Mountain Wheels: The Mercedes-Benz EV family grows with SUV alternatives￼
Mercedes-Benz may not be the first to the electric vehicle game, but their lineup now includes some more basic (and affordable) options in addition to their faster and impossibly futuristic luxury models.
I recently had a back-to-back run that included the new EQB SUV, the all-new, mid-sized 2023 EQE sedan and the AMG performance version of the larger EQS sedan. Each featured 4Matic all-wheel drive, and the EQB was probably the most likely to serve mountain drivers — especially those who want to become intimately familiar with the Interstate 70 corridor’s expanding network of fast chargers.
I say that because what I hoped to be a simple Denver-Avon and return trip required three stops at chargers in Georgetown and Avon in the $60,100 EQB 350. It’s the least unusual model of the bunch in that it is essentially an electrified version of the compact GLB SUV; cabin and controls are all virtually the same as the gas model, which helps cut down on EV data overload.
Rather than a 2.0-liter engine, EQB instead gets two electric motors providing 288 horsepower, with a stated range of up to 227 miles, plus a robot-styled bar of headlamps. In the cold, going up power-sucking 11,000 foot passes with the cabin heat on, that was not the case at all, and my range was vastly reduced; it would only charge to 180 miles of range in winter weather.
There’s also a front-wheel drive, single-motor version for about $4,000 less, with 225 horsepower but range that jumps to 243 miles, in warm weather and flat terrain, evidently.
Mercedes’ newest option is the middle-of-the-pack EQE, a sedan-styled EV with three front- or all-wheel drive models, starting at $74,900. I had the $77,900-plus EQE 350 with 4Matic, featuring a 215 kilowatt-hour battery system and 288 horsepower, much like the SUV.
Here, the whole experience is based on EV shock and awe, with body design, interior features and controls adapted from the class-topping EQS. The OLED touchscreen displays are large but not quite as Airbus cockpit-inspired as the bigger car, though cutting-edge features such as rear-axle steering, augmented reality navigation and disco-styled LED lighting in the cabin make it a very otherworldly drive. It’ll even chattily greet you as you get inside.
It’s also blessedly more utilitarian in many ways than the EQS, with looks that are still curiously and perhaps offputtingly aerodynamic (try hard to put all images of the old Ford Taurus out of your mind, if you can). Rear passengers get a peculiarly tall seating position, and the swept-roof profile of the car leads to a very tiny rear window.
During my own repeated visits to chargers in the Front Range (I suggest you skip the old-fashioned EVGo stations, entirely), I eventually got it to a 279-mile-range maximum. EQE will drain that power if you want to go like hell, with sometimes scarily sharp cornering thanks to those pivoting rear wheels. I toodled along up to 10,000 feet on the back road to Mount Evans (full winter tires, thanks) and the power was mighty plentiful, though you can tell there’s a lot of mass here.
You’ll eventually figure out the settings that make your life easier, from a free-rolling mode that won’t make the car feel like you’re trying to push a dumpster in the snow while parking, to more judicious use of the funhouse mirror-styled cameras to avoid accidentally parking 1/32 of an inch from other vehicles. The navigation provides great directions to charging stations — helpful, as mentioned — and the enhanced list of safety systems means very, very aggressive automatic lane-keeping. You may also balk at the overly slippery piano-black haptic controls for audio and sunroof, which I could never get to work correctly.
Finally, and more in keeping with the BMW iX M60, the totally ridiculous, 649-horsepower EQS sedan demonstrated vehicular madness and electronics overload to a Tesla degree, complete with a computer-generated race car soundtrack inside and out.
Priced at $158,780, the 295-mile-range AMG model of the large sedan accelerates like a rocket sled, features Tetris on its ultra-super wide joined video displays and rides on 22-inch wheels, with a track timer setup for weekend EV racer types. Yes, there’s full, $5,500 carbon-ceramic brakes, which do help contend with EQS’s gigantic size and weight, and an aircraft-styled demeanor that means you can just barely see over the car’s gigantic hood and dash, and a bathtub ring of LED cabin lights I had to desaturate by 95% so I could see at night.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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