Design previews new look of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz revealed a design sketch of the upcoming E-Class, ahead of its scheduled unveiling at the Detroit motor show in January.

The sketch previews the design of the BMW 5-Series rival, which adopts the revised styling seen on the rest of the Mercedes range. A swooping roofline and deep creases along the side of the new car are also visible in the sketch.

Mercedes also released a video of its next-generation E-Class undergoing testing recently. In the video, the fifth-generation E-Class is seen practically undisguised for the first time.

This comes after Mercedes revealed the interior of new E-Class. Key among the innovations applied to the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 andJaguar XF rival is the adoption of the same digital dashboard technology already in use in the S-Class. However, whereas the current S-Class has two separate screens in a dual-display layout, the new E-Class uses two 12.3in displays housed within a single unit, which dominates the cabin.

The new system is fully configurable by the driver, and Mercedes’ Comand infotainment software has been significantly upgraded to match. Drivers can choose from three themes – dubbed Classic, Sport and Progressive – each of which alters the look of the instrument cluster, as well as adjusting the content shown in each display.

Content is controlled either from touch-sensitive pads on either side of the steering wheel or from the same touchpad controller already fitted to the majority of the Mercedes-Benz range.

Most E-Class models will receive the widescreen set-up as standard. However, base Avantgarde versions will make do with traditional analogue dials with a colour display and an 8.4in central infotainment screen.

The centre console storage compartment now includes a wireless charging mat for mobile phones and a USB connector for Apple CarPlay functionality. Google’s Android Auto should also be availableby the time the car goes on sale. A further two USB connections and an SD card slot can be found in the armrest storage compartment.

When asked if the gap between the new E-Class and current S-Class has narrowed too much, Mercedes interior designer Gerd Schöttke said: “The new S-Class moved upwards into a more luxurious segment, so we also increased the luxury for the E-Class. Some customers might change to an upper E-Class from a lower S-Class, but the S-Class still has a bigger and more spacious interior. It has a more luxurious feeling inside.”

The new car’s interior was recently spotted undisguised, as late-stage prototypes continue testing.

Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener has said the new car’s interior “moves forward two generations” compared with the current E-Class. Indeed, he said stepping back in the current E-Class after sitting in the new one would be “like going back to the Stone Age”.

Wagener described the front seats of the car as “beautiful, a work of art”. He said the rear cabin was more spacious with “a luxurious, modern style” and “like a chauffeur car”.

New E-Class will offer “beautiful” design, says Wagener

Despite now revealing the cabin of the car and the recent design sketch, Mercedes-Benz won’t take the full wraps off the new E-Class until January’s Detroit show. Speaking at the Los Angeles motor show in November, Wagener promised an “all-new design” for the E-Class that is “much more beautiful and modern” than that of the current car and “much cleaner than even the C-Class and S-Class”.

He also said the car would have dramatic rear-wheel-drive proportions, with a cab back design, long bonnet, huge wheels at each corner and a new ‘catwalk’ line that ran across the whole side of the body rather than dropping away. Spy pictures of the exterior of the car back this up, and the features are apparent in the sketch.

“All Mercedes cars should have a glamour factor when you pull up, and this has it,” said Wagener.

Wagener also promised a whole range of new E-Class models, which would follow the templates of the C-Class and S-Class families, so expect a sleek estate, dramatic coupé and cabriolet and a sporty E63 AMG model. Wagener said prototype versions of the E63 should be ready next summer.

The front end has remained covered on the latest test mules, but the styling appears to be consistent with that of the C-Class and the last facelift of the E-Class, with large slanted headlights and a wide, three-bar grille.

However, Mercedes is expected to follow the same format as other recent models and offer two front-end treatments, so a traditional chrome grille will be available alongside a more sporting blade grille. Sources suggest the aerodynamics have been refined so that the drag coefficient has improved from 0.25 to a class-leading 0.23.

The new-generation model, codenamed W213, adopts Mercedes’ modular MRA platform, as used by the latest C-Class and S-Class models. Insiders confirm it will once again grow in size, to about 4950mm long and 1940mm wide. The estate variant, offering a similar 695-litre luggage capacity to its predecessor, is due to go on sale towards the end of 2016. The increased use of high-strength steel and aluminium is claimed to make both versions up to 100kg lighter than today’s.

New generation of engines

The E-Class will have a new generation of four-cylinder diesel engines, codenamed OM654, alongside existing four-cylinder petrol units. The new 2.0-litre diesel is expected to be offered in two states of tune.

Mercedes will extend the line-up during 2016 with a new generation of 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesels. New six-pot petrol engines are also planned.

The new six-cylinder petrol engine (codenamed M256) and diesel engine (codenamed OM656) are undergoing pilot production at the company’s factory in Unterturkheim, near Stuttgart in Germany.

They share elements of their architecture with Mercedes’ existing four-cylinder petrol engine, the M274, including their 90mm bore centre spacing and 500cc individual cylinder volume.

All three units form part of a new modular engine family that, sources say, also include a three-cylinder petrol engine and a new generation four-cylinder diesel (codenamed OM654).

The three-cylinder petrol is scheduled to be offered in future generations of the A-Class, B-Class, CLA, GLA and possibly other front-wheel drive models in combination with an electric motor.

The new four-cylinder diesel, which replaces the OM651 unit in use today, gains the latest in piezo-guided direct injection. It is planned to be used across the Mercedes line-up in models ranging from the A-Class to the S-Class. Both engines are considered crucial to the German car maker’s efforts to meet the 95g/km fleet average CO2 emissions regulation due to come into force in 2020.

An E350e plug-in hybrid, with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric motor, will join the range within a year of launch. It’s said to have an electric-only range of 20 miles.

New Mercedes-AMG E63 planned, too

Later next year, the new E63 will crown the line-up. It is set to get a reworked version of AMG’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, offered in two states of tune, with top-end versions pumping out around 600bhp. All engines, save for the AMG V8, will come with Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard. Alongside standard rear-wheel drive, selected engines will be offered with optional four-wheel drive.

Autonomy moves closer

The new E-Class is due to receive the latest in autonomous driving technology. As well as adaptive cruise control, advanced emergency braking assistance and emergency steering assistance, the E-Class receives a new remote parking service for the first time. Dubbed Remote Parking Pilot, the system allows drivers to get into and our of the car, and guide the vehicle into a space using their mobile phone.

Also new is Car-to-X communication, which allows data to be shared with other vehicles on the same route – meaning information of an impending accident can be received much faster than before. The driver’s smartphone can also be used as a digital key to gain entry into the new E-Class.

Mercedes-Benz says the new E-Class comes with semi-autonomous driving functions, which work by using the current Distance Pilot and Steering Pilot technology, along with the upgraded COMAND software, to help the car maintain its position and speed when travelling on the motorway. The driver still needs to keep their hands on the steering wheel to use the system.

Q&A with Koray Sever, Mercedes-Benz Telematics engineer

Will customers be expecting this level of technology?

“This is a typical business-class saloon. The average customer in Europe will be around 60 years old, but in other markets there will be younger customers. These customers are used to the tablet and smartphone world.”

Do you think that this technology will become more prevalent?

“In the future, most manufacturers will have digital displays. If you have this set-up, the technical chance to create configurable content is easier thanwith analogue tubes and a smaller display.”

How important was this widescreen display to the new E-Class?

“We wanted this from day one, from our design vision. The problem was in mass production and manufacturing. If you have analogue tubes and a separate display, these are known technologies. For manufacturing, it was a big effort to produce the screen in this quality.”

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