1. The first important new car of 2016 has its world premiere today (11 January) at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
2. Mercedes says this 10th generation of its core model is ‘the most intelligent saloon in the business class’, placing the emphasis far more on digital technology, autonomy, safety, connectivity, efficiency and driver-assist systems than any claims to be fast, sporty, fun or youthful. Message: a very clever car for grown-ups who want to stay safe.
3. It’s got heated armrests! The optional Heat Comfort package includes toasty elbow warmers in the doors and on the centre console. Mercedes says it is a first for this sector.
4. You can get into the car using your smartphone instead of a key. Flat battery in your smartphone? Charge your mobile wirelessly just by placing it on an inductive charging pad on the centre console.
5. LED interior lighting can be programmed in 64 different colours and can be used to pick out specific areas of the cabin, such as door pockets or speakers.
6. There are more LEDs in the optional Multibeam headlights: 84 of them on each side to be precise. They are all individually controlled for precision light distribution without dazzling other road users, says M-B. The optional LED lights at the back have been dubbed ‘stardust’ by Mercedes.
7. Dashboard screens are commonplace now, and getting bigger all the time: 12.3 inches diameter in the new Mercedes. But hang on: in the new E-class you get (as an option) two of the things for a truly widescreen dashboard. It is configurable with all manner of virtual instruments, buttons, readouts, graphics and pictures.
8. Another first, says Mercedes, is the touch-sensitive control buttons on the steering wheel, which respond to finger swipes like a smartphone. The driver can apparently control the entire infotainment system without lifting a finger. Merely wiggling it a little…
9. And it’s got real buttons! Proper hard ones that you don’t have to scroll through a menu to find. Mercedes says this is also a first (!?!). These ‘direct access’ buttons control functions like the air-conditioning and certain driver assistance systems.
10. The car comes with more assistants than the civil service. Driver-aid systems range from one that gives you a wake-up call when you are drowsy to one that mitigates the effects of crosswinds on the car’s handling. There’s another called Active Lane Change Assistant that uses radar and cameras to help steer the car into an adjacent lane on the motorway (but only if it is unoccupied at the time).
11. The E-class boasts more pilots than a British Airways convention. The Remote Parking Pilot parks the car for you, like valet parking but you don’t need to leave a tip. The car is moved in and out of parking spots via an app, which turns your smartphone into a remote control – useful for parking in very tight spots. Don’t let the kids have a go though…
12. It is Mercedes’ most autonomous car in this class. The optional Drive Pilot combines systems that allow the car to accelerate, brake and even steer (moderate bends only) itself on multilane roads – for the first time, at speeds of up to 130mph – while maintaining a correct distance to the car in front. ‘The driver no longer needs to operate the brake or accelerator pedal during normal driving,’ says M-B. The system is said to be effective even through temporary road works.
13. The car can automatically obey the speed limit. The Speed Limit Pilot can autonomously adjust the vehicle’s speed in response to camera-detected speed limits or speed limits logged in the navigation system.
14. The new E-class can talk to other cars nearby using your mobile phone. Mercedes says it’s the first fully integrated car-to-car communication system. The point? So the car up the road can send back a message warning of imminent but unseen danger, such as black ice or a blocked road.
15. The new E-class should be good at avoiding motorway pile-ups. For the first time, Active Brake Assist includes a system that detects the tail end of a traffic jam ahead and clamps the brakes on far sooner. Mercedes’ ambitious claim is: ‘It is possible to completely avoid accidents at speeds up to 100 km/h.’ Wow.
16. And if it does bump in to something? A special sound is played through the speakers to (and this is a direct quote from the press kit) ‘prepare the occupants’ ears for the expected sound of the accident’. You heard it here first…
17. The new E is bigger (an inch and a half extra in the wheelbase), lighter (with a lot more aluminium in the body than before) and more aerodynamic, with an exceptional Cd of just 0.23. We reckon it looks pretty good too.
18. Elsewhere in the world you will be able to tell the model from the grille: the pauper’s version gets a plain grille with star badge on the bonnet; Avantgarde and AMG lines get the sports grille with large Mercedes star as its centrepiece. But in the UK every model will get the sports grille.
19. The 2016 E-class introduces a new four-cylinder diesel engine family. All alloy, more compact than the old four-banger and said to be ‘exceptionally refined’, the 2.0-litre unit in the UK’s E220d entry model boasts 195PS (192bhp), 295 lb ft of torque and with its standard nine-speed automatic transmission gets from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds.
20. The E220d scores on efficiency, according to official figures anyway, with 72mpg (combined cycle) and a tax-friendly 102g/km of CO2.
21. There’s also a 2.0-litre petrol unit with 184hp while engines still to come include a 150hp diesel, a 241hp petrol and a 279hp plug-in hybrid E350e model – but not the 333hp six-cylinder engine which has been ruled out for the UK.
22. Air suspension is an option. And it’s a trick new multichamber set-up, which Mercedes has dubbed Air Body Control. More chambers means finer control between a soft ride and a stiff ride, says Mercedes, as well as offering self-levelling (important for the impending estate) and the ability to raise the ride height on rough tracks.
23. UK prices are due in a week or so, the range goes on sale from the spring with inevitably lots more variants and performance versions still to come.
24. Oh, and it’ll be up against an all-new BMW 5-series later this year…