Mercedes EQE SUV first drive: Luxury, performance, and potential tax credits could make for a hit in the US

Less than a year after initially teasing its interior, the new EQE SUV from Mercedes-Benz is on the cusp of reaching customers for the first time. As one of the first Mercedes EVs completely assembled in the US, the EQE SUV has designed with Americans in mind and should do well in the market. Before it reaches dealers, I got the chance to travel to Portugal and experience several variations of this model for myself, below are my first impressions.

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EQE SUV is Mercedes’ next chapter in American-made EVs

The EQE SUV arrives as the latest entry in a growing lineup of EQ EVs from Mercedes-Benz as it looks to one day becoming an entirely electric brand began. That journey began with its EQS sedan, which was quickly followed up by a more compact version called the EQE in the fall of 2021.

The German automaker has also added EQC and EQB models, in addition to a seven-seat EQS SUV, which began production late last year as the company’s first EV built on US soil. Naturally, Mercedes has followed the same production path as its sedans by also introducing an SUV version of the EQE built alongside its sibling in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

The public caught its first glimpse of the new SUV’s interior in August of 2022, followed by its official debut last fall including an AMG performance version in the works. Last month, we finally saw the starting pricing and varying trim levels soon available to US consumers, including some versions that could qualify for federal tax credits (more on that later).

To start, let’s talk bout the overall look and feel of the electric SUV both inside and out.

An interior and exterior worthy of the Mercedes badge

At first glance in the images above, you’ll see that the EQE SUV is a noticeably more compact EV compared to the EQS SUV – almost sedan-like from its side view. The Mercedes design team spent a lot of time detailing the design thought and clever engineering that went into this EV’s exterior to maximize aerodynamics and efficiency.

The result is a 0.25 drag coefficient (with 19? aero wheels) on par with former sedans and coupes from Mercedes, all in the form of a larger SUV. The front wheel spoiler alone adds a 15 drag point benefit and adds about nine miles of range, while the subtle “9 o’clock” spoiler on the rear wheel will add up to 11 cd points depending on wheel size.

Mercedes technical manager for the e-drive platform Michael Weiss walked me through the platform design and aerodynamics. He explained that the EQE SUV will arrive with a new heat pump design as a standard feature, that pulls heat from both axles and can increase the EV ‘s range by 10% in cold weather – again, more evidence on Mercedes’ focus on pleasing potential US consumers.

Weiss explained the EQE SUV kicks off a lot of other engineering elements we will see on future EV models, the most impressive in my opinion being a new disconnect unit (DC) on the front axle in all 4MATIC models of the SUV. The DCU decouples the electric drive train by opening and closing the clutch in 240 milliseconds to provide 4WD performance with 2WD efficiency.

The result is a 6% range increase, which is tremendous; I see why they are so excited about the technology and will look to implement the heat pump and the DCU on future Mercedes EVs on the EVA2 platform. Per Weiss:

We think we have a great package here for consumers that we feel we must integrate into our other EQ models.

Moving inward, the interior features the EQ line’s signature multi-display dashboard, including a personal integrated screen for the front passenger that will turn itself off if the SUV detects the drivers eyes wandering over to it. It should come as no surprise that the EQE SUV screams quality and luxury throughout the cabin, with a newfound focus on sustainability in line with the EQ ethose.

Mercedes is working to have 40% of its passenger vehicle interior be recycled materials by 2030 and has already integrated some innovative sustainability strategies. This includes door handles made from recycled tire scraps and trim panels made from 100% recycled materials. That being said, the automaker has no intention of switching to vegan leather anytime soon.

The EQE SUV did not disappoint on the roads of Portugal

On my first day in Portugal, I rode shotgun in a black EQE SUV 500 4MATIC (seen below). After my trek overseas from Los Angeles, I truly enjoyed the massage functions in the passenger seat and the ability to control my own dash display – whether I was watching video content or helping my drive partner navigate up the coast north of Lisbon using my own map.

On day two, I had a 350 4MATIC all to myself and put it through its paces through the Portuguese countryside. The front seat has a genuine cockpit feel as the driver’s side door and center console feel a bit higher than other models, immersing you in the drive ahead.

Because of the leaned aerodynamics off the hood and up the windshield, I found a pesky blindspot on my front left because of the thick A-pillar. Due to safety requirements, the EQE SUV beeps at you anytime you are even a mile over the speed limit. This got quite old quickly, but I was able to speak to the techs and turn off the noise for day two.

Much like the varietal trims you’ll learn more about below, Mercedes offers a level of regenerative braking for all types of drivers. Paddles on the steering wheel allow you to easily switch between three different levels of recuperation:

  • D- : The stiffest regen.
  • D : Standard with a little regen and some roll at stops.
  • D+ : Sailing mode that allows the vehicle to roll and coast.

The EQE SUV also comes equipped with an auto mode that will monitor the vehicle’s speed and recuperate accordingly. For example, when I was driving down hills, I could feel the brake apply itself for me and would get stiffer when I was at higher speeds.

Speaking of stiffness, I found the suspension in the SUV to be a little tight for me personally. When I came across the occasional speed bump or pothole, I found the ride to be a bit more jarring than I would have expected. It’s a very smooth ride overall, but hoped it would have been a tad sportier around tight turns for how aerodynamic it is.

I’ve always loved the UX in the Mercedes EV, and the EQE SUV is no different. The head up display was wonderful aside from some trouble seeing it when wearing my polarized sunglasses, and there were little details throughout the dash I truly appreciated. For instance, when looking at the digital speedometers, there is a visible depth between then and the details in between in the center of the screen. It’s cool to see depth like that using digital pixels and made everything easier on the eyes.

Mercedes probably has the best navigation in the business in my opinion, and the addition of 3D maps on the display only adds to the argument. Not only is it easier to tell where you are and where your next turn is, but its just so much prettier, especially when you’re on the coast of Western Europe. I’m usually all-in on Apple Carplay, but I actually prefer Mercedes navigation to Google Maps.

I did have my phone connect with wireless Apple Carplay to listen to my Spotify and loved that I could use “Hey Mercedes” to switch tracks. I’ve tried that with other EVs and the interface had trouble executive a command from a connected source. Small details but impressive.

Specs, pricing, and US tax credits

Since we just shared the trim levels and pricing in an article last month, I won’t regurgitate all those details. Instead, you can view them here. Do however, want to focus on two big details pertaining to the EQE SUV – its assembly and starting pricing.

Considering the EQE SUV is built in Alabama and its batteries come from a facility nearby in Bibb County, it checks two major boxes in qualifying for federal tax credits under new terms outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act – especially now that the US Department of Treasury has shared its battery guidance.

Mercedes hasn’t officially come out and said it yet, but the EQE SUV should qualify for some level of credits when you consider the Premium level of the 350+ and 4MATIC start at an MSRP of $77,900. The Exclusive trim comes in right at the $80,000 threshold, so it may be DQ’d if you consider dealer markups, but maybe not!

I spent my time in Portugal with a group of journalists that were all US based, and that was no accident. The team at Mercedes consistently told us how important it feels the EQE SUV will be to success in the US market and was designed with those consumers in mind.

By offering either an 2WD or 4WD option for the same MSRP, Mercedes is offering as much variety as possible, whether you want more range in California, or something that can handle the winters in the midwest. Add the potential for up to $7,500 off and you’re looking at even more value to consumers… as long as they still have $70,000 to spend on an electric SUV, of course.

Closing thoughts

Overall, I think the EQE SUV will fare quite well, especially in the US where its being aimed. It offers a more compact, affordable counter to the EQS SUV, but with the same luxurious interior. Underneath, it’s also promising even better technology like the new heat pump design and disconnect unit.

I still love the EQ sedans and would personally prefer on of those from a driving standpoint, but you can’t match the extra space and comfort and SUV provides you and your passengers. In that case, I would definitely take the EQE SUV or the EQS version.

It’s still a very expensive EV, so it won’t be for everyone, but those who have the funds should give this SUV a test drive because it has one of the best interiors money can buy complimented by range, performance, and optimized efficiency.

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