Mercedes has been dropping hints about its 10th generation E Class sedan for months now, teasing us with fuzzy photos and clever camouflage. This week in Detroit, they finally pulled the cover off the car and it is stunning. Here’s how Gizmag describes it: “The E-Class looks like a slightly shrunken S-Class, with a sculpted bonnet, creased flanks and sloping rear deck. Compared to the stodgy, fussy last generation E-Class, it’s as if Mercedes has jumped forward by three or four generations. Inside it’s the same story, where the widescreen displays and horizontal design mimic the more expensive S-Class’ high-luxury environment.” High praise, indeed.
There’s more to this story than just a pretty face, of course. The new car uses an innovative multi-chamber air suspension. It can mimic the buttery smooth ride of a Cadillac DeVille from the 80’s or sharpen its responses to grip the road like a Porsche 911. On rough surfaces, it can raise the ride height. On the highway, it can lower itself to reduce aerodynamic drag.
Wheelbase has been stretched 2.6 inches to make more room for rear seat passengers. That’s a trend sparked by the market in China, where wealthy owners prefer to sit in back and be driven by chauffeurs. Customers who choose Sport trim will get a grille with a Mercedes emblem as big as Jupiter in the center. Luxury trim features a traditional Mercedes grill with the usual three pointed star mounted prominently on the hood.
Any car today has to come with an array of self driving and safety features. The new E Class with Pilot Drive has lane keeping software and can follow another car at speeds up to 120 mph. If there is not car ahead, it can follow the road, even if there are no lane markings, at speeds up to 80 mph. Autonomous lane changing is included as well.
For active safety features, the bolsters on the outside of the seats will push passengers toward the middle of the car if a side impact collision is imminent. The car will also emit a loud noise just prior to a collision to acclimate your ears to the sound of tearing sheet metal and tinkling glass. In the old days, we had to rely on our mother in law in the back seat for such assistance. The steering can also wrench the wheel to one side or another to avoid a crash.
At first, the car will be available as an E 200 or E 220D. The base engine makes 184 horsepower while the diesel is rated at 195. The diesel has 1/3 more torque, however, and can shave a half second off the base car’s 0-60 time of 7.7 seconds. Later, Mercedes will offer a V-6 diesel with 258 horsepower that will move the big sedan to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. The big news in the powertrain department, though, is the 350e plug-in hybrid model scheduled for later this year. It will have a total or 286 horsepower and push the car to 60 in a blink over 6 seconds. The Mercedes C Class 350e is priced at $57,645 and has a 112 MPGe rating.
Today, every new car is instantly compared to the Tesla Model S. Is the new E Class 350e a “Tesla killer”, or is it just a damned fine automobile at half the price? You decide.