When the E300 sedan goes on sale next week, Mercedes-Benz will have completely overhauled all of its major lines as it continues a strong growth streak. The 2017 E-Class is the 10th generation of a car dating back to 1953, the W120. The E will officially launch with the E300 and E300 4Matic with a four-cylinder engine. The gasoline-only four is the first for Mercedes in the U.S. Since 1977.
Michael Kelz, the chief engineer on the E-Class calls it “one of the most intelligent machines ever made.” Kelz’s statement is based on the incredible amount of technology packed into the car. The E is the closest thing to autonomous driving that is now on the market.
Let’s start with the new body. The wheelbase has increased by 2.6 inches, to 115.7, with its length also extending another 1.7 inches to 193.8. In comparison with other cars in the category, the E300 is exactly midrange, designed to steal drivers from Audi A6, Cadillac CTS, BMW 5-Series and Lexus GS. The body is more high-strength steel and aluminum and the fenders, trunk lid and larger sections of the rear panels are sheet or cast aluminum, making it about 150 pounds leaner than is predecessors.
It copies the new design language established by the S-Class, but it still feels like a throwback, with details like a convex flow of its beltline. There are different options for grilles and badging for sport and luxury packages, giving consumers some very nice choices.
In the United States, the E-Class range starts with the E300, with the 241-horsepower turbocharged inline-four that is found as in other Mercedes-Benz cars. The motor connects to a nine-speed automatic. This is the same setup that is found under the hood of the GLC300. In non-U.S. Markets, the E-Class comes in diesel, twin-turbo V6, and hybrid versions. We expect the next American model to have a variation on the boosted six-cylinder.
But what everyone wants to know about is the technology and autonomous driving features.
We start with Drive Pilot with Active Lane Change Assist. Scary as it may seem to some of us, Drive Pilot will work the gas, brake and steering all by itself, at speeds up to 130 mph. No driver intervention required. The E-Class will even change lanes by itself. All you do is hit the turn signal. The cameras and radar sensors will do the rest.
Then there is Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, which can slam on the brakes for you if you wander into the intersection and don’t see an oncoming car. The car can see cross-traffic you miss.
Evasive Steering Assist basically takes over steering control when the driver deliberately or instinctively jerks the wheel in a potentially hazardous situation.
The Steering Assist steps in to maneuver the E300 around whatever obstacles are in the way, and also avoids steering into a skid.
The Car-to-X Communication, which will eventually be offered in the U.S., is the first fully integrated, series-applied car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure link. It communicates directly with the cloud, reporting hazards and accidents, and getting data in response from the cloud. What’s the point of this? To let you know if there is anything you can’t see up ahead, like a blocked lane or a building ahead of the next curve. Of course Car-to-X Communication is only as effective as the data it amasses, meaning its usefulness will improve when there are more cars equipped with it sending data to the cloud.
If you want to show off for friends,enable Remote Parking Pilot, which you control with your smartphone. This lets the E300 be moved into and around parking spaces and garages autonomously. You can even do it when you’ve already climbed out of the car. The app can also unlock your car.
New safety enhancements include rear airbags and Pre-Safe Sound and Impulse. When the E300 senses a collision about to happen, the Pre-Safe Sound emits an electronically generated frequency to trigger the “stapedius effect” in the human ear — a natural defense mechanism to limit ear drum damage during the crash and air bag deployment. Pre-Safe Impulse forcefully inflates outboard front seat bolsters to move occupants toward the center of the car and further out of harm’s way.
The 2017 E300 is on sale in June. No official price has been set, but it will be in the range of $54,000 which is where the E350 sells at now.