The characteristics of an electric powertrain have always seemed to be well suited to an executive car – quiet, smooth and powerful – but large battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have mainly been restricted to SUVs.
Tesla has pretty much had the BEV premium saloon sector to itself with its Model S, but rival manufacturers are now responding. Established executive heavyweight Mercedes-Benz is among them. Its has long been one of the leaders in the traditional executive car sector, with the E300e plug-in hybrid models offering the only plug-in EV option for drivers.
However, it has now launched its fully-electric EQE range, with the rear-wheel drive 350+ derivative – the only one available when it hits showrooms this summer - offering an official WLTP range of up to 394 miles from its 90kWh battery.
Its maximum charging speed is 170kW so, at the right charge point, it can go from 10% capacity to 80% in just over half-an-hour.
The EQE 350+ line-up starts with the entry-level AMG Line with a P11D price of £76,395, rising to £88,395 for the Exclusive Luxury trim level. AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus models sit between these.
Two other powertrains will follow. These are an entry-level EQE 300 range, and a more powerful twin-motor, four-wheel drive AMG EQE 53. Further details about these have not yet been released.
The 350+ models are likely to be the most popular, mixing real motorway-mile munching ability with impressive range and performance. The 296PS motor is enough to power the saloon from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds. In everyday driving it provides plenty of instant power, meaning most drivers will be happy not opting for the more powerful model.
This is complemented by impeccable road manners: it is supremely refined and composed on the road, with the adaptive Airmatic air suspension fitted to our test model soaking up all the road imperfections on our test route with ease.
This system is standard on the AMG Line Premium Plus and Exclusive Luxury models, with AMG Line and AMG Line Premium using a traditional steel coil system.
The EQE is good to drive: it feels nimbler and smaller on the road than its footprint suggests, although refinement and comfort are the main requirements in this sector. It performs well in this area. Occupants in the front seats have plenty of room as do passengers in the back, although the standard panoramic roof does eat into rear headroom.
At 430 litres, the boot is a decent size although fairly narrow – as is the boot opening itself. The cabin is a great place to be: Mercedes-Benz has managed to strike an admirable balance between technology and traditional opulence in its design, with materials including leather, wood and piano black plastics.
All models feature a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display and a 12.8-inch central infotainment system, and the interface will be familiar to anyone who has used the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system. It is pretty straightforward to use and can be operated by voice or touch, but does mean there is a paucity of physical buttons in the cabin. Many people will be happy with that, but it does make operating some functions, such as climate control, perhaps fiddlier than they need to be.
This personal preference aside, there is little to criticise the EQE for. It ticks all the comfort, requirement, speed and low tax boxes for people who are likely to want a fully-electric executive car, and – when viewed as an electric E-Class – makes a very compelling case.