2023 Mercedes EQE SUV First Drive Review: Just an Elegant and Practical EV

The newest member of the EQ family has the right ingredients to become a major player in the developing (and popular) electric luxury SUV segment.

byJerry Perez|
Mercedes-Benz Reviews photo
Jerry Perez

Whether you’re a diehard car enthusiast or not, you’re likely aware that cars don’t live alone in car universe. Like all species, they have families where they live happily with their siblings big and small, old and new. This is especially true for Mercedes-Benz, who until recently mastered the art of alphanumeric model lineups. But then came EVs and things got a bit messy. So, here’s the best way to describe the new 2023 Mercedes EQE SUV: it’s the SUV version of the EQE sedan, which is the electric equivalent of the longstanding E-Class mid-sizer. 

You might be tempted to draw parallels between the EQE SUV and the other Mercedes SUV ending in “E”—like the GLE—but don’t. Get used to sedans and SUVs sharing the same moniker but having either Sedan and SUV built into their name. At least until Mercedes throws this new system out the window and comes up with something else—which it’s already hinted at. Confused? I don’t blame you.

Why am I torturing you with these naming conventions? Because it’s important to understand car family trees. Names mean something—they stand for something. Even if you’ve never driven a “G,” you have an idea of what it stands for. The same goes for an “S.” But what about an EQE SUV? Well, you’re about to find out.

Jerry Perez

2023 Mercedes EQE SUV Specs

  • Base price:
  • EQE350+: $79,050
  • EQE350 4Matic: $79,050
  • EQE500 4Matic: $90,650
  • Powertrain: 90.6-kWh lithium-ion battery | dual-motor all-wheel drive | 1-speed transmission
  • Horsepower:
  • EQE350+: 288 hp
  • EQE350 4Matic: 288 hp
  • EQE500 4Matic: 401 hp
  • Torque:
  • EQE350+: 417 lb-ft
  • EQE350 4Matic: 564 lb-ft
  • EQE500 4Matic: 633 lb-ft
  • 0-60 mph:
  • EQE350+: 6.3 seconds
  • EQE350 4Matic: 6.2 seconds
  • EQE500 4Matic: 4.6 seconds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds (AWD) | 1,650 pounds (RWD)
  • Cargo volume: 14 cubic feet behind second row | 55 cubic feet behind first row
  • EPA range:
  • EQE350+: 279 miles
  • EQE350 4Matic: 253 miles
  • EQE500 4Matic: 269 miles
  • Quick take: A fashionable and practical electric SUV that's bound to be a hit with affluent buyers.
  • Score: 8.5/10

The Basics

The EQE SUV is an all-new, five-seater electric midsize SUV that’s built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and offered in three different models. At the bottom end, you have the EQE350+ SUV, followed by the EQE350 4Matic SUV, and lastly the EQE500 4Matic SUV. The EQE350+ is only offered with rear-wheel drive and boasts 288 horsepower and 279 miles of range. The EQE350 4Matic keeps the same ponies but adds all-wheel drive, losing a bit of range in the process with 253 miles. Even more interesting is the fact that these two both start at $79,050 including destination. Then there’s the EQE500 4Matic, which starts at $90,650 and squeezes 269 miles of range. It produces a more exciting 401 hp and delivers a 4.6-second zero-to-60-mph time.

Jerry Perez

And then there are the wheels. Mercedes knocked it out of the park with sweet under-the-fender designs for the EQE SUV. This car’s chief aerodynamicist told me that in order to reach peak aero, the SUV needs the 19-inch wheels with the blacked-out aero blades and, believe it or not, the optional aero-optimized running boards. Both of these were developed in the wind tunnel to achieve the best possible drag coefficient. Well, bud, I hate to tell ya, but I’m still choosing the 21s and I found the running boards only good for getting the back of my pant legs dirty. Sorry.

Folks haven’t been kind to Mercedes over the design of its EQ vehicles. Not as ruthless as with BMW over its huge kidney grilles, but almost. I recently reviewed the EQE Sedan and said that Mercedes’ elongated design (which reminds me of an orca) looks better in the EQE sedan than in the larger EQS. Having seen the EQE SUV in person now, I believe the design language has finally reached its sweet spot. The SUV’s larger body presents a more holistic fit. The grille, headlights, and taillights wrap around the car with grace, feeling more at home than they do on the sedans. This is especially true for the front fascia, which no longer overwhelms the front end because the front end as a whole, is, well, bigger. The profile, too, looks smooth and does an excellent job connecting the front with the rear with continuous lines.

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The design language found inside is essentially the same as in the rest of the EQ lineup. A 12.3-inch gauge cluster places all the information you could ever desire right in front of you. This, in addition to the fantastic head-up display, made it mostly easy for me to navigate the confusing streets of Lisbon, Portugal. In the center of the dash, there's a 12.8-inch screen, which is how you control most of the car's features. The MBUX OS is a carryover from the rest of the cars, so nothing truly unique here.

There is a nice storage cubby in the pass-through under the dash that's not available in the sedan, but the rest is essentially the same. The second row is spacious and the seats are plush, offering enough legroom for folks over six feet tall. It’s worth noting that despite testing a 500 model with the Hyperscreen, the 56-inch digital dashboard won’t be available in the U.S. for the first model year of the EQE SUV.

Jerry Perez

Driving Experience

I drove both 4Matic models over the course of two days in a wide variety of situations. City traffic, freeway traffic, narrow roads, five-lane highways, cobblestone streets, dirt roads, and even sand. And while both models are extremely alike (for obvious reasons), there are some differences to be found besides price.

I’ll start with the EQE500. It has the performance chops that you’d expect from an expensive EV, but it’s also charismatic and elegant-looking—especially in black and with the multi-spoke 21-inch wheels. The 500 offers a serene driving experience that’s just plain comfortable and relaxing. It’s quiet, it’s smooth, but it can swing a mean hook whenever your right foot asks for it. My tester was equipped with the optional air suspension, which came in clutch in the narrow cobblestone streets of the ancient city. In Comfort mode, the steering was ideal for cruising or weaving in and out of city traffic.

Jerry Perez/Mercedes

Compared to the sedan, the SUV feels, well, heavier for one, but also more relaxed. It feels less darty than the EQE sedan I drove, despite both featuring four-wheel steering. Something else unique to all 4Matic-equipped EQE SUVs is a new, standard front-axle decoupling system. When in Economy or Comfort mode, the system will automatically disengage the front axle to increase efficiency by up to 5%. And because I know you’re thinking about it: no, you can’t manually disengage it and turn your EV into a drift machine.

The same mostly applies to the EQE350 4Matic, but not all. It’s not as quick off the line, of course. You certainly feel the 113-hp difference. What you also feel is a more pliable driving experience, especially in Eco or Comfort modes. Because it doesn’t push you against your seat as hard, it feels less aggro at times. It’s almost just as lively in Sport mode, however, but the surge of power is less intense past 30 mph and above 60. Again, less power and less torque.

Energy recovery plays a big role in driving a Mercedes EQ vehicle, as I explained in my EQE Sedan review. In the SUV, however, I experienced a new energy recovery setting that exponentially improved the driving experience, so it’s worth a mention. Essentially, it’s an auto-recovery mode. Think of it like four-wheel drive. You can choose high, you can choose low, but some vehicles offer auto mode. The car’s brain is supposed to know what’s best. And in the case of the EQE SUV, it really does. Instead of choosing strong, normal, or light recovery via the paddle shifters, simply hold the right paddle to activate “Intelligent Recovery.” This system takes into consideration driving dynamics, driving behavior, and if the GPS is set to a destination, it’ll also take into consideration road data and topography. It really works, and it truly elevates the driving experience, making things feel more natural instead of always having too much or too little drag.

An engineer responsible for the e-drive systems explained that the EQE SUV relies mostly on recuperation braking to slow down the car and very little on its mechanical brakes. In fact, he explained that during my two-hour drive from the city center to the coast, I likely only activated the mechanical brakes once or twice, adding that they’re really only there for sudden and strong braking events. While driving spiritedly in Sport mode, I did notice that the SUV showed the same characteristics as the sedan. Under hard braking, the computer physically depressed the brake pedal to slow down the car, surprising me a bit when I reached over with my foot and the pedal wasn’t where I expected it to be.

4Matic makes the EQE SUV feel glued to the road. No surprises there. A surprise did present itself, however, when driving both 4Matic models on gravel and sand-covered roads. Traction was always present and the system never flinched even if you tried to get it to do so. One of the engineers said that while American customers don’t typically take their EVs off-road, it’s a different story in the Middle East. So they have to make sure they aren’t absolute turds off the tarmac.

Given the limited seat time and detailed driving route planned by Mercedes, I didn't have to deal with charging the EQE SUV. However, all models boast a 170-kilowatt DC charging rate and Mercedes promises a 10%-80% charge in just 32 minutes.

Mercedes EQE SUV Features, Options, and Competition

All the vehicles available to drive during this test were pre-production models, so exact pricing isn’t yet available for those builds. However, some of the standard equipment that’s worthy of highlighting includes a new heat pump that uses waste heat from the electric motors and battery to heat the cabin (saving up to 10% energy), the aforementioned front-axle decoupling system for 4Matic models, and a leather-free interior (though optional leather is available). Optional equipment includes the traditional Mercedes fare, such as a Burmester sound system with Dolby Atmos surround sound, AMG line exterior, AMG line interior, and a variety of optional wheels.

The EQE500 4Matic SUV’s primary competitors are the BMW iX xDrive50 and Audi Q8 e-tron. Much like with the sedan, the 350 models are in a bubble of their own for now. The BMW starts at $88,095 and boasts 516 hp and an EPA-estimated 305-mile range. When equipped similarly to the 500 4Matic I tested, it would cost around $98,200 but offer more power and more range. The Audi is more comparable to the 500 as well, offering up to 402 hp and an EPA-estimated 226-mile range. Similarly equipped, it’ll set you back a little over $91,000. 

Value and Verdict

SUVs outsell sedans and will probably continue to do so for many years to come. It makes perfect sense for Mercedes to start rolling out electric SUVs now that it’s learned a thing or two from launching other EVs. Yes, the EQS SUV is already out on the market, but that’s a niche product. The EQE SUV is, relatively speaking, the one for the masses. It’s not cheap, of course, but it’s priced right. It offers the right standard equipment and has a mile-long list of options for those who really want to customize it. And, if you know Mercedes owners, you know that they don’t like basic. In terms of appeal, equipment, and I’d even dare say range, there’s solid value in each trim of the EQE SUV.

This car represents the dawn of a new era—sorta the beginning of a new car family. I can imagine that there will be many electric Mercedes SUVs when my kids and grandkids drive, and I’ll get to tell them about ol’ granddad driving the first of ‘em. The 2023 Mercedes EQE SUV offers an elegant package that currently can’t be matched by any of its rivals. This makes it a no-brainer for affluent buyers who want an electric luxury SUV. Whether you like them or not, you’re gonna see them everywhere.

Email the author at jerry@thedrive.com