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Detroit show: New E-class revealed

Technology leader: Benz says new E-class is head of its class.

Mercedes-Benz heralds new technology and opinion-dividing styling with new E-class

12 Jan 2009

ONE of the most eagerly-awaited unveilings at the Detroit auto show was of the fifth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-class, the German company’s all-important new mid-sized luxury car challenger.

Sporting Mercedes’ latest design language, the W212 arrives as the replacement for the W211, one of the company’s most successful models of recent times.

However, its unusual split headlights, Audi-style eyebrow daylight running lights located in the lower air vents and duck-tail rear end seemed to polarise opinion among the 650 assembled scribes in Detroit.

Mercedes said the E-class was the first Benz to appear with twin headlights in 1995 and that its designers have now reinterpreted these four “eyes” as rectangles.

The new E-class will arrive in local showrooms in the middle of this year and Mercedes-Benz Australia no doubt will be hoping that the troubled luxury car market will have improved by that time.

It will also have the task of restoring the segment leadership it enjoyed over BMW’s 5 Series until falling away markedly last year.

4 center imageMercedes-Benz heralded more than 20 new or further technical developments for the new E-class in Detroit, saying it would be the segment leader for safety, comfort and environmental compatibility.

These include the standard fitment of a drowsiness detection system, world-first adaptive headlights that use camera technology to respond automatically to avoid dazzling other drivers, and automatic emergency braking, which is activated when there is acute danger of a collision.

Among the main numbers promoted by the company are a 30 per cent stiffer body, 23 more fuel-efficient engines and an impressive aerodynamic drag figure of just 0.25 (a improvement of 4 per cent, which Benz says is worth 0.25L/100km while cruising at 130km/h).

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who must return to Detroit thankful that he longer heads up Chrysler, told the media that the W212 is the safest, most comfortable and cleanest E-Class ever.

“It is yet further evidence that fascination and responsibility go hand-in-hand at Mercedes and we are certain that the new E-Class will send a positive signal for the 2009 automotive year, and will be among the winners in the global market,” said Dr Zetsche.

Mercedes claims to have improved long-distance comfort with improved seats and a new suspension system with adaptive shock absorbers that automatically adjust to driving and road conditions. It also works with the existing optional air suspension system.

As well as the 23 per cent more economical direct-injection V6 and V8 petrol engines, the new E-class was shown with a 155kW 3.0-litre six-cylinder Bluetec diesel that will be released in 2010 and which Mercedes claims is the world’s cleanest diesel engine.

Emission levels for the E350 Bluetec are already below the EU6 limits planned for 2014 and it uses 0.5L/100km less fuel than the E320 CDI (which has 170kW).

Mercedes says that the three twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engines in the range average just 5.3L/100km on fuel consumption and emit only 139g/km of CO2.

The 150kW/500Nm E250 CDI has 25 per cent higher torque than the previous V6 diesel engine, but uses around 23 per cent less fuel while the new E220 CDI has 125kW and the E200 CDI has 100kW.

On the petrol front, Mercedes says that the four-cylinder engines – which now carry CGI model names – are new direct-injection units that develop more power and torque than the comparable current V6 engines, despite having smaller displacements.

The strategy, says the company, is to replace large, naturally-aspirated engines with turbocharged units that are lighter, have reduced internal friction and more economical operating characteristics.

The petrol line-up includes the E200 CGI (135kW turbo 1.8-litre), E250 CGI (150kW turbo 1.8-litre), E350 CGI (existing 3.5-litre V6 with 215kW), E500 (existing 285kW 5.5-litre V8) and the flagship E63 AMG (386kW 6.2-litre V8).

Further W212 efficiency gains have resulted from the development of tyres with 17 per cent less rolling resistance, a stop/start function and energy-saving control of the generator, fuel pump, air conditioning compressor and power steering.

A display in the speedo not only informs the driver how much fuel is being consumed but indicates when they should shift to the next higher gear for the best economy.

Mercedes has developed the lane safety package from the S-class to include a lane-keeping facility that seeks to prevent the vehicle from leaving the road unintentionally by recognising that the car is drifting from its lane, then vibrating the steering wheel.

Images from the windscreen camera are used to recognise speed-limit signs as the car passes them, allowing the relevant speed limit to be displayed in the speedometer.

Read more:

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