16 April 2024

Electric Benz out to go the distance in highly charged SUV stakes

| Paul Gover
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The Mercedes-Benz EQE.

The Mercedes-Benz EQE offers a quiet ride and an impressive range of more than 400 km. Photos: Supplied.

There is more to the Mercedes-Benz EQE than you might expect.

It is the first truly dedicated Benz electric contender to reach Australia, riding on a mechanical platform that was intended from the start to work with batteries and not a combustion engine.

It’s also a family-sized SUV with everything you expect for a tribe, as well as typically Benz levels of standard equipment.

It’s not cheap, at $144,900 for the EQE 350 on test, but it handily compensates with a range of more than 400 kilometres, and the base price of $134,900 is close to the bottom line for a petrol-powered GLE 450 at $133,670.

So it ticks all the boxes?

Not quite and not yet.

The styling is … uninspired … and the cabin can be trying too hard to be all things for all people at the same time.

The EQE is typical of a mid-sized Benz, with space for a family of five and up to 1675 litres of boot space with the rear seat folded flat. There are plenty of aircon outlets and USB charging ports, and a choice between the MyMercedes infotainment system and a seamless connection to CarPlay.

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The infotainment screen is big and easy to use and Benz has resisted the temptation to remove all the familiar old-school buttons and bury important functions in the menu items on the screen.

The cabin design is impressive but let down by some of the cheap-ish-feeling switches and handles, while the obsession with cabin lighting and screens and gadgets is aimed more at a teenager than a mature adult with Benz money to spend on a plush-mobile.

The EQE 350 could convince a lot of people to make the switch to electric.

As you would expect from an electric car with a big battery, the EQE 350 can hustle to 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds and still carry you for a claimed 436 kilometres between recharging.

Those are very good numbers and would be enough to convince a lot of people to make the switch to electric.

It’s also cushy and very quiet, whisks along the freeway without fuss, and has all the safety equipment you could want or need. Unlike too many Chinese arrivals, the Benz also does not try to drive you off the road.

It also has an excellent camera system for parking and stop-start traffic, and enough ”gee whiz” helpers – including ”safe exit warning” and ”turning manoeuvre function” – to keep you interested and entertained and always learning something new.

Once again, though, the downside of electric motoring can be felt in the heft of the car. It’s big and the battery means it tips the scales around 2500 kilograms.

That’s a lot of weight to accelerate and brake, and the car always feels a bit ponderous in corners or on winding roads. Some of the feeling – which is like trying to run with a belly full of water – is down to the size and SUV positioning, but it is a very heavy car.

The EQE has a huge range of potential rivals, and not just from the usual opponents at Audi and BMW. It also lines up against the latest Kia EV9, which is my current favourite among family-focused electric cars.

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So it’s a good car but it’s not a great car.

If you disregard the badge, a contest with the EV9 would be a close-run thing. And that’s something you would never expect.

Mercedes-Benz EQE

  • Position: Luxury electric SUV
  • Price: From $134,900
  • Engine: Twin electric motors, 89kWh battery
  • Power: 215kW/765Nm
  • Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel drive
  • Plus: Roomy, comfortable, safe and refined
  • Minus: Heavy, expensive, questionable design.
  • THE TICK: Does just enough
  • Score: 7/10.

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