2023 Mercedes-AMG EQE Road Test: Is it AMG enough?
AMG is on a path of discovery right now. Mercedes’ performance wing is at the absolute top of its game producing a wide range of gasoline-powered performance vehicles, but now it has to find a new way forward as Mercedes brings more EVs into its lineup. The 2023 Mercedes-AMG EQE is its second attempt at transforming a regular Mercedes-Benz model into a fire-breathing AMG. The first was the big AMG EQS, which we found to be a competent Mercedes-Benz, but not a convincing AMG. Turning a Mercedes wearing the letter E into an AMG is an even greater challenge, though, as the hottest E-Classes have arguably been the definitive AMG going back to the Hammer. To say the task is a difficult one for Affalterbach is an understatement.
Go ahead and forget many of the things you’ve known about AMG for years (decades for some of us) because the future is going to be different. AMG doesn’t have the same fallbacks it can rely on to get enthusiasts excited about its products. There’s no rip-snorting V8, melodious inline-six or absurdly boosted four-cylinder to bring the drama. More so than many performance brands, an AMG has been about buying a car with a special engine — after all, building race engines is how AMG got its start.
Electric motors? Well, they’re quiet. But there’s no doubting the performance numbers this new-age AMG puts up. The dual-motor AWD setup in the AMG EQE combines for a total output of 617 horsepower and 701 pound-feet of torque. Use the “Race Start” launch control, and presuming you said yes to the AMG Dynamic Plus package, output is temporarily boosted to 677 horses and 738 pounds of twist (more than any E-Class AMG model has ever had), allowing 60 mph to arrive in just 3.2 seconds. That’s quicker than the AMG E 63 S Sedan, but only by one-tenth of a second. Without the extra performance package, it’s 3.4 seconds, making you slower than the gas-powered AMG. What a shame, right?
The AMG EQE comes with some requirements to get the quickest acceleration, with the most prohibitive being that you must have greater than a 70% charge of the 90.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack to get maximum performance. You’ll also need to make sure you’re in Sport+ mode for the full horsepower, be it 617 or 677, as Mercedes limits power output in lesser drive modes. With those met, you can let it rip.
When you do, we hope you’re ready for some wild spaceship noises, because that’s the theme AMG went for with this EV. You can choose between “Performance” or “Authentic” modes, but we found both to be annoying and decidedly inauthentic. The launch control sequence intensifies the sound effects played over the speakers, and while the volume may be high in the cabin, it’s not the type of noise enthusiasts would expect from their high-performance Mercedes. Or any car, actually. It’s cartoon-ish and sounds more like what you’d expect from a hovercraft arcade video game. By contrast, the Porsche Taycan’s artificial noises replicate the sound of an electric motor and is tuned to make it seem like the sound is emanating from that motor, as opposed to just indiscriminately filling the cabin. You’ll need to hear the AMG for yourself to come to a final conclusion, but once the novelty wore off, I quickly tired of it. Thankfully, you can turn off all the noises if you want to.
AMG knows that without its customary loud engines and exhaust, it needs to do something to make its EVs be more than just faster regular Mercedes models. However, I find it hard to believe that someone who adores the snarl and aggression from the hand-built AMG V8 will find the spacey in-cabin noises of this EQE more satisfying in any way. The alternative proposed by Dodge with its Fratzonic Chambered “exhaust system” is worthy of its own debate, but in these early days of EV performance cars, there’s no telling which direction manufacturers will take.
If the silly fake noises aren’t a dealbreaker for you, the AMG EQE definitely offers a whole lot of driving excitement that any enthusiast can get behind. Per usual, AMG went to work on changing pretty much everything underneath the EQE to make it more fun to drive. It’s equipped with AMG-specific wheel carriers, suspension links, anti-roll bars, adaptive dampers and air suspension tuning. It also gets an “AMG Performance 4Matic+” version of all-wheel drive — Sport and Sport+ modes lock you into a more rear-biased program, and AMG makes sure you know it.
In true AMG fashion, the EQE is quick to chuck its tail out. In a tight corner or under hard initial acceleration with a little wheel angle, you’re going to be sent sideways. When you want to keep it clean, the standard rear-axle steering of up to 3.6 degrees makes this big, long sedan turn into tight corners hastily. Its air suspension doesn’t wallow or come with the sort of floatiness some performance cars with air suspensions exhibit. Instead, it stays buttoned down and shrugs off mid-corner bumps with control and enough forgiveness that you won’t be knocked off your line. Even the steering is nicely done with a proper amount of heft and tuning that communicates what’s going on down at those wide tires. If there’s one thing about this EQE that AMG absolutely nailed, it’s the handling, because this sedan will tear through a technical road without breaking a sweat.
When you go to get on the brakes, it’s a different story. As we’ve found throughout the EQ lineup, the transition between regenerative and mechanical braking is unnatural and difficult to modulate. Braking power versus pedal depression simply doesn’t feel linear, and I found myself often cursing the impossible-to-learn transition and odd brake pedal feel. If you can one-pedal it around a road using the maximum regen mode, everything is hunky-dory, but start to ask those big six-piston front and single-piston rear AMG brakes to do their job, and the final tuning just feels out of whack from what you expect out of a performance braking system. Carbon ceramics are optional, and while our car wasn’t equipped with them, it’s hard to imagine the brake-by-wire tuning to be much different. This result is even more disappointing considering AMG uses a special brake “i-Booster” for the AMG model in an effort to make the brakes feel more like what you’d expect out of a performance model.
The AMG EQE gains its shine back in daily driving duties. A certain level of discomfort in the name of handling is expected from an AMG model, but there’s virtually no compromise to the ride quality with this sport sedan. Mercedes’ continuously adjustable dampers work wonders on a poor road, as the EQE happily sops up potholes, frost heaves and anything else Michigan roads have to throw at it. Considering how well the AMG EQE handles, this level of comfort came as a pleasant surprise. To use numbers (since the AMG EQ models don’t), it’s most comparable to an AMG 53 than 63 model as far as ride comfort goes. It’s not tuned with a singular focus toward handling, which is apt for a car that will likely be used as an everyday vehicle.
So, how about that EV cred? Range from the 90.6 kWh battery pack sits at a low EPA-rated 225 miles. The most range you’ll get out of any EQE model is the RWD 350+, which is rated for 305 miles. Stepping up to the 350 4Matic or 500 4Matic drops you down to 260 miles, so a further hit down to 225 miles is to be expected out of the performance model. It also puts the AMG EQE in the same range as some Porsche Taycan variants. However, a maximum charging speed of just 170 kW is nowhere near the Porsche’s speedy maximum of 270 kW. Mercedes doesn’t say exactly how long a 10-80% charge might take under ideal DC fast-charging conditions, but with its battery size and charge speed, we suspect it’d take a little over 30 minutes. Real-world testing saw our charging speeds peak just below 170 kW. For those in colder climates, know that the AMG EQE also comes with a pre-conditioning program that will heat the battery up for fast charging on your way to the charger.
I’ve saved one of my biggest beefs with the AMG EQE for the end, which is the design. It just doesn’t look like an AMG. Sure, the styling is incrementally improved over the standard EQE with its lined grille, AMG-specific wheels and mini trunk spoiler, but none of it goes far enough. There are no bulging fenders, sporting diffusers or any sense of occasion. This lack of AMG-ness can largely be attributed to Mercedes’ EQ car styling being blander than toast, but it’s highlighted to an even greater degree when you slap AMG badges on the front and rear. I expect an AMG to have instantly recognizable curb appeal that screams German performance, and this design just doesn’t cut it.
At least the interior feels fit for its $108,050 price. Interestingly, you can’t spec the AMG version of the EQE with Mercedes’ expansive Hyperscreen, leaving you the more traditional portrait display with MBUX in the center and a free-standing instrument cluster in front of the driver. The interior feels more upscale without the extra passenger screen, as it replaces that area with decadent wood trim. That’s a win, and so is the backseat space, useable trunk, excellent driver assistance systems and snappy infotainment. In many ways, it’s a perfect Benz. But I think AMG still has work to do in its transition to the EV age. This second try does a whole lot right, but it suffers from similar issues as the AMG EQS did, which ultimately holds it back from being a perfect AMG performance sedan.