E-Class

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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Overview

After the current S-Class arrived in 2013, and the current C-Class in 2014, it was only a matter of time before the debut of a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The waiting was finally over at the Detroit Auto Show this year, where the tenth generation was officially introduced to the public. New underpinnings, a redesigned interior, and new powerplants make the 2017 E-Class a thoroughly different car than the one it replaces, and its styling now bears an undeniable family resemblance to the S-Class and C-Class models it sits between in the Mercedes lineup. It is also almost two inches longer in overall length and just over two inches longer in the wheelbase compared to the ninth generation. Prices will start in the low-$50,000 range and, as always, its primary competitors are the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6.

While the sporty AMG version of the E-Class will feature a large forced-induction V8, and a diesel engine be available at some point for U.S.-spec cars, the E300 currently offers just one engine--an engine that, at first, sounds a bit underwhelming. A 2.0-liter four does not seem like something that should be under the hood of a stately car like the E-Class, but in this case it is at least turbocharged to make a respectable 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard and 4MATIC all-wheel drive (AWD) comes optional.

The 2017 E-Class features standard steel-spring suspension with “Comfort” and “Sport” modes that adjust the dampers. The much more advanced “Air Body Control," a multi-chamber self-leveling air suspension that adjusts its firmness based on road and driving conditions, is available as an option. For those facing lots of high speed bumps and steep driveways, the air suspension can raise the car's ground clearance slightly with the push of a button. But although the air suspension will undoubtedly offer a more sophisticated ride, buyers should note that any out-of-warranty service on a Mercedes is going to be expensive, and repairing a broken air suspension system could be painfully so.

Mercedes-Benz has been a technical innovator for decades, so the interiors of its vehicles are always one of the most exciting places to look when a new or redesigned model first comes out. The big news about the 2017 E-Class is its steering-wheel touch controls, an industry first. Clearly taking after smartphone and tablet technology, the steering wheel can accept horizontal and vertical swipes of the finger to control certain features on the infotainment system. This allows the driver to keep his or her hands on the steering wheel more consistently, and in a world of increasing distraction, this feature arguably contributes as much to safety as it does to convenience.

The infotainment system itself has been redesigned for the new E-Class and features a large touchscreen set in the middle of the dash. A new instrument cluster consists of two analogue dials flanking a 7-inch center screen, with a 12.3-inch screen on higher trims. The interior layout is largely based on the S-Class (and that’s a good thing) with revised seats and lots of premium leather and wood trim materials from which to choose. A Burmester premium sound system is optional, and even non-audiophiles will be impressed by its 23 speakers, four of which are located in the ceiling.

Mercedes-Benz had long been as much a leader in safety as it has in technology. The new E-Class is certainly no exception, featuring such technologies as Drive Pilot, which enables the car to follow another vehicle at speeds of up to 130 mph with the help of automatic acceleration, braking, and even a system that can handle light bends. For people who don’t live near the autobahn and might have a few points on their license, the E-Class also has a “Speed Limit Pilot” function that can actually read speed limit signs along the way and automatically adjust the car’s speed accordingly. Active Brake Assist and Attention Assist are also included, as well as a “Remote Parking Pilot”, with which the owner can park the car using a smartphone. Finally, a “Car-to-X” feature scans for data from vehicles further down the road in order to warn the driver about potential accidents or other hazards. The new E-Class hasn’t been crash tested yet, but the outgoing model earned top honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), so occupants of the tenth-generation car can feel at least as safe while enjoying all the comfort and technology that one expects from a new Mercedes design.

Updated

Since 2012, Andrew Newton has been writing about cars both old and new. Andrew has been an associate editor at Sport Car Digest as well as a contributor to sites like BoldRide and JamesEdition. He was also the Education Manager at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, MA before becoming the Auction Editor at Hagerty Classic Car Insurance. He currently splits his time behind the wheel between his NA Miata, 1994 Corvette, and Triumph TR6.

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