It’s nice to finally see some electric cars that are shaped more like, well, cars. I don’t blame manufacturers for focusing on what sells – crossovers – to pump up their volume of “EVs on market,” but for those of us who prefer long-and-low, Tesla’s Model S and Genesis’ Electified G80 have kinda been the only game in town. The 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 has arrived, a fully-electric E-Class (sort of) that offers Claws-out competition against both.
While the ambient lighting is all rainbows, the car isn’t, entirely. It’s plenty good, but comes with a few quirks.
The Basics of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500
The EQE follows Mercedes’ larger EQS sedan and is, predictably, more E-Class-sized. While Mercedes-Benz is using “EQ_” to denote their electric cars, that naming is allegedly going away as soon as next year for… something else. In any case, the EQE rides on a wheelbase 7.2 inches longer than a current E-Class and thus offers more interior room in most dimensions. Curiously, the front seats are 2.5 inches higher than those of a W213 sedan, likely to provide space for the batteries while keeping proportions as sedan-like as possible.
Mercedes offers a few drivetrains on the EQE, and my EQE 500 sits toward the top of the pile. It’s got two motors – one per axle – producing a total of 402 horsepower and 633 pound-feet of torque. Adjustable dampers are included here, paired to a “comfort suspension” and standard rear-wheel steering that turns the rear wheels up to 10 degrees opposite the front.
Range is rated at a totally-fine 260 miles from the EQE 500’s 90.6 kWh (usable) battery, working out to an again-fine 2.9 miles per kWh efficiency. When it runs low, the EQE can DC Fast Charge at speeds up to 170 kW, completing a 10 to 80 percent charge in roughly 32 minutes.
My mid-tier Exclusive trim added that discotheque-y “active” ambient lighting, augmented reality navigation for the MBUX infotainment system, and a suite of driver assistance tech. MSRP came in around $88,000.
In the City, Nothing Can Shake It
The EQE 500 is a great city car, full stop. The suspension is set up perfectly to soak up imperfect roads at moderate speeds, and the rear-wheel steering means you can whip a U-turn or navigate tight streets with wild ease. Power and torque are abundant, to the surprise of no one, so you can jump off the line or shoot a gap in traffic as needed. Visibility is good ahead and less good behind, the downside of such a raked roofline and thus small rear window.
Further, the seats are comfortable, both front and rear. I had less headroom than I’d prefer as a driver, but my 6’1″ self still fit just fine. And the back seat is spacious enough for just about anyone. You’ll feel positively Hot In It with a friend or two riding along, the active ambient lighting at full brightness and the holy-shit-it’s-good Burmester sound system cranked. Girls’ Night Out? Every night.
See, the EQE 500 is a vibe-y car, at least from the inside. Mercifully free of the “Hyperscreen,” the passenger side of the dash is covered in little three-pointed stars. They light up, as does the outline of the dash, and the air vents, and the door panels, and the seat controls. Hit the skinny pedal with enough enthusiasm and the EQE makes little spaceshippy noises as it leaps forward. More aural fun can be had when the car is turned on or as you Unlock It.
It’s all a clever way to add personality to what is otherwise a predictable EV. When they’re all reasonably quick, kind of heavy with low centers of gravity, what do you do to make the driving experience more Emotional? Internal combustion cars can be remarkably distinct given the sounds and vibrations of their powertrains. Yes, even a basic gas-powered GLA benefits from the engine churning away up front. What Mercedes-Benz has done with the EQE 500 may come across as cheesy, mere Lipgloss on the surface, but in reality it’s equal parts fun and clever.
Highways Are Less Delicious
Unfortunately, vibes only carry a car so far, especially with a car pushing $90,000. As road speed increases, the EQE 500 is still plenty competent, but some quirks reveal themselves.
Power is, of course, still plentiful. Ride quality remains good, but body control seems a bit… off. The EQE 500 isn’t crashy and it doesn’t heave around, but the body does carry its 5,434 pounds in some awkward ways at times. Lateral movement was more pronounced than I’d expect from this kind of car and suspension setup, especially over expansion joints.
Braking from higher speed revealed the EQE 500’s biggest quirk of all. The EQE offers three regenerative braking settings, and I preferred the strongest as it offered one-pedal driving, mostly. But the brake pedal itself actually moves as the car slows under regen, which means if you need it for that final bit of braking – or for a heavier stop to avoid a Crash – it’s always in a different place. Presumably Mercedes-Benz did this so the pedal can “meet you where you are,” in a sense, but in reality the pedal’s location is unpredictable.
Pedal feel itself, once I found it and pushed a bit, reminded me of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C300 I drove last fall. The car stopped just fine, though feel was fairly wooden with little feedback.
Granted, the EQE 500 is still a fine cruiser at highway speeds. Range and efficiency were on par with Mercedes’ ratings and it was still a pleasant place to spend miles. I just wish these details were a bit more refined.
The Design Doesn’t Move Me
I don’t often discuss styling because it’s super subjective, but Mercedes-Benz picked some New Shapes with their EQ design language and personally, I’m not feeling it. From the side, the EQE looks a bit… Magic-Mouse-y, and the effect would be exaggerated if this were a White Mercedes. Fine, I get it, slippery shapes are required for low drag coefficient and thus, range.
From the front, though, I just don’t get much “Mercedes” out of the styling. It comes across as a bit generic, in stark contrast to so many designs of theirs that so handily tie to familial styling – even with the three-pointed star removed. And in a head-scratching moment, you get a little panel to add washer fluid, but only technicians can (theoretically) open the hood and owners must Stay Away.
The interior, by comparison, is very Mercedes. It’s a delightful place, very airy with a huge panoramic sunroof and plenty of white leather. MBUX in its latest iteration is snappy and easy to use. I wish the dash and front seats were a touch lower, but otherwise it’s well done.
Electric cars are providing automakers the chance to break Every Rule, and the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 is a fascinating showcase of that principle. It’s spacious for its size, wildly maneuverable, and manages to have a personality despite the natural EV cards being a bit stacked against the very notion.
I appreciate that Mercedes-Benz took some risks here and got innovative. In general, the 2023 Mercedes EQE 500 is a good package. Anecdotally, one friend who sells Mercedes-Benz in an affluent Northeast town has told me the EQE is off to a strong start, as are the other Mercedes EQ models, and they’re not just selling to a Constant Repeat of Mercedes-Benz buyers. Being able to “conquest” folks who own other brands is a must with a car like this, and while it may not be entirely for me, I’m glad to hear the strategy Mercedes has chosen is seemingly working.