Mercedes-Benz has lifted the veil on a facelifted version of the E-Class, revealing its revised styling, updated engines, higher level of standard equipment, new safety features and high-tech options.
The changes, described as the most significant of any facelifted model in the company's 100-year-plus history, are part of efforts to improve the traditional upmarket sedan and wagon's competitiveness in the face of stiff German luxury car opposition.
The heavily revised E-Class is set to get its first public outing at the Detroit motor show in January, with the first North American deliveries slated for March. Pricing is yet to be announced.
The major thrust of Mercedes-Benz's efforts to lift the appeal the E-Class centres on its styling, which has been altered more significantly than is usual for a midlife update, most notably at the front. Gone is the quad headlamp treatment that has been a key design feature of every E-Class model since 1995. It is replaced by a more conventional appearance with more prominent single assembly headlamps boasting LED daytime running lights as standard.
Further changes have been made to the grille. As with the smaller and more affordable C-Class, there are now two variants for the E-Class: an overtly sporting option and more traditional chromed unit, depending on the trim level. Both come integrated into a newly shaped bumper offering improved cooling efficiency for the engine bay and a lightly altered bonnet.
Towards the rear, the structured – almost overstyled – rear wheel arches of today's model have been smoothed out to give the new E-Class a more cohesive appearance from nose to tail. An additional crease line now runs from the rear door through to the tail lights, which retain the same shape but receive new LED graphics whose horizontal emphasis is meant to widen the car visually. There is also a reprofiled rear bumper.
The reworked E-Class will be produced at Mercedes-Benz's plant in Sindelfingen, Germany, with a total of five longitudinally mounted direct-injection petrol engines.
Included is a new turbocharged 2.0-litre unit in two states of tune: 135kW in the entry level E200 and 155kW in the E250. The former possesses a claimed 0-100 kmh time of 7.9 seconds, combined cycle consumption of 5.8L/100km and a CO2 average of 135g/km in sedan guise, with the latter put at 7.4 seconds and the same 5.8L/100km and 135g/km.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which is also used in the latest A-Class in transversely mounted form, replaces the existing turbocharged 1.8-litre four, which is systematically being phased out across the Mercedes-Benz line-up.
Positioned above it is a non-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. The carryover unit kicks out 225kW, providing the E350 with 0-100 kmh acceleration in 6.3 seconds, claimed fuel consumption of 6.8L/100km and CO2 emissions 159g/km.
New to the Mercedes-Benz ranks is a 245kW twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine in a newly created E400 model. It delivers 0-100km/h acceleration in 5.9 second and returns 7.5L/100km for average CO2 emissions of 175g/km in sedan form. The same engine will get an airing in the upcoming CLS400 and CLS400 Shooting Brake together with a new S400 model that will form part of the German car maker's all-new flagship sedan range from mid-2013.
It will be joined by a carry over twin-turbocharged 4.7-litre V8 in the E500. It remains unchanged, with 300kW, 0-100 kmh in 5.2 seconds, 8.9L/100km and 209g/km.
Crowning the new E-Class line-up is the E63 AMG, which continues to run a twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 engine. It will continue to be sold in two states of tune, with incremental increases over the 386kW and 410kW of the current model expected to be confirmed when the facelifted performance sedan and wagon make their public premiere with the rest of the new E-Class line-up at the Detroit motor show in early January.
Gearbox choices for the new E-Class include a six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic, the latter 7G-Tronic unit receiving revised software and mechanical updates that bring what Mercedes-Benz describes as smoother, faster and more intuitive shifts for added performance and fuel savings.
Among the new safety systems incorporated on the new mid-range Mercedes-Benz is collision prevention assist, a radar-based collision warning system with the ability to brake the car to reduce the severity of an impact. Also on board is a revised version of attention assist, which is now able to warn of drowsiness across a wider speed range.
A range of new and/or improved optional systems includes distronic plus with steering assist that helps to keep the car centred in a chosen lane and tracks traffic jams.
There's also a brake assist plus system with junction assist that is able to detect cross traffic and pedestrians and boost the braking power if insufficiently applied by the driver to avoid an impact.
The two systems are made possible by the adoption of a so-called stereo camera positioned behind the windscreen with the mounting for the rear-view mirror. It records two sets of images at an angle of 45 degrees that produce a three-dimensional view of the area up to around 50 metres in front of the vehicle, allowing the various systems to react faster than with the previous camera arrangement.
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