Mercedes E-class estate (2009): latest spyshots

Published: 06 January 2009

Mercedes’ technology-laden new E-class, snapped here by our spy photographers in wagon form nine months ahead of its official unveiling, will pioneer a new drowsiness detector that prevents drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

A Merc insider swears this clever tech isn’t designed to offset the boringness of Benz’s next mid-sized model, which is so green some versions will emit less than 140g/km of CO2. In fact, the next E-class promises to be much less snoreworthy than its predecessor our snitch tells us, a proper mini S-class with sharper styling, interesting engines and a much better quality cabin.

The E-class gets interesting? Excellent…

The anti-drowsiness technology uses sensors in the steering column rather than facial recognition software to detect changes in your driving. Mercedes engineers discovered that a driver’s wheel inputs became more ragged the more tired they were.

Attention Assist offers an audio-visual warning when it has detected a sleeping driver but doesn’t actually steer the car for you (that would require a fully electric steering rack which Merc doesn’t yet have) or apply the brakes, although there’s no reason why it couldn’t in future.

Sounds a bit big brother…

Within three years Attention Assist will be standard on every Mercedes passenger car from the successor to the A-class upwards. But we’ll experience it first on the E-class which makes its debut in saloon and coupé forms at the Geneva show in March 2009.

The estate version seen here wearing minimal disguise for the first time is launched at the Frankfurt show in September 2009, six months after its siblings.

>> Click ‘Next’ to read more of our E-class estate scoop

Merc E-class: the techfest

The E-class will also be the first Mercedes available with a lane-keeping assistance that vibrates the steering wheel to warn of an imminent departure with the scenery, plus blind spot assistance and speed limit recognition software.

Merc’s clever Night Assist that beams an infra-red image on to the dash, Adaptive High-beam Assist and the latest version of Presafe Brake will also be fitted. The latter reacts to information gleaned from a radar in the front grille, applying full braking force if it senses a collision is about to happen. You’ll still crash, but not as badly.

New E-class: the engine line-up

Like BMW, Mercedes has decided to make every model in the range green rather than offering one specific eco version. A similar spread of diesel and petrol engines to the current car’s is on the cards but they’re all far greener this time.

The majority of sales will be of the four-cylinder diesel engines: the E200, 200 and 250 diesels. The basic 200 diesel will manage more than 50mpg, while the 250 provides 204bhp and 368lb ft.

But don’t discount the cheaper petrol options. The basic 200K will churn out over 180bhp while emitting less than 160g/km of CO2. And it’s likely to cost around £23,000 in saloon form when UK sales begin in summer 2009.

With neither Jaguar nor Lexus offering much competition at this end of the market, and BMW concentrating on diesel power for its small-engined Fives, the new E-class could become the default medium-sized exec.

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By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker