First drive: Mercedes-Benz EQE 500 4Matic prototype review

The electric E-Class is an alternative to the ultra-refined EQS recipe.

This unassuming cold-weather prototype is our first experience with the all-electric alternative for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s a four wheel-drive EQE500 4Matic and a car that is more advanced than the rear-wheel drive EQE 350+ I tried from the passenger seat in February. It is also much more powerful.

The EQE 402bhp is the most powerful planned’mainline’ EQE. It uses a dual-motor driveline that utilizes hardware similar to the Mercedes-Benz EQS 450 4Matic. This is 114bhp higher than the EQE 350+, but still 67bhp lower than the AMG-equipped EQE 43 4Matic. It’s also a significant improvement over the 617bhp AMG EQE 534Matic.

The EQE 300+ is the bookend to the range at the lower ends. This means that the EQE lineup will include five models at launch later in the year.

A standard 90kWh battery provides energy. It can be heated or cooled while on the move. This preconditioning process is designed to ensure that the battery can accept the fastest possible charge.

The EQE 350+ claims that the battery can provide a WLTP range up to 410 miles. Mercedes-Benz has not yet made any claims about the EQE 500 4Matic’s range, but it did admit that the all-paw version can’t match its rear-drive sibling. According to Mercedes-Benz, the maximum charging speed is 170kW. That’s 155 miles in just 15 minutes.

Although they share a design heritage and key details, the EQE looks smarter than the EQS. It has more balanced proportions thanks to its smaller dimensions, lower overall height and shorter bootline.

The rear is where the biggest differences are between the two first cars built on Mercedes’ EV-specific EVA platform. The EQE has a traditional bootlid, instead of the large liftback tailgate that is used by the EQS. It also features a subtle lip spoiler and a full-width LED strip between the tail-lights.

The EQS inside gives you a sense of familiarity. Although the driving position isn’t quite as low as the Porsche Taycan, it is still comfortable enough to feel very snug.

The high center console and the relatively shallow glass in frameless doors add to this feeling.

Buyers can also choose from separate instrument- and portrait-orientated infotainment screens or Mercedes’ incredible Hyperscreen that spans the entire width of their dashboard.

The EQE’s first impression is in refinement. It’s silky smooth and whisper-quiet even by EV standards, just like the EQS.

Although the steering is direct and Mercedes-style, it’s a bit heavier than the EQS. The EQE is easy to use and has a good sense of balance.

The performance is excellent and the car responds well to your commands, as you would expect. The EQE measures 4946mm in length, but accelerates with the same enthusiasm and athleticism as a lighter, smaller car. In 5.3 seconds, we expect to reach 62mph.

The EV’s near-silent power delivery can make driving on ice difficult. The 4Matic system’s on-demand torque-channelling and rapid-acting stability controller provide EQE with remarkable traction and all-round predictability.

It was able to settle nicely on a twisting handling circuit and during prolonged instances of opposite lock. The car also came with optional four-wheel steering. It has a very solid feeling of integrity.

Its ultra-stiff body is responsible for part of this solidity, which is more rigid than the EQS.

Although I don’t pretend to know what the EQE is like on the road I did spend a lot of time on ice skating with a lot of oversteering and a bigger smile on my face, it’s definitely more agile and determined that the EQS.

This EV is for those who love to drive and not those who enjoy relaxing in the back. Next month will show that we can drive the final production version of Mercedes’ EQ models.

Mercedes-Benz EQE500 4Matic prototype specifications

Price PS75,000 (estimated). Engine 2x electric motors, Power 402bhp Transmission one-speed automatic all-wheel drive 0-62mph in 5.0sec (estimated). Top speed not specified Battery 90kWh Tax band 11% Rivals Audi E-tron GT Porsche Taycan Tesla Model S