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The Mercedes-AMG EQE is the smaller sibling to the EQS and sprints to 100 kilomtres per hour in 3.3 seconds.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it could be argued that the modern electric vehicle was pioneered neither by Nissan nor Tesla but by Mercedes-Benz – or, to be more precise, by the prestige automaker’s incongruous “pet” car company, Smart.

There wasn’t much of a market for a tiny two-seater electric city car. In Canada and the United States, the Smart brand is essentially dormant. But if Mercedes was late to the mainstream EV market, its EQ sub-brand has been making up for lost time with a swift sequence of new full-electric vehicles.

So far six EQ sedans and crossovers plus a delivery van are announced and on sale in Europe. One of the more recent was the EQE midsize sedan; think of it as the E-Class sedan’s electric alter ego, and smaller sibling of the EQS already sold in Canada. Then, just a few months after the EQE’s debut, Mercedes’ AMG division revealed its performance versions of the EQE.

Mercedes-AMG C43 drops two cylinders, but adds power and some F1 technology

Our topic here is the hotter version: Mercedes-AMG EQE 4MATIC+ if we’re going to be formal about it. In other markets there’s a “53″ in the moniker to distinguish it from a milder “43″ version that’s not coming to Canada.

Both ride on the parent company’s EVA2 architecture for premium electric cars, which will spawn more performance hybrids and all-electric AMG derivatives to come, says Philipp Schiemer, chairman of the board of management for Mercedes-AMG. As well, “stand-alone AMG electric vehicles will follow in the not too distant future,” he said. “These are based on AMG. EA, our new, completely in-house-developed platform.”

The claimed acceleration to 100 kilometres per hour time of 3.3 seconds is slower than the quickest Tesla, but you won’t likely feel the difference.K.TSCHOVIKOV; Mercedes-Benz AG - Global Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans; photo by Konastantin Tschovikov on behalf of Mercedes-Benz AG/Handout

Meanwhile, the EQE à la AMG has an electric motor at each axle providing seamlessly variable all-wheel drive plus a combined 617 horsepower and 700 lb.-ft of torque. Those numbers rise to 677 and 738 respectively when boosted by the available AMG Dynamic Plus package. The chassis is a technical tour de force, with air springs, continuously-variable adaptive damping, rear-wheel steer and optional ceramic brakes.

Mercedes claims the new-generation 328-volt lithium-ion battery pack has low cobalt content and high energy density. Useable capacity is 90.6 kilowatt-hours, with claimed range of 444 – 518 kilometres (based on the WLTP protocol that’s more optimistic than North American standards). Maximum charging capability is 170 kilowatts on a DC fast charger, 9.6 kilowatts (in Canada) on AC.

To maximize range, navigation with electric intelligence plans the fastest and most convenient route, taking into account charging stops, traffic, topography, driving style and climate control requirements.

As you’d expect of an electric Mercedes, the EQE can operate in tomb-like silence. But AMG has also striven to give this EV some of the aural drama its customers traditionally expect. Rather than replicating the sound and the fury of its gas engines, it created an EV-specific AMG sound experience employing special speakers, a bass actuator and a sound generator. When actuated, two programs – standard Authentic, and optional Performance – each offer Balanced, Sport and Powerful modes, with the tone and intensity varying with drive mode and how you’re driving.

The augmented-reality head-up display projects an image of the roadscape in front, overlaid with floating arrows indicating your next turn.Mercedes-Benz AG - Global Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans, photo by André Tillmann on behalf of Mercedes-Benz AG/Handout

To describe all the technology would require more space than available here, but suffice to say it all comes together in a remarkable package that blends three distinct automotive personas into one. First, there’s an agile and highly engaging sport sedan that seems to shrink to half of its size when the road turns playful; second, a true luxury sedan with a plush, silent interior and the kind of riding-on-air ride comfort that only, well, air springs can provide; and last, a zero-emissions (assuming it’s charged with renewable energy), virtue-signaling econocar.

At the likely price in Canada (we’re assuming well into six figures), likely buyers of this car won’t be motivated by the econocar part. But if they fit your budget, even just the other two cars for the price of one could be a good reason to visit the Mercedes-Benz showroom when the AMG EQE lands in Canada. Expect it in the fourth quarter of this year.

Tech specs

Mercedes-AMG EQE 4MATIC+

  • Base price/as tested: TBA
  • Motor: 460 kilowatts combined, front and rear (505 kilowatts optional)
  • Drive: All-wheel drive
  • Battery: Lithium-ion, 90.6 kilowatt-hours (useable)
  • Claimed range/combined energy consumption: 444 – 518 kilometres/20.3 – 23.2 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres (WLTP).
  • Alternatives: Audi e-tron GT, BMW i7, Jaguar i-Pace, Lucid Air, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S.

Trunk volume of 430 litres is on the low side for a midsize sedan.Mercedes-Benz AG - Global Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars & Vans; photo by André Tillmann on behalf of Mercedes-Benz AG/Handout

Looks

Clearly related to its larger EQS sibling, the EQE measures just under 5 metres long, making it a midsize sedan close in size to a Tesla Model S. The regular EQE boasts an exceptionally svelte 0.20 coefficient of drag, though we doubt the bigger-wheeled AMG version (20 inches standard, 21s optional) quite matches that.

Interior

The AMG EQE will have as standard the Mercedes-Benz Hyperscreen, which blends three screens side-by-side under a single pane, artfully integrated into the sculpting of the dashboard. All are configurable in many ways and perform most everyday functions; apart from the stop/start button on the centre console, almost all remaining “actual” (albeit rather small and fiddly) controls are on the multi-function steering wheel. Aluminum “shift paddles” behind the rim are actually for regulating brake recuperation.

Performance

Even with Dynamic Plus in play, the claimed acceleration to 100 kilometres per hour time of 3.3 seconds is slower than the quickest Tesla, but you won’t likely feel the difference. It’s still stunningly fast. As for the AMG sound experience, my ears would need more wheel time to explore all the variations, and your ears might experience them differently. Suffice to say the effect is more Star Wars than Le Mans. I didn’t dislike it, but frankly, isn’t the intersection of eerie silence and other-worldly acceleration kind of the point of a powerful EV?

Technology

It’s a Mercedes-Benz. What could it possibly not have – at least available, if not standard? We’ll just mention one here: the augmented-reality head-up display that projects an image of the roadscape in front, overlaid with floating arrows indicating your next turn.

Cargo

Trunk volume of 430 litres – measured by the more generous VDA standard – is on the low side for a midsize sedan (the E-Class has 540).

The verdict

Athletic or opulent according to your mood, AMG’s take on an electric car makes it feel good to go green – at a price.

The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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