Mercedes-Benz E-Class even classier
Brimming with high-tech features, exquisite interiors and a silk-smooth drive, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class reimagines the automotive future with unrivalled intelligence and creativity.
From electric mobility to ride-sharing, the automotive industry has had to deal with a few major disruptions. This is not even accounting for environmental roadblocks like compliance with ever-stricter climate targets, fiercer competition, the digital disruption and a global pandemic.
Declining sales figures worldwide are being further exacerbated by Covid-19, which has caused unprecedented damage to many economies. Lately, however, Mercedes-Benz has made a renewed effort to regain the hearts and minds of consumers wondering what the ‘new normal’ for the auto sector will look like.
E FOR EXCEPTIONAL
A pioneer of the automobile, the Stuttgart-based marque often seeks innovations that provide for pleasant, safe and resource-friendly mobility, and in the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz heralded a truly
With over 14 million Saloon, Estate, Coupe and Cabriolet models delivered since 1946, the E-Class is the best-selling model series in the history of Mercedes-Benz and perceived by many as the ‘heart of the brand’. Brimming with high-tech features, an exquisite interior, among the smoothest drives ever, the updated E-Class range epitomises sophistication and intelligence.
Most carmakers including Mercedes-Benz have prepared for a shift in production toward electric vehicles, but the real battlefront is coming from what used to be an unrelated sector, information technology, the field that gave us ride-sharing apps.
A new breed of digitally-savvy, ‘connected’ consumers, growing dependent on the new genre of peer-to-peer ride-sharing, is proving to be an even greater disruption to the traditional business strengths of
According to business intelligence consultancy Deloitte, CASE (connectivity, autonomy, shared mobility and electrification) technologies are causing wholesale transformation of the global automotive sector.
Although no single development will doom the industry, it is the convergence of these technologies and the backdrop of looming macroeconomic headwinds that will shape global car manufacturing over the next decade.
Considering this, Mercedes-Benz is just one of two German carmakers working on a proprietary operating system that will run not just its own infotainment system but also crucial elements of the driving experience, including self-driving features and battery management.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Ola Källenius said: “The interface with the driver is not something that we would like to outsource to somebody else.”
Indeed, a leading search engine provider is currently trialling its own autonomous smart vehicle (yet another threat) and continues to refine a vehicle-centric edition of its popular smartphone software, CEO Källenius is right to not want to cede control of such a crucial element of the driving experience.
After all, less than a decade ago, app companies like Uber weren’t even on anyone’s radar and today, they’re largely considered one of the biggest disruptors to car ownership.
The designers in Stuttgart had conceived of a philosophy of sensual purity, a delicate balance of aggressive masculinity and the sensuousness of well sculpted, seamless elements – think the physique of bodybuilder meets male gymnast.
It’s these unexpected moments where high-quality materials snuggle up to gently curved trim parts, which run like waves from the dashboard to the doors. Or the flex-worthy power domes which capture the power and stance of the E-Class, matching other bold and eye-catching elements in the grille and wheels which truly sets this range apart from anything else on the market.
The stimulating contrast of the new E-Class is achieved via creative use of materials, colour and form in places one might not expect. Inner beauty matches its exquisite exterior as you find yourself in the embrace of inviting leather seats in both the driver and passenger sections.
These comfortable environs make ample and intelligent use of proportions and design to achieve a sense of energy and harmony that permeates every fibre of the E-Class from frame to wheels.
Arguably, the most enlightened aspect of E-Class aesthetics extends to the ability of the designers to join two opposing concepts like freeform and geometry. Mercedes-Benz accomplishes an aesthetic challenge simply by applying these philosophies in different areas of the car.
The core of the car uses “clear, comprehensible shapes” (geometry) while the styling embraces “sensual, sculpted surfaces” (freeform).
If eyes are the windows to the soul, then the E-Class possess ‘eyes’ (read: headlights) which telegraph a sophisticated automotive spirit, creating a visage for the E-Class that is alluring yet powerful with refined, precise and sculpted ‘windows’ that peer deep into the heart of Stuttgart’s latest magnum opus.
It’s hard to deny the natural chemistry and undeniable attraction you feel when you gaze upon the E-Class’s natural perfection; an alchemic composition of haptic materials, colours and moods, combined with surprising muscular forms evocative of a crouched panther rearing its haunches, its power tamed under your control.
While the Mercedes-Benz operating system, MB.OS, is not expected to manage Mercedes’s automobiles until 2024, what the new E-Class demonstrates today is an automotive future not unlike the one presented with the world’s first smartphone – the iPhone.
With the E-Class, screens have become the heart of the driving experience. The widescreen cockpit includes two 12.3-inch screens (media display touchscreen and instrument cluster) and transforms Mercedes-Benz’s latest car into a bona fide smartcar.
Instead of the old rotary dial controller, you get touchscreens and a touchpad on the centre console, including a built-in voice assistant, not unlike Siri. But these are just ‘dressing’ on the core of the E-Class experience: a truly evolved driving experience.
Yes, the E-Class is currently fully mapped for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the marque is pushing for all-round driver satisfaction with their eventual OS. It used to be that mere weight or pressure on the steering wheel alerted the car to your presence, but now the new E-Class steering wheel features capacitive hands-off detection: a two-zone sensor pad in the steering wheel rim where sensors on the front and reverse sides of the rim register whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel.
If the system detects that the driver does not have their hands on the steering wheel for a certain time, a warning cascade is started, which finally activates Emergency Brake Assist if the driver continues to be inactive.
Awkward manual controls have also disappeared. Mercedes-Benz embraces the future with capacitive Touch Control buttons integrated into the steering wheel spokes. Thoughtfully arranged jointless control arrays are divided into functional groups, allowing intuitive operation using swiping gestures and pressing the familiar symbols, much like touch impulses on a literal smartphone.
User friendliness and thoughtful, intelligent choices permeate every inch of the E-Class right down to its leather fibres (we’ll get back to that).
With the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems providing cooperative support to drivers, you don’t ‘drive’ the E-Class but rather ‘command’ it. Digital solutions such as the networking of safety and assistance systems ensure the E-Class is arguably the most intelligent saloon in its segment. The new E-Class actively assists the driver when things get critical to prevent unfortunate outcomes.
Alongside an enhanced multi-purpose stereo camera behind the windscreen and new multi-stage radar sensors with adjustable range and opening angle around the vehicle, the numerous networked sensors include ultrasonic sensors and the 360-degree camera’s lenses provide the on-board systems with a continuous stream of data, allowing analysis of complex traffic situations.
When the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adjustment is turned on, the E-Class is able to respond to Live Traffic Information before the driver, radar or camera sensors are able to detect a traffic obstruction.
In short, the raw intelligence of the E-Class provides better detection of potential dangers on the road, further enhancing the functionality provided by the safety and assistance systems. This results in an especially high level of active safety – the vehicle is able to react intelligently and rapidly if the driver fails to respond.
Like the Emergency Brake Assist, Active Brake Assist uses satellite and sensor data on the movement of the traffic ahead and can use autonomous braking when necessary to prevent a collision or mitigate its severity.
The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds and even to prevent collisions, depending on the situation. While massage functions in the car seat are still rare, they’re a common enough feature in premium offerings for many luxury carmakers.
However, what really takes the cake is something the maker of the new E-Class calls “seat kinetics”. The driver’s seat actively conforms to your body and on longer drives, makes a variety of subtle yet crucial shifts to alleviate discomfort arising from being in the same seated position for so long.
A touch interface allows you to make ‘shaped’ adjustments by allowing you to ‘draw’ your desired seat posture on the screen allowing for maximum comfort.
Based on an intelligent algorithm that approaches some semblance of artificial intelligence, the new E-Class is also able to make driver comfort recommendations according to biofeedback data retrieved from appropriately compatible Garmin wearables. Personal values such as stress level or sleep quality optimise the precision of the comfort control programmes’ recommendation.
Via the Mercedes me App, the smartwatch sends vital data of the wearer to the vehicle, such as pulse rate, stress level and sleep quality, ensuring the driver feels well and relaxed even during demanding or Depending on driver stress levels, Mercedes-Benz’s astute ‘Energizing’ programmes are active for 10 minutes. They are visualised on the media display with colour graphics and backed by suitable music and lighting moods, the latter provided by ambient lighting.
Contemplative and considerate, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class teases at an extraordinary future beneath its clean yet emotionally appealing design.
The wealth of innovations in the driving assistance systems make an incredible counter-argument to one of the company’s harshest critics, Mark Wakefield, an industry analyst who commented: “There are a lot of economies of scale in software development. Auto makers who want to get more programmers and do the work themselves are generally underestimating the costs.”
What begins to be clear is that at Mercedes-Benz, there can be no price to sheer driver-centrism. Today, more than 1.2 million customers around the world have bought a current-generation E-Class Saloon or E-Class Estate, showing that this complete package of emotional appeal and intelligence is undeniably successful. And getting better.
Actor Hugh Bonneville presents the British builder’s ‘Famous Five’ new models in a 12-minute video that includes the yachts cruising in formation off the coast of Dorset.