there unless the window is open. Although this won’t matter in the autonomous future, the cowl further eats into visibility, and the advanced-driving-assistance equipment at the top of the steeply raked windshield obscures the already compromised forward view even more. The curved ceiling cuts the height of the side windows, and the hefty A- and B-pillars shrink their width, while the rear window as viewed through the rearview mirror is a bunker slit. This is a cockpit for looking inward rather than outward.
Lucky there’s a lot to do inside, then. The standard instrument panel puts a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster behind the wheel and a 12.8-inch tablet in the center dash. This is what goes for minimalist now, and it’s handsome, set against a sweeping backdrop of wood or gloss-black trim.
The optional Hyperscreen, making its second appearance after the EQS, spreads three screens across more than 56.0 inches of curved glass panel, in addition to the head-up display that’s included with the Hyperscreen. The user interface keeps the most often-used systems such as navigation and music on the top level, generally doing a good job of keeping mission control legible. There were a few curious tics that might have been mitigated with greater familiarity, such as figuring out when the music controls are going to show up at the bottom of the center screen or on the right side. And among the navigational peculiarities, the augmented reality video feed pops up on top of the map in the center screen, hiding the arrow glyph we’re used to tracking. We ended up triangulating three nav displays at all times—one in the HUD, one in the instrument cluster, and one in center display. Which is a lot of scanning and a waste of at least two displays.
Our advice: Start your kids on video games right now. The driving of the future is going to gush scads of data.
The driving experience is everything one expects. The single motor in the EQE350+ puts out 288 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque. We’d formerly consider those middling numbers to move some 5200 pounds of Swabian heft, but what a difference electric propulsion makes. On snaking roads, the sedan hits its “sporty little brother” target, a product of the instantaneous torque, the optional rear-wheel steering (up to 10 degrees), and a curb weight that’s a few hundred pounds lighter than the EQS.
The advanced driver-assistance systems could use some polish, however, exhibiting occasional learner’s-permit foibles like late braking and skittishness on narrow roads with oncoming traffic. But over-the-air updates promise to add finesse.
We’ll need to get the EQE in for testing to measure its noise levels versus the EQS. Our unaided ears found the executive transport more hushed at 110 mph on the German autobahn than other gas-powered and electric vehicles we’ve driven at far tamer highway speeds. In fact, the EV era could renew Mercedes’s reputation for bank-vault solidity—what made the biggest impression was the vacuum-of-space quietude. Mercedes engineers earned their obsessive rep hunting noises to eliminate. Take the powertrain carrier: They put the electric motor in a damped subframe that sits inside another subframe with the power electronics, shrouded those electronics in a sandwiched cover, then damped that subframe assembly from the chassis. Elsewhere, Mercedes rerouted climate-control and cooling plumbing to eliminate fluid-gurgling noises, and the foam-filled tires have their lettering cut into the sidewall instead of rising proud of it. Around town, the sedan rides calm as a crypt. At one Frankfurt stoplight we realized the only things we could hear were our tinnitus and neuroses.
Despite its foibles, the EQE is already superb. And a 402-hp dual-motor EQE500 4Matic and the EQE53 4Matic+ are still to come. While the kids are urged to get razor sharp on Gran Turismo and Digital Combat Simulator, we recommend meditation courses for EQE buyers. The quietude is going to give them a lot of time with their thoughts.