The simplest way to understand the Mercedes-Benz EQE is as the all-electric battery powered counterpart to the traditional E-Class saloon. That’s the E-Class that, including its predecessors – estate and coupe versions – has long been the staple product of the company. It’s lower, far sleeker, more unassuming and necessarily (because it’s electric and silent) more refined than the E-Class, which continues for a while, and is just as capable.
However, the switch to electric can cost you an unusually high premium, of perhaps £20,000, so you do need to be attracted by the new technology, and – it has to be said – for the UK business user some extraordinary tax breaks. At a time when the working classes are being squeezed so much, I do find it odd that the chancellor looks so indulgently on this benefit-in-kind for lucky executives, but there we are.
So, it is an important car for Daimler (as the Mercedes parent is currently called), and, more than any other offering, represents their future. It is built on the same dedicated electric platform as the highly impressive EQS, and the EQE and EQS both have SUV variants, just in case you really need to peer down your nose at the rest of the world. (Sadly, no sign of a conventional EQE estate).
Indeed, you might also think of the EQE saloon as a smaller but slightly more practical alternative to the EQS, with a £25,000 saving. You get two smaller screens on the dash rather than the near full-width touchscreen on the EQS, and less room in the back, but unless you really need a limo, the EQE is more than adequate.
If the E-Class was the default choice of transport for the traditionally-minded bourgeoisie of the world, then the EQE is a natural successor, if a little odd-looking.
When you settle in behind the wheel with its easy-touch controls for radio, phone, adaptive cruise control, set the seat squab just right and set the multi-zone climate control, you feel like you could drive across Europe in it. Granted, there’d be more fuel stops and longer coffee breaks along the way (say half an hour), but the EQE inspires the same confidence that the E-Class always has.
You might also be reassured by the eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty, extended to the usual three years/unlimited mileage for the rest of the car, and no less than a 30-year corrosion guarantee for rusting from the inside out.
Mercedes-Benz EQE 300 AMG Line Premium Plus
Price: £41,375 (as tested range starts at £68,810)
Drivetrain: Single electric motor, powered by 89kWh battery pack
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel economy: 231kW/hr
CO2 emissions: 0
You do get a bit spoiled when driving the latest generation of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), so you need to remind yourself what a remarkable achievement something like the EQE really is. Even if you drive it fairly hard down the motorway on a cold day (the toughest of conditions for BEVs), you’ll still get most of the claimed 350 miles of single-charge range.
It’s got a fairly chunky 90kWh battery, and it’s about as efficient/economical as something like a Kia EV6, and almost all the technology is usable and friendly. So friendly, in fact, that, as Elon Musk suggests about artificial intelligence, you can treat your intelligent EQE as a friend.
When you say, “Hello Mercedes!” the Alexa-style assistant will turn the temperature up or down, change radio stations, phone a friend, and if you ask it to take you to, say, Milton Keynes, it will set the satnav and – with near-autonomous abilities – virtually drive you there. It’s not exactly a conversation, but it’s an irrationally nice experience. Sadly for Dominic Cummings, the voice recognition doesn’t recognise swear words.
I don’t have many gripes with it. I noticed that it sometimes misreads speed limits (and therefore can decelerate unexpectedly), but I found it otherwise flawless in use.
More to the point, there is the cost, and, obviously, lack of approved used alternatives. It does look a bit dumpy, and the new aerodynamic electric-model “face” looks as bland as the petrol models’ grilles look overly aggressive.
I imagine, given Mercedes-Benz history, that the EQE will be more durable than its rival the Tesla Model S, as good as the elegant Genesis G80, and competitive with upcoming BMW i5 and Audi A6 e-tron. But you do need about £75,000, or the equivalent in monthly leasing, to enjoy the future. I’d like to think that, in around 2033, I’ll be able to think about getting an EQE.