Automobile

2023 Mercedes-AMG EQE53 Brings More Speed Than Excitement

The 2023 Mercedes-AMG EQE sedan doesn’t hold the distinction of being the first pure electric model from AMG. That honor goes to the limited-production 2014 SLS Electric Drive sports car, which ultimately set things in motion for Mercedes’s performance arm to eventually offer its first full production EV, the unabashedly futuristic AMG EQS. The brand’s new EQE model essentially is a smaller, more affordable adaptation of that car, one that can be thought of as an electric alternative to the fire-breathing E63 sedan.

Offered in a single model, the EQE53, AMG’s latest EV certainly has the goods in the powertrain department: 617 horsepower in standard all-wheel-drive trim and a heady 677 horses when optioned with its Dynamic Plus package. An EPA range estimate has yet to be released, but we expect it should be good for at least 250 miles. And although pricing also hasn’t been confirmed yet, we expect it to cost far less than the $148,495 AMG EQS 4Matic+ and possibly even undercut the $109,550 E63 S sedan.

However, the arrival of the high-performance EQE, which in regular form tops out at 402 horses and is largely characterized by its quiet refinement, raises a thorny question: How well can AMG deliver an exciting driving experience without the added fury of an internal-combustion engine? To try and fill the experiential gap the AMG EQE gains a sound symposer system, which plays a synthesized soundtrack through both internal and external speakers. This system alters volume and pitch in a combustion-like fashion according to accelerator position, although it does not attempt to directly replicate the noises of a conventional engine. Two versions are available; the default Authentic setup is standard, while a more muscular Performance mode is optional.

Unfortunately, our drive in France revealed that not all EQE53 pilots will find this auditory theater to be thoroughly engaging. While the generated soundscape is interesting enough, conjuring images of dueling Star Wars lightsabers or possibly an Airbus A380 ready for takeoff, the noise was both incongruous and somewhat distracting when trying to tackle a demanding stretch of road. We quickly found it easier to enjoy the EQE53’s enhanced speed and agility with the system switched off. Though not as freakishly quiet as the regular EQE at lower speeds, the 53 is still remarkably hushed when cruising. Acceleration is both huge and instant, the right pedal acting more like a fader switch for longitudinal g-forces than a conventional accelerator.

The EQE53’s output is metered by its selected dynamic mode: up to 308 horsepower in Slippery mode, 493 horses in Comfort, 555 in Sport, and 617 ponies in Sport+. Beyond that a temporary overboost to 677 horsepower is available with the Dynamic Plus package, but only when using the Race Start launch function. But even in the lesser settings this AMG feels brutally fast, if not quite as ballistic as a Tesla Model S Plaid or Porsche Taycan Turbo S—such is the state of the current EV race when the EQE53’s claimed 3.2-second run to 60 mph is merely a midpack figure in its segment.

The 53’s chassis does a fine job of handling both its power and considerable tonnage. A big chunk of its mass comes from the low-mounted 90.6-kWh battery pack, and the car’s ground-hugging center of gravity can be felt in its willingness to change direction and a marked lack of body roll. Still, despite good overall balance and huge amounts of grip from Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, the EQE53’s bulk is obvious in tighter corners. Its steering responds faithfully to inputs and its springs and adaptive dampers remain composed under high loads, but there’s no getting around this being a large and heavy vehicle for navigating twisting mountain roads.

Yet beyond calling up the massive acceleration and tweaking the artificial soundtrack, the EQE53’s different drive settings seem to make less of a difference to the experience than they do in conventional AMG models. Its ride remains pliant regardless of the setting, and although the steering gained some additional heft in Sport and Sport+, the change was minimal. The most obvious dynamic difference came from the stability control’s Sport mode, which gave a noticeable rearward bias to the AWD system’s torque delivery while still intervening to limit excessive slip.

Our test car also featured the optional carbon-ceramic brake package, which is reassuringly powerful yet seems a bit unnecessary given the car’s ability to harvest up to 260 kW through its motors under regenerative braking. There are three levels of regen that can be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel, the weakest of which allowing the car to coast when you let off the accelerator while the strongest equates to a one-pedal driving mode. Additionally, the EQE53 can draw energy at up to 170 kW when hooked to a DC fast-charger, which is enough to add a claimed 112 miles in just 15 minutes.

As in the non-AMG EQE models we’ve driven, the rest of the EQE53 experience takes some adjusting to. Some onlookers will find that the exterior design’s combination of cab-forward proportions and curved roofline lacks the classical elegance of the brand’s conventional sedans. And the interior can seem more like a television showroom than the cabin of a luxury sedan, especially with the Hyperscreen option that positions screens across the entire dash.

The EQE53 reinforces that AMG can build an impressive EV. But it lacks much of the visceral excitement that comes standard with nearly all of the brand’s conventional products, which illustrates the sensory deprivation challenge that all performance-car manufacturers face as they transition to electrified lineups. There may not be room in that future for loud, involving cars with a few rough edges, but driving the EQE53 did leave us wanting for a bit more grit.


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