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Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV review: Packed with tech, but pricey

Aerodynamics reign supreme in the EV world and this especially holds true for Mercedes' line-up of EVs, all of which have been meticulously crafted within the confines of a wind tunnel. The critical factor at play here is that aerodynamic drag has a profound impact on an EV's range, and this impact intensifies exponentially the faster you go. Consequently, this phenomenon has given rise to a new breed of EVs from Mercedes – one that embodies sleek, low-slung and aerodynamic designs; a stark departure from the traditional shapes found in their internal combustion engine counterparts.

This shift in design philosophy was initially showcased by the EQS, Mercedes' flagship EV, which bears no resemblance to the S-Class. In fact, they looked like they came from two different planets. This trend continues with the recently launched Mercedes EQE SUV, a state-of-the-art EV that shares little in common with the GLE, its direct ICE counterpart.

The overarching mission of these EQ models, including the EQE SUV, is clear – to effortlessly slice through the air, minimising wind resistance in the pursuit of maximum range. However, in the relentless quest for ultimate aerodynamic efficiency (evidenced by the EQE SUV's remarkable drag coefficient of just 0.25), some aspects of road presence have been sacrificed. The EQE SUV’s low-slung, rounded and smooth shape is more crossover than SUV and it doesn’t have the tall bonnet and upright stance of the GLE, which typical SUV owners may want.

However, the EQE is not a typical SUV. It’s for the new-age EV buyer who wants the functionality of an SUV but in a futuristic, tech-laden package. And that’s the point Mercedes wants to drive home. It’s not just about chasing aerodynamic perfection but more of making a statement about the future of EV design. And in India, by launching the fully loaded EQE 500 4MATIC, the statement Mercedes wants to make is that it only wants to give its customers top-spec models.

Mercedes EQE SUV exterior design

The EQE SUV as the nomenclature suggests is the SUV version of the EQE sedan (which is yet to come to India) and sits above the EQC, which didn't have an SUV suffix and has now been phased out from the Indian range. Hence, the EQE SUV is a bigger, better and more modern EQC alternative, and until the EQS SUV comes along, it’s the German luxury automaker’s new electric SUV flagship for India. And from some angles it certainly looks the part.

The stand-out feature is the massive black faux grille with a big three-pointed star sitting boldly in the centre with a constellation of tiny stars around it. This signature grille also features an EQ light strip that seamlessly connects a sleek pair of dual projector headlights to complete the family look. 

Strong character lines on the bonnet, a heavily sculpted front bumper housing air intakes on the side and a protruding lower chin injects a strong dose of SUV into the aesthetics. The air intakes are functional though, directing and smoothening out airflow to make the EQE SUV as slippery as possible.

A pair of air outlets at the edges of the rear bumper also play a key aerodynamic role and add a bit of character as well whilst the prominent skid plate also serves to establish its SUV credentials. The rear lights stretch across the tailgate as one continuous light bar whilst a black roof spoiler gives an element of sportiness.

The smooth and uncluttered side profile with sharply raked A- and B-pillars, and a tapering roofline highlights the EQE SUV's wind cheating shape. The integrated running board and 20-inch alloys, which look fantastic, have also been designed keeping the overall aerodynamics in mind.

Mercedes EQE SUV interior and features

It’s fair to say that Mercedes is leading the touchscreen arms race with its massive, curved Hyperscreen, a 56-inch display that spans the entire width of the dashboard. It looks absolutely stunning and wows both driver and passenger alike.

The Hyperscreen is standard on the EQE SUV 500 and is a big talking (and selling point) of the car. Essentially three separate screens housed in one slab of tempered glass, the Hyperscreen is extremely user-friendly and intuitive to use. The graphics are pin-sharp, the touchscreen very responsive and the extensive real estate on the centre screen makes it easy to use split screens and multiple apps simultaneously. The front passenger too has a lot of features and functions to play with that can keep them occupied and entertained on long drives.

Complementing the Hyperscreen is a well laid out and high quality cabin, which is a luxurious blend of leather, wood and metal. We love Merc’s signature turbine-style air vents, which work well with meaty clicks and looks fantastic with ambient lighting illuminating the intricate spiral-shaped design. Another bit of cool detailing is the cluster of three-pointed stars neatly veneered on the wooden cover of the central storage box.

The driving position is nicely elevated and gives you a good outside view, although the raked and thick A-pillar did throw up some blind spots. Like all the recent Mercs, the EQE SUV comes with NGT 7 – the latest version of the MBUX system with less buttons and more touch interfaces. Thankfully, the aircon controls, which Indian drivers constantly adjust, are fixed on the main touchscreen, making them easy to access. Our pet peeve: the unresponsive steering control trackpads, which are irritating to use, hasn’t been fixed.

There are no complaints about the long features list though. Apart from the Hyperscreen you get a heads-up display, ventilated seats with a massage function, high-tech ambient lighting, connected car features that can stream music through a 15-speaker Burmester sound system and on-board navigation, which incidentally is nowhere near as good as Google Maps that can be accessed easily on screen through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like we saw in the GLC, the EQE SUV is also equipped with the ‘transparent bonnet’ feature, a camera system that gives you a live feed of the ground just under the bonnet, which is useful for off-roading.

You expect every Mercedes to come with the highest safety standards and the EQE SUV is no exception; apart from multiple airbags, you also get Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). But some of these features, like Active Brake Assist, can be a tad overzealous as it sometimes brakes forcefully when detecting pedestrians or objects that, in real-world driving scenarios, may not pose an immediate threat, and the way it works gives you a fright. I find it best to switch off the Active Brake Assist, but it’s something I have to do each time I start the car as the system reactivates automatically with the ignition.

Mercedes owners tend to reside in the back seat and hence comfort here is paramount. The long 3,030mm wheelbase ensures that there is generous knee room, and the sense of space you get in the cabin that's enhanced by the massive panoramic sunroof is very good. You also get dual-zone air-conditioning and a pair of USB-C charging ports.

In EVs, the battery pack under the floor tends to make the seating position a bit knees up. The EQE SUV has a reasonably high ‘H-point’, but the rear seat itself lacks the plushness you expect in a Merc. Under thigh support is insufficient because of the short squab and the back rest is a touch upright too (even with maximum recline), which compromises comfort. It’s a pity that the EQE SUV’s chauffeur-driven clientele do not get plush rear seats or even rear window blinds for that matter.

There’s generous amounts of cabin storage though and apart from the modestly sized glove box, the EQE SUV has large door bins (for 1-litre bottles), a deep storage box under the armrest and lots of space in the centre console in addition to two cupholders and a phone charging pad.

Luggage space of 520 litres is decent, but it’s the space saver tyre which sits on the boot floor – and not underneath – that seriously limits the number of bags you can carry. There’s no frunk to take any spillover luggage and, in fact, like in the EQS, the EQE SUV’s bonnet can only be opened at the service station. Fortunately, you shouldn’t have to visit one for two years or 30,000km, which is the service interval.

Mercedes EQE SUV powertrain and performance

With a pair of electric motors, one for each axle, developing a combined 408hp and a staggering 858Nm of torque, the EQE in 500 4MATIC guise is no slouch. In fact, the company claims that this 2,580kg beast will gallop to 100kph in 4.9 seconds and charge on to hit a limited top speed of 210kph. You have multiple drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual as well as an off-road mode, which varies the power delivery and suspension setting. Sport mode was my default setting as I didn’t have to worry about range, so why select anything less?

The EQE SUV is expectedly quick, very quick, but it’s the velvety finesse with which the EQE swiftly propels you that puts it in a class apart.

Yes, it rockets off the line and pins you to your seat when you stab the accelerator like most high performance EVs do, but it’s the finely calibrated power delivery and the progressive way in which the EQE SUV gathers speed that makes it more comfortable and less of a jolt, especially for the passengers. There’s a certain grace with which the EQE SUV gathers speed, almost to the point of feeling aloof, and the cabin's zen-like calmness means you end up driving faster than you think are. There’s not even the speed warning chime (mandatory on locally made cars but not on imports) to disturb you!

The three levels of regeneration are also superbly calibrated. Normal and no recuperation modes feel quite natural to drive and the default setting is one to select if you’re not worried about range. Even the strongest regeneration level is progressive, so when you lift off it doesn’t feel like you’ve hit the brakes. Speaking of brakes, the EQE SUV has a long pedal travel and feels a bit mushy, but it has sufficient stopping power.

In the absence of an engine, road, wind and tyre noise all come to the fore, but in the EQE SUV all these are emphatically suppressed. The result is a cabin that completely isolates you and the only sound you hear is the slow hum of the aircon blower.

The adjustable softly sprung air suspension too is whisper quiet, and whilst this works well at slow city speeds – where you can serenely glide over potholes and bumps – the setup is too soft (even in Dynamic mode) for high-speed driving. In fact, on undulating roads, the EQE SUV pitches a fair bit and rocks from side to side, and the ride speed isn’t flat or settled as it should be when you’re driving at a good lick. The suspension, which has limited wheel travel, clunks over sharp edges and ridges as it hits full extension.

No, this is not an SUV that likes to be pushed hard, but drive in a relaxed fashion and you’ll be rewarded with an SUV that grips well, turns into corners with a nice fluency and feels neatly tied down to the road courtesy of its low-slung and heavy battery pack. Like most modern Mercs, the EQE SUV has a great steering, which is precise and light to make maneuvering this 4.8-metre-long SUV very undemanding and easy.

The EQE SUV surprised us with its off-road capabilities in the meadows around Gulmarg where it scooted across crests and mounds without a care, the 4MATIC system working remarkably well distributing torque to all four wheels. 

The big worry with EVs is always ground clearance, but the EQE SUV addressed that issue convincingly, especially in off-road mode which cranks up clearance by an extra 25mm. Okay, the EQE SUV is not a hardcore 4x4 and certainly can’t do things a G-Class can, but you don’t have to think twice (like you did in the EQC) to go off-tarmac or wander down a muddy track.

Mercedes EQE SUV battery and range

SUVs travel long distances, and hence, range is even more crucial. On that front, the EQE SUV delivers. A 90.5kWh battery gives a claimed range of 550km and on our drive, which included some fast driving and frequent bursts of acceleration, the battery charge dropped by just 26 percent over 102km. This equates to a real-world range of 420km, which is very useful given how few and far between reliable and fast public chargers are. However, at a Mercedes dealership equipped with a 100kW DC fast charger, you can go from a 10 to 80 percent charge in just 32 minutes.

Mercedes EQE SUV price and verdict

Priced at Rs 1.39 crore, the EQE SUV isn’t cheap, and one reason for that is that it’s an import, which attracts higher customs duties, and not a locally assembled model. Also loaded into the price is a long list of features and the latest tech that puts the EQE SUV at the cutting edge of the EV game. So, is it worth it? Those wanting a traditional SUV with attention-grabbing road presence and a comfy back seat may be disappointed with the design. However, if you want the ultimate in terms of refinement and silky performance, and a car that can isolate you from the rough and tumble of Indian roads, nothing does it better than the EQE SUV. No, it's not great value, but then you’re paying for some key attributes you simply won’t get in other luxury SUVs.