Mercedes E-class 'unveiled' at Detroit auto show 2009

Published: 11 January 2009

The Mercedes E-class is a bellweather of the executive car sector. The new model, unveiled today on the eve of the Detroit auto show 2009, is the latest in a long line of E-classes that stretches back more than 50 years – and it shows us what’s state of the art in execville. UK sales start in June 2009.

The outgoing E-class reset our expectations of technology on mid-sized execs back in 2003 (with some disastrous results, if you ask Merc’s recall department about the electro-braking system, let us not forget) and the new one looks set to repeat the gadget count. The latest 2009 E ushers in several important new technologies, but the emphasis is firmly on saving lives and the environment. No surprise there.

New 2009 Mercedes E-class: the green exec

How clean is the new E-class? Merc claims the new four-cylinder turbodiesel manages 53.3mpg and 139g/km – impressive figures for one so big. However, BMW's existing 520d already manages a head-scratchingly good 55.4mpg and 136g/km.

Stuttgart says it has thrown the full gamut of drivetrain know-how at the E-class and nine engine options use up to 23% less fuel than before. Across the range, that equates to 3mpg less thirst.

Forget the environment! What about the design?

Ah yes. Amid the numerous E-class scoops (in double figures at the last count) and leaked photos, we’d rather got used to the look of the new E-class even before  it was unveiled. Such is the leaky, internet-enabled modern world into which new models are launched.

As predicted, the new E-class is most noteworthy for its new quad lamp front end (a ‘cubist reinterpretation’ of the 1995 four-light look, says Mercedes…) and those S-class inspired flowing rear wheelarches.

It’s a slick bit of design from these first photos – and CAR pored all over the car at a preview event at the NAIAS. We can report the front end works really well, although there's something a bit eastern about the rectangular rear lamps. It would be ironic if Mercedes' new E-class ended up looking Lexussy at the back, when that brand spent so long trying to ape the look of Merc's own models...

But we're splitting hairs here; the new E is a smart exec that moves Stuttgart's design forward.

>> Click ‘Next’ for more on our new 2009 Mercedes E-class news reportAnd what of the engineering story behind the new E-class?

This car is aimed squarely at pampering stressed execs, wealthy individuals and continental taxi drivers. Adaptive shock absorbers are standard on all models, while Avantgarde and Sport models get 15mm lowered suspension. The body uses new high-strength steels and is claimed to be 30% more rigid than before, giving the chassis a firm starting base.

The S-class’s wonderful massaging front seats will be available on the E-class as an option; they must be tried to be believed: prodding you here, inflating there to hold you in place round corners and generally massaging stresses away.

E-class: more than 20 tech firsts

Prepare to be bamboozled  by the array of other gadgets available on the new E. Scores of buyers will love the tech, but we suspect many CAR readers will bemoan the encroaching automisation of the driving experience.

Where to start? The new E-class has headlights that dip for you, and adapt to every conceivable driving conditions to illuminate the road up to 300m ahead. It has forward radar to read the road ahead and slam on the brakes for you to prevent an impending impact. And every model has Attention Assist that monitors 70 parameters – especially steering inputs – to spot inattentive or sleepy drivers. A jolt of the wheel should wake snoozy drivers up.

The engine room

All engines bar the what-the-heck V8s sport BlueEfficiency. That means aero gains, tyres whose rolling resistance is cut by 17%, intelligent alternator control that charges the battery only when needed, stop-start on the E200 CGI and more besides.

The new E-class is an impressively efficient shape; the drag figure stands at just 0.25cd – and Merc claims this makes it the world’s most aerodynamic luxury car.

Mercedes has issued some curiously incomplete engine stats and we’ve brought  together all available data below:

• E200 CGI, 1.8-litre, 181bhp, 41.5mpg, 159g/km
• E250 CGI, 1.8-litre, 201bhp, 229lb ft, 38.1mpg, 175g/km
• E350 CGI, 288bhp
• E500, 383bhp
• E63 AMG, 518bhp

And diesels:

• E200 CDI, 134bhp, 53.3mpg
• E220 CDI, 168bhp, 53.3mpg
• E250 CDI, 201bhp, 369lb ft, 53.3mpg, 139g/km
• E350 CDI, 228bhp, 40.9mpg

Although the E-class was shown to invited media on the eve of the NAIAS, the saloon and coupe won't appear on stand until the 2009 Geneva show, the estate following in Frankfurt.

>> Disappointed? Delighted? Click ‘Add your  comment’ and have your say on the new Mercedes-Benz E-class

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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