New Car Previews

Preview: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Sausages! If there's one thing the Germans know how to carefully craft, it's a precisely laid-out selection of wieners. Here's the latest length from Mercedes, the new E-class. It's smaller than the S-Class, it's longer than the C-Class: Mercedes-Benz spells “Medium” with an E, and it might just be the best-fitting machine yet.

The E-Class's new outside hits the mark in being both unsurprising and handsome.

The tenth generation E-Class Merc' was revealed to the public in a somewhat inside out fashion, with an early look at the interior of the E-Class presented in advance of the full model unveiling in Detroit this year. Thus, we already knew about the car's wide, single-casting glass touchscreen, and its foot-wide navigation display. There's a good reason why the inside led the way for Mercedes in this case, as comfort and quality remain the chief qualities of the brand, ahead of performance. Leaving aside juggernauts like the Gelandewagen and the tire-smoke of the AMG lineup, a Mercedes is something you buy for relaxed, yet capable motoring.

To recap, the E-class gets several new interior upgrades, including a configurable instrument panel, and 63 shades of selectable interior lighting colour. The seats are markedly improved, and range from the sportiest AMG-style variants to the comfort line seat offerings with their complex massage functions. More colour options are on the table for interior materials, and once again the effect is more lounge than cockpit.

The E-class's new outside hits the mark in being both unsurprising and handsome. Leave the gauche matte-paint option box unticked, and the E is as well-tailored as your average executive's business suit, blissfully free of fender vents and other tack-on nonsense. The wheelbase increases by 66 mm, while the overall length of the car is also up by 43 mm; at 4,903 mm in length, it steps on the toes of earlier S-class models, while being still easily parkable. Luxury lines continue to get the targeting reticle of a three-pointed star atop the grille, while the sportier versions make do with an integrated badging.

Under the new hood – which, like the fenders, trunk, and large sections of the bodywork, is all-aluminum – the E-class gets a new four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine as the base offering. Displacing 2.0L, it makes 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, perfectly adequate figures for most use. The four will be matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and whether Mercedes can manage to mute the inherent imbalance of a four-cylinder engine to the point that it's as smooth as their old V6-powered E-class models remains to be seen.

The Brat(wurst): 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé

While no other engine offerings were officially announced, you don't have to own a crystal ball to expect more powerful options coming down the pipeline before too long. Even with diesel's currently tarnished image, the E-class will likely continue to sell a decent percentage of cars so equipped, as well as with a twin-turbo V6 of the E400. There'll also be a plug-in hybrid variant, and the word is that there will likely be two AMG variants, an E43 Mercedes-AMG and top dog E63 AMG. The latter will get the hand-assembled twin-turbo V8, and the former replaces the E450 AMG Sport line with a mass-assembled twin-turbo V6.

Chassis stiffness, as with every Mercedes over the past century, is up. More interesting to those who would waft along the highway is the new optional multi-mode air suspension system. The standard suspension gets sport and comfort dynamic modes, but adding in the air both improves the E-class's ability to iron out wrinkles in the road, and combines a firmer ride at higher speeds.

Aside from improvements to comfort, styling, and sizing, the big news for the E-class is the trickle-down of driver assist technologies from the S-class.

For instance, at those higher speeds we just mentioned, Mercedes' cruise control is now essentially a selectable autopilot. Capable of locking on to a lead vehicle, the Distronic system can now follow traffic at speeds of up to 210 km/h. It'll self-brake, accelerate, and steer through corners – while the driver is still required to keep their hands on the wheel, the E-class will essentially do all the heavy lifting of in-traffic driving. You can even use the indicators to change lanes. While we're not quite passengers in our cars yet, the E-class at least adds the intelligence of a well-mannered horse into your car.

Safety, too, is greatly improved. If you actually manage to crash your E-class into something it'll still have all the usual airbags and whatnot, but now includes inflating side-bolsters to keep you away from the impact, and a pre-safe device that triggers an in-ear reflex to protect your ears from the cacophony of a collision.

Amazing stuff, but first you'll have to somehow trick the car into having the accident in the first place. With sensors to detect a drowsy driver, auto-braking to keep you in your lane, a system to counteract the effects of crosswinds, a self-braking system for forward collisions that can now detect cross-traffic in an intersection, and even a system to help you swerve to avoid a collision with an unexpected pedestrian, the E-class just upgraded its safety nanny systems to Mary Poppins levels.

Parking spot too tight? The E-class can park itself remotely using a smartphone app. Audiophile? The optional Burmester sound system comes with 23 speakers and the ability to focus the sound around driver or any of the passengers. Rear passengers bored easily? There are optional tablet holders out back.

It is, as you'd expect from Mercedes, an impressive suite of luxury features crammed into a car that looks much the same as its bigger and smaller brothers on the showroom floor. We will get an ultra-efficient version, we'll have an extra-spicy AMG version, and everything in between. Sausages, as you know, come with all kinds of fillings, and with the E-Class, you can have it pretty much any way you like, weisswurst, bratwurst, self-driving, or soy-protein-vegan-plug-in. A tasty alternative to your hot-dogging Cadillac.