BY BRIAN BYRNE
It might seem churlish to suggest that a car costing six figures reminded me of a neon-lit fairground ride. But that was how I felt with the colour-changing feature strip that swirled across the dashboard rim of the Mercedes-Benz EQE.
That’s not necessarily a fault. One, my better half liked it. Two, it can be programmed to operate differently. Three, I simply don’t like those fairground rides, which are noisy, jerky, and often scary. Absolutely none of which epithets can be applied to the EQE.
The EQE, of course, is the EV equivalent of the brand’s E-Class, the quintessential mid-sized luxury car icon.
There are external differences, notably the quirky front black panel that replaces the traditional radiator grille, and a rear lights bar that stretches right across below the very tidy boot lid spoiler. Chrome details on the under-skirt at the back are vestigial nods to the exhaust pipes of the fossil-fuelled siblings.
Stylistically the car is a smaller version of the carmaker’s EQS flagship. It’s sleek, feels special, and is utterly silent to those it is passing by apart from the expensive noise from the large tyres.
Inside is pretty well the E-Class we know well. The primary instruments cluster with bright graphics offers all information needed for driving, with different styles to match eco, comfort or sportier moods.
The large centre screen is also familiar and impressive, but with the usual issues of requiring too much distraction from the road while trying to operate basic stuff like climate control. The steering wheel switchgear also uses ‘stroking’ for things like volume control, and because these work with electrical conductivity of the skin on fingertips, can be sometimes hit or miss. Someday I’ll get a car for review that has no touch-screen — I wonder will I miss it?
Driving the EQE is uncannily silent, obviously because of the electric drive but also because of the excellent insulation from tyre and road noise, and the very effective aerodynamics which mitigate wind sound. It’s a swift accelerator too, with a 6.4s swish to 100km/h. The 600-plus real range is equally impressive — the kind of distance that makes you really forget to think about it.
The consumption of the EQE averaged out at 17.5kWh/100km in my real-life driving. That’s hard to get your head around and compare, even if you have managed to ditch MPG for L/100km. So I’ve come up with a workaround. In money terms, at the current price of fossil fuels and public-charge electricity, that’s an equivalent fuel consumption cost to that of a Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Not bad for a big luxury motorway cruiser.
Everyone is fairly clear on the EV charging thing now. It’s fast enough, when you can get on a fast charger. But the stories of queueing are growing — I got up at 6am to make sure I could top up the EQE at my local service area without either waiting or making someone else wait.
Truth is, the public charging network isn’t keeping pace with EV sales. That’s already beginning to bite in the same way as did the crazily slow rollout of internet outside major urban areas in Ireland — because government left it to commercial interests.
Meanwhile, though, my biggest worry while I had the EQE was that I was loathe to let Cocker Spaniel Koko into the beautiful interior. We’re dog-sitting at the moment, pending his flight in October to rejoin the returned-to-Australia part of our family. It meant that long trips to make the most of the car’s splendid range were out of the question. (But we’re going to miss him when he goes ...)
Then there’s the matter of cost. The EQE starts at €25,000 more than the starter E-Class. Even with the energy costs of a Yaris hybrid, that would take a lot to recoup.
What I liked: If you’re in the money bracket for Mercedes-Benz mid-size luxury, it just could be a no-brainer.
Price: From €85,000; review car €105,000.