These spy photos capture the new 2009 Mercedes E-class long-wheelbase version – it's the first time Merc has built a stretched E-class, and it's had a good few inches slotted between the axles, as our scoop pictures confirm.
Why is Mercedes building a long-wheelbase E-class? Simple. Because the Chinese market demands it. They like their saloons big and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d in China and who is Mercedes-Benz to disagree?
The Swabians know all about this; the company sells more S600 limos in China than any other territory around the world.
So when can I order my new stretched Merc E-class LWB?
You can't – unless you live in China. This is a Chinese market derivative only and Europe's marketing bosses are adamant we won't get it here, for fear of nibbling into sales of the S-class (which has been available in two wheelbases in Europe for several generations).
While we can see the logic of that argument, it seems a shame to do all this development work only to deny us the long-wheelbase E-class. We imagine it could be a hit with German taxi companies – and it'd give Merc an advantage over the forthcoming replacement BMW 5-series and Audi A6.
And what's this new V212 codename for the new Merc E-class?
Yes, yes. Most new Mercedes models carry W codenames (the 2009 E-class itself is W212, for instance). But the V designation means it's the long-wheelbase version. So V212 it is.
Click 'Next' to read about the rest of the Mercedes E-class range
So when will the new Mercedes E-class arrive?
We'll see Merc's flashy new exec in 2009, with sales expected in the summer of that year. It follows a relatively conventional formula, with a pair of saloon and estate bodystyles wrapped in a much more modern Mercedes design – but a lot of the change will be under the skin.
You'll be able to pick from a wide range of petrol and diesel engines; unleaded lovers will be offered the usual mind-scrambling choice of motors stretching from a 1.8 up to a 6.2-litre V8 on the E63 AMG (full scoop here), while the bulk of diesel sales will be of the 2.2 and 3.0 offered in differing states of tune.
And the green one...
The big news is the arrival of a diesel hybrid E-class in 2010. It's a Bluetec 2.2 mated to a hybrid module to reduce emissions dramatically; Merc engineers talk of 413lb ft of twist, 134g/km of CO2 and 55.4mpg. In a big exec – just think about those figures for a moment.
Looks like the days of the Japanese hybrid hegemony could be numbered...