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We test Mercedes’ brilliant EQE as EVs start to stumble

It’s not the easiest time to be writing an electric vehicle road test. The past week was crushing for the auto industry and EVs in general. The bad news mounted by the minute. New data shows more than half of existing EV owners are reverting to combustion engines on buying a new car. Industry CEOs are to a man, and woman now admitting that demand is unexpectedly slow.

EV sales are down. A growing number of EV projects are already indefinitely delayed. Volkswagen EV orders are down a shocking 50%. They’re sacking 2,000 people and moving more fortunate staff back to ICE lines. Ford lost $1.3 billion in the last quarter. Make that a $36,000 loss on every EV they sold. The Oval is chasing down a $4.5-billion loss. And not surprisingly, delaying plans to spend $12 billion on expanding EV and battery production.

Panasonic slowed EV battery production by 60% in Japan versus the same quarter last year. Its US energy division forecasts are down 15%. And that all depends on subsidies anyway. At a time when EV sales were supposed to be exploding. Instead, EVs are themselves exploding. News seems never ending about deadly airport parking lot, ship, car, racetrack, and other infernos. All of them induced by EVs exploding onto flames for no rhyme or reason.


I told you so! – Toyoda

That’s all on top of EVs kidnapping drivers, range anxiety, charging challenges, crushing interest rates and extreme EV price premiums. And it all appears to be squeezing the EV bubble until it pops. So much so that Mercedes-Benz boss Harald Wilhelm has suggested that some car manufacturers won’t survive the coming bloodbath, should the electric car market implode: “I can hardly imagine the current status quo is fully sustainable for everybody,” he said. Toyota chair Akiyo Toyoda just says, “I told you so!”

And that’s just scratching the surface… Yet the EV rhetoric carries on unabated. Carmakers continue to lure customers into electric vehicles. Including the arrival of this on our driveway. All the above said, let’s try to consider the Mercedes-AMG EQE 43 in its own right.

Straight up, we can tell you that its sublime. Based on Mercedes-EQ’s premium-class electric architecture it shares with the EQS saloon, under which it sits in the brand’s growing South African EV portfolio. Completely unique looking versus its combustion equivalents, if somewhat bulbous, EQE carries a chrome slot-inlayed solid grille between darkened headlamps punctuated by unique DRL Matrix headlamps. Short overhangs and dynamic accents like this one’s splendid silver-rimmed black 21-inch wheels, bring an athletic character.


EQE 43: the ‘business saloon of the future’

The E-class of EVs, this 350 kW 858 Nm EQE 43 4Matic is said to blend innovation and emotion with forward-thinking sustainability in the business saloon of the future. Its electric all-wheel drive drivetrain benefits a pair of efficient, high power density permanently excited synchronous Mercedes EQ eATS motors, one on each axle. The six-phase rear motor is particularly juicy with its two three-phase windings.

That’s all powered by a nickel and manganese-rich low-cobalt content 90.56 usable kWh lithium-ion battery. Charge it up in half an hour on a more expensive than gas public charger. Or it takes forever on trickle at the motel. Home charging as sorted as Mercedes supplies fast chargers with the sale of the car. EQE 43 however gains F1-like situation-optimised three-stage energy recuperation. That brings highly adaptable one-pedal driving ability. One aspect we like is that the dash shows two range variables, a regular one and another more optimistic ‘maximum’ value. That does ease range anxiety a bit.

One thing this EQE 43 is, is fast. Monstrously responsive, it sets off like a bat out of hell and seems to never let up. We love that bit of EV driving. Our tests below confirmed sub-4 second zero to 100 km/h acceleration. But too much foot flat just kills the range. Talking about range, they promise 535 kilometres. The best we ever saw was however 100 km less than that on the Max prediction.


EQE 43 proved imperious on the road

Four-link front and multilink rear suspension with Airmatic, ADS+ adaptive damping and optional rear-axle steering makes EQE manoeuvrable in town. Yet rock solid on the road. There’s a subtle compromise to accommodate that inevitable EV heft, make that 3,095 kilograms of it, that comes through as a sometime brittle ride on certain road surfaces. EQE 43 is however imperious on the road, possesses fine handling and surprisingly good road holding.

It also boasts the highest level of passive and active safety with all the bells and whistles. NVH-optimised and sound insulated to be super quiet on the road, EQE also benefits a soundtrack said to emotionally enhance the dynamic electric driving experience that includes AMG Race Start driving sounds.

Ours lacked the full-width MBUX Hyperscreen, settling for more of a latest C-class-like cabin. We’d imagine it will be very close to the forthcoming combustion E-class cockpit. With the exception of its disappointingly plasticky turbine nozzles, it’s typically modern, stylish, chic and business class Mercedes inside. In fact, unlike its unique bodywork, there’s not much at all to distinguish EQE as an EV from the driver’s seat.


Some of the tech is… well, too touchy

We’re not fans of all-touch car interfaces and had trouble for instance trying to set the climate control on a bumpy road. We have no issue delving into panes of cyberspace to set an arb function, but a knob does a far better job for main controls. Same goes for the steering multifunction controls. There’s no feedback. So while it all looks sexy, we long for the older school wheel that just responded to inputs. Bin it Merc. It’s no good.

Of course, you can override it all by yelling ‘Hey Mercedes’ and just talking to the car. But then it’s not always appropriate to holler in a car. And it often fails to understand what you want it to do. And then while this car has all the tech in the world right up to Navigation with Electric Intelligence, there’s no AM radio. So I cannot listen to my favourite station. Which makes us wonder which of those many redundant features was included to make way for one I actually want every time I drive…

So, let’s try sum this one up. At R2.1-million, this all-electric EQE 43 costs almost a quarter-million more than an equivalent petrol-powered Mercedes-AMG E53. It’s basically equally rapid, but costs zero on fuel. Especially if you have a solar installation at home, or at the office. But it costs more to charge up at a public charger per kilometre, than you will pay for petrol at the pump.


EQE 43 is quite sublime. But what’s the point?

You can comfortably drive 400 km on a charge with this one. So to the office and the school run should be a synch. But don’t expect to just jump in and drive from Jozi to Cape Town for instance, like you can do with the gas car. It’ll be more like weeks to do that, than days if you do not have support. Which was once the stuff of stagecoaches and ox wagons.

All of which leads us to conclude that the Mercedes-AMG EQE 43 4Matic Sedan is indeed quite sublime… But taking what the world is starting to think of EVs into account, and factoring in a bit of good old homegrown load shedding, and the fact that Mercedes has some damn decent petrol and diesel alternatives sitting in the same showroom, what’s the point? – Michele Lupini

Images & data: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Mercedes-AMG EQE 43 4Matic Sedan
Motor: 350 kW 858 Nm, 2x synchronous electric
Battery: 90.5 kWh lithium ion
Drive: Direct, AWD
0-60 km/h:        1.94 sec
0-100 km/h:       3.97 sec
0-120 km/h:       5.43 sec
0-160 km/h:       9.17 sec
400m:             12.2 sec @ 184 km/h
80-120 km/h:      2.58 sec
120-160 km/h:     3.74 sec
VMax:             210 km/h
Energy:           21.9 kWh/100 km
Range:            535 km
Warranty/Service: 2y unl./5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R2.112M
RATED:            8
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