Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV Review: Big Ambitions, Mixed Results

The new electric SUV is perfectly acceptable. Is that enough in today’s market?

2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 4MATIC SUV sitting on a cliff at sunset. We tested and reviewed the new electric SUV.

Mercedes-Benz poured a ton of ideas into the EQE SUV, but that may not be enough for it to stand out.

By Benjamin Hunting

Image is important for a luxury brand, but so is delivering on the promise inherent in the badge on the grille. For every high-end model bought to flaunt, there exists a silent counterweight of customers who count on a repeat of the carefully-engineered ownership experience that keeps them coming back for more. 

The creeping colonization of premium showrooms by electric vehicles has underscored the above argument as it becomes much more difficult to differentiate from more affordable fare. A number of mainstream automakers have invested billions in bringing out a full-fledged EV attack, starting from roughly the same point as — or even predating — established luxury leaders. This effectively erases the decades-long lead time enjoyed by top-tier automakers that helped separate their internal combustion models from the rest of the pack.

The end result? A growing number of good, but not necessarily great top-dollar EVs that, while plush, have difficulty establishing the same bonafides as their gas-powered counterparts. It’s here that we find entries like the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 4MATIC SUV, a well-executed family hauler that fails to rise to the expected heights that come paired with its substantial pedigree.

Vehicle2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 4MATIC SUV
Trim TestedExclusive
Starting Price$89,500
Price of Model Tested$98,690
Vehicle TypeFive-passenger electric SUV
MotorDual-motor EV, 402 hp, 633 lb-ft torque
Range279 miles
AvailabilityAs of spring 2023

The exterior styling of Mercedes-Benz’s EQE line focuses on aerodynamics.

Where the EQE SUV Ranks Among Rivals

Right from the top, I need to make one thing abundantly clear: the EQE 500 is, by any practical measure, a success as an electric vehicle. It’s got power to spare (402 horsepower and 633 lb-ft of torque siphoned from its dual-motor, all-wheel drive setup), adequate driving range (279 miles) and a reasonable charge speed (32 minutes from 10% to 80% battery when using a Level 3 plug).

All of the above is a recipe for a respectable electrified experience behind the wheel, and I found the overall package adept at shuttling me on extended jaunts of 200 miles at a time without subjecting me to range anxiety, even while braving sub-freezing temperatures. Acceleration in the EQE 500 was admirable, with just a few ticks over four seconds required to get up to speed when merging onto the highway, and I appreciated how adept the Mercedes-Benz was at passing during the brief opportunities that opened up on snowy two-lane stretches.

There’s just one problem: all of the above can easily be applied to a growing list of electrified automobiles produced by less prestigious operations like Hyundai and Ford, and at prices that substantially undercut the $89,500 base ask of the EQE 500. In comparison to its more modestly-positioned rivals, in my test, the EQE SUV’s driving experience really only one-upped them when it came to turning in a circle, as its 10 degrees of rear-wheel steering slice its parking arc considerably. This level of performance parity is unusual territory for Mercedes-Benz to find itself in.

The EQE SUV without the Hyperscreen vs. with the Hyperscreen.

Innovations Outside the EV Element

That electric vehicles have leveled the playing field when it comes to drivetrain development is a serious issue that Mercedes-Benz is by no means ignoring. In fact, the automaker has driven innovation in other areas of EVs unrelated to putting power down to the pavement.

There’s a reason that the EQE 500’s dashboard feels lifted from a ‘90s arcade cabinet, what with its full end-to-end OLED display and piano black bezel glinting and glaring in the sun. The MBUX “Hyperscreen,” which is the consonant-heavy code for the automaker’s top-tier infotainment system, is a lot to take in and certainly a conversation piece, but it’s difficult to say whether moving the vast majority of vehicle functions to a slab of touch-sensitive plastic is a net win in terms of user experience. Currently standard on AMG editions of the EQE SUV (and available as an option on my Canadian-market EQE 500 tester), the Hyperscreen becomes more widely available for the 2024 model year. For now, U.S. buyers of the EQE 500 only have access to a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster paired with a separate, central 12.8-inch touchscreen infotainment screen (which you may even prefer).

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Then there’s the vehicle’s driver-assistance system, which includes an adaptive cruise control feature that can automatically change lanes when coming up on slower-moving traffic (and also respond to turn signal requests by maneuvering the vehicle for you at speed). It’s a nifty piece of technology, but it’s one that’s also prone to the occasional false flag lane shift or random slow down (in one case, picking up the highway’s minimum speed placard as the upper limit and suddenly adjusting velocity accordingly, in another simply jamming on the brakes with no traffic immediately ahead).

These features are intended to amplify Mercedes-Benz’s engineering prowess in the minds of owners, and if you’re the kind of driver who leans towards early adoption you’ll no doubt be intrigued by what the EQE has to offer in that respect. But it’s also true that this gear helps distract from a cabin that, while comfortable, doesn’t come across as matching the SUV’s asking price. The EQE also tends towards the upper side of average when it comes to interior room: I was able to haul a large flatscreen TV (minus the box) without folding down the rear seat, but this is something I could also have done in any number of similarly-sized people movers.

Finally, there’s the styling. I’m on record as not being the biggest fan of the rounded curves established by the EQE’s predecessor, the brand’s EQS electric flagship, which I feel wasn’t up to the same level of elegance promised by the gas-powered S-Class sedan. The EQE walks a similar route in terms of family resemblance, albeit one that works better when stretched across a sport-utility vehicle canvas. Still, in an era where Hyundai and Kia are making serious design statements with the sheet metal of their dedicated EVs, and Porsche and BMW are similarly extroverted, it’s discouraging to see Mercedes-Benz double down on its pursuit of featureless aerodynamics over nearly every other concern.

Even if you’re a fan of the EQE SUV’s looks, there are other factors that may convince you to look elsewhere.

Middle of the Road

The tension between luxury EVs and mainstream models shows no signs of easing up. The question of what makes one vehicle worthy of its premium pricing versus a more affordable model with nearly identical characteristics weighs heavily not just on the minds of buyers, but also product planners and C-level executives attempting to plot a course through territory whose engineering mountains and software-defined valleys continue to be flattened with each passing year’s advancements.

The Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 4MATIC SUV is a perfectly acceptable electric vehicle, but not a standout in any particular area when it comes to on-road performance or refinement, and it fails to catch the eye as compared to other battery-powered silhouettes. Instead, the SUV relies on the shock-and-awe nature of its all-in approach to digitizing the dashboard and integrating digital assistance across much of its driving experience.

If that’s the kind of EV experience that appeals to you, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with what the EQE has to offer. Even then, given that there are direct competitors that can better the Mercedes-Benz in nearly every aspect, and for nearly the same money, you owe it to yourself to broaden your test drive horizons prior to plugging the EQE in at home.

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