By Christopher A. Sawyer
There’s a new E-Class in town. Okay, maybe not new in the sense of changed from the ground up, but one that has been significantly revised. New powertrains and safety technologies join revised styling and an updated interior for 2013.
As it has done before, Mercedes is offering the new E-Class with two distinct faces. Though the new headlamps contain all functions within a single unit, the “four-eyed” look of past versions had not been lost. The low-beam and daytime running lights get partial LED lighting standard, and full LED front lighting is available as an option, a class first, claims Mercedes. Standard and Elegance trim level cars get a chrome grille surround, three-louver grille insert and hood-mounted three-pointed star. Avantgarde models ditch this for a body color surround and a grille insert that encompasses the three-pointed star.
All models receive a new hood and front bumper. Interestingly, Mercedes has removed all lighting functions from the bumper face. Perhaps this is to reduce damage costs in low-speed accidents. The rear light and bumper also have been revised. Horizontal two-tone LED taillights emphasize the vehicle’s width, and give a unique nighttime lighting signature.
Inside, two-piece trim is used across the width of the instrument panel, and can be had either with a wood or aluminum look, irrespective of the equipment line. The gauge cluster is framed in a three-tube housing, while the touchscreen display gets a high-gloss trapezoidal frame below which sits an analog clock framed by the center air vents.
Mercedes claims the new E-Class uses state-of-the-art sensors, and replaces the monaural camera mounted behind the rearview mirror with a stereo unit. Its lenses are set at 45 degrees, have an overall range of 1,640 feet, and produces a three-dimensional view of an area 165 feet in front of the vehicle. This image provides information for various systems around the vehicle. It analyzes and classifies—both spatially and in terms of movement—vehicles that are ahead, oncoming or crossing the car’s path, as well as pedestrians and traffic signs.
The new car also includes an enhanced multistage radar sensing system. Collision Prevention Assist is standard on both sedan and wagon models, and it helps to significantly reduce the risk of a rear-end collision by monitoring the distance to the vehicle ahead, sounding a warning if an accident is imminent, and optimizing braking power available to reduce the chance of impact. Also standard is Attention Assist, which works across a wider speed range, and warns the driver about his level of fatigue and the driving time that has elapsed since his last break.
In addition, a number of optional safety systems have been enhanced:
- Brake Assist System Plus adds Junction Assist to detect crossing traffic and pedestrians, and boost braking power accordingly.
- Active Lane Keeping Assist now detects when the adjacent lane is occupied, including the detection of oncoming traffic. If there is a risk of collision, it helps prevent the vehicle from leaving its lane unintentionally, especially when continuous lines are present, by braking the wheels on the side opposite the obstacle.
- Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus allows the high beams to be kept on permanently without blinding oncoming drivers by masking their vehicles in the light beam.
- Active Parking Assist works on both parallel and end-on parking spaces.
- Traffic Sign Assist can detect and display no-overtaking zones, as well as the signs signaling their end.
All E-Class gasoline and diesel engines are fitted with stop/start technology for greater efficiency. In addition, the BlueDirect family of gas engines has been expanded to include a four-cylinder engine with spray-guided direct injection. It includes piezo-electric injectors for quick multiple injections, turbocharging, fully variable inlet and exhaust camshaft adjustment, a switchable water pump and a variable-output oil pump.
The BlueDirect family also includes V6 and V8 motors. The V6 is being offered for the first time with twin turbocharging in the E 400. It produces 330 horsepower from 5,250-6,000 rpm, and 354 lb-ft of torque from 1,600-4,000 rpm. The most powerful four, on the other hand, produces 211 hp at 5,500 rpm, and 258 lb-ft from 1,200-4,000 rpm, while the E 500’s 4.6-liter V8 pumps out 408 horsepower from 5,000-5,750, and 443 lb-ft from 1,600-4,750 rpm. All engines are mated to the seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission. For the foreseeable future, the E 350 will continue as the only diesel Mercedes offers in the E-Class in the U.S.
In Europe, the E 300 BlueTec Hybrid combines a four-cylinder diesel with batteries and an electric motor to produce a combined 231 horsepower. Given its cost and the low take rate for diesel engines, it’s unlikely that this powertrain will usurp the 3.5-liter V6-powered E 400 Hybrid powertrain currently used in the U.S. E-Class.
The 2014 E-Class will debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and go on sale soon thereafter. Prices will be set closer to launch.