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Long-term tests

Mercedes EQE 300 long-term test: comfy and refined but not without issues

Second report: Hi-tech headlamps light the way for our luxury cruiser

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

New-age tech delivers tangible benefits to Mercedes EQE drivers at night, thanks to a superb set of headlights with genuinely useful features. There’s no doubting the engineering ambition of the car, and Mercedes should be commended for this – but while some of the frills are impressive, there are still some more fundamental concerns about the EQE’s driving experience. 

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  • Mileage: 1,481
  • Efficiency: 2.6 miles/kWh

We’re now a good way into our stint with the moody black Mercedes EQE, and during the bleak winter months there has been a particular highlight to driving around in the gloom. Being a top-spec Premium Plus, our car features the firm’s Digital LED headlights, and they are a truly brilliant innovation. 

Bright LEDs aren’t inherently new tech – almost all new cars feature them – but it’s in the active-lighting arena where they can vary. This is an area in which Mercedes has always been right at the forefront of technology, and this is demonstrated on the EQE.

As well as standard full and dipped beams, the Digital aspect is where things get really advanced, because it uses up to 1.3 million individual light pixels to actively adjust the light around other road users. Starting with the active full beam, this type of function – which is often called a Matrix beam in other cars – essentially runs the full beams all the time in non-urban environments, while actively blocking sections of that light in real time to avoid dazzling other drivers. 

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More rudimentary applications of this type of lighting tech might block out large vertical sections, or only light up the roadside, often reacting a fraction too slowly and therefore momentarily blinding oncoming traffic. The EQE’s system is far more accurate, blocking perfectly sized squares of light on all sides of the traffic, even with multiple cars in front. 

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It actively traces their position using a selection of cameras and clever computing. This is a complex operation, but we have never once been flashed in retaliation, no matter the traffic situation ahead. 

The lighting tech goes much further, too. A favourite feature is the narrow-lane function, which activates when the car recognises it is approaching roadworks. It first projects a roadworks warning onto the road ahead, before lighting a path forward, the exact width of the EQE, to help navigate narrow lanes. This helps to avoid knocking over traffic cones or bashing your mirrors into temporary bollards. 

It’ll also issue a visual projection warning if you follow a car ahead too closely, and even recognises certain road signs and repeats them on the road in front. If you’re driving in an area without streetlights, it’ll recognise hidden pedestrians, shooting over a spotlight towards them to highlight their presence – although we do have to admit that it could be somewhat alarming to be the pedestrian in that situation.

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Yet beyond all of these safety elements, the headlights also have their party tricks. On entry, the car will briefly flash one of several lighting patterns, effectively treating each headlamp as a video projector. In fact, Mercedes engineers tell us the resolution is so high, they could technically project a movie through the system in black and white, although the aspect ratio is definitely more suited to automotive applications. 

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Now don’t get us wrong: there is a lot of superfluous technology being implemented into modern cars, and the EQE is not immune to this. For instance, there are several odd ‘ENERGIZING’ modes that will flash different colours through the cabin’s ambient lighting, set the temperature and play questionable music to relax, invigorate or refresh you as you drive along. However, Mercedes’ Digital headlights are most definitely a positive addition to the automotive tech.

Beyond entertaining us with its flashing lights, our EQE has been doing a fine job as a supremely calming urban cruiser. Aside from a sometimes brittle ride that makes a bit of a mess of potholes – a compromise of those big 21-inch wheels we mentioned in our first report – the Mercedes is a serene counterpart that makes short work of slow-moving journeys of any length.

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The 12V battery issue has also now been resolved, with no repeat of the problem previously noted, even when the car has been unused for a few days at a time. And as we dig deeper into its toybox, we’re really beginning to enjoy the superb sound system and sheer usefulness of the four-wheel steering when traversing tight London streets. Efficiency is also improving as the temperature rises, although it’s still some way short of its on-paper range. 

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However, as we will come to in our next report, in which we unpack its handling, steering and brakes, when things speed up a bit, the EQE sadly loses some of its lustre...

Mercedes EQE 300: first report

We visit legendary venue to collect our new electric Mercedes EQE saloon

  • Mileage: 682
  • Efficiency: 2.3 miles/kWh

Welcome to the future. Or what Mercedes would like you to think is the future. The transition from ICE to EV is a constant battle, evidently, in your affections, but it has rarely been more stark than in the executive-saloon class.

New to our fleet is a Mercedes EQE, which is in effect an all-electric alternative to the E-Class saloon, representing the very pinnacle of Merc’s electric car technology. Like the larger Mercedes EQS, it sits on the brand’s bespoke electric architecture, but unlike BMW’s rival 5 Series, it diverges from the petrol-powered saloon in almost every aspect.

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Our model is an EQE 300, featuring the entry-level single-motor powertrain that produces 241bhp and 550Nm of torque. Mercedes says this will be the most popular variant, and with the 90kWh battery pack, it claims up to 337 miles of range. It’s not a fast car, but then, sporty driving dynamics are not top of its potential buyers’ wishlists.

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Being a top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus, it has all the bells and whistles, including a Burmester stereo, a panoramic glass roof, heated electric seats, adaptive air suspension, rear-wheel steering, digital headlights and Mercedes’ 11.4-inch touchscreen interface and fingerprint recognition.

But it also has 21-inch wheels that have a detrimental effect on range – 40 miles less than models on smaller wheels. The only  optional extra is the no-cost Obsidian Black paintwork, but there are some big numbers to consider, namely the extraordinary £86,345 price tag and 2,535kg kerbweight.

We’ll think about those two figures in due course, but now it’s time to start getting under the skin of this new-generation car. Everything, including the car’s underlying packaging, aerodynamics, design and digital make-up are essentially new for Mercedes.

Which is why we’ve decided to start our time with it in a cradle of automotive innovation, the Brooklands Circuit. As well as being the home of Mercedes-Benz World, this was also one of the world’s first purpose-built race tracks. Brooklands represents a sense of innovation that Mercedes is so keen to channel into its new EVs.

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From the Mercedes-Benz streamliners that were constantly on the verge of new land-speed records in the twenties and thirties, to the 300SL Gullwing of the mid-fifties, all represented quantum leaps forward in their fields, something the EQE is aiming to mirror. So the question is whether Mercedes has chosen the correct direction for its new electric luxury car.

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We’ll have a clear answer after a few more months, but early impressions are that the EQE is very comfortable and extraordinarily refined. However, we’ve also had a bit of bad luck, when a half-dropped manhole cover took out both passenger-side tyres after barely 300 miles. That wasn’t the fault of the EQE, but it did highlight the reality of 21-inch wheels on such a large, softly suspended car.

Mercedes’ roadside assistance service did all it could, but wild weather and localised flooding on the day meant recovery vehicles were scarce, leading to a fair old wait in the back seat. No matter – a nearby coffee shop and just enough battery on my laptop made it a perfectly useful remote office.

The EQE also seems insistent that the 12V battery is dead or dying, both on the dash and on the MercedesMe app, yet it comes to life without issue when the starter button is pressed. This doesn’t affect anything while I’m driving, but it won’t then allow any remote services like preheating, which is a drag when it’s been below freezing overnight.

Anyway, the car has now returned from a brief stint back at Mercedes, so we’ll get to stretch its legs and see what else is hiding underneath the EQE’s smooth skin. Best we buckle up, because there’s a lot to get through.

Model:Mercedes EQE 300 AMG Line Premium Plus
On fleet since:December 2023
Price new:£86,345
Powertrain:1x e-motor, 89kWh battery, 241bhp
CO2/tax:0g/km, £0
Options:Obsidian Black paint (£0)
Insurance*:Group: TBC/Quote: £2,760
Mileage:1,481
Efficiency:2.6 mkiles/kWh
Any problems?

Wireless Apple CarPlay has a tendency to drop out and reconnect, Phantom 12V battery issue, two burst tyres, sticky rear sunblind

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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