Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

2010 Mercedes Benz E Class Front Closeup

Stuttgart engineers are putting the years of cost-cut me-too Benzes behind them. Ditto the endless distractions of the Chrysler affair. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class represents Daimler’s contrition for those sins. Like the recent C and S, the new E-Class is a return-path to what people always loved Mercedes for: a solid, safe, comfortable, conservative car in which you can invest utter faith.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress — it’s clearly part of the new design generation. The E posts impressive economy and performance numbers thanks to careful weight reduction, low aero drag, and powertrain improvements. It inherits a panoply of fancy driver-assist systems from the S-Class. But overall, the impression is that nothing has been done to upset the solid evolution and granite-like quality.

The design sits somewhere between crisp and boxy, with a bluff front end desperate (almost too desperate) to imply status. The flank design is pleasing, with good sculpture and, in the fairing behind the rear wheelhouse, a sly reference to its ancestor the 1953 “ponton” Mercedes. The look is a bit busy, but there’s lots of surface detail and it’s hardly boring. And the aero performance is superb, with a Cd of just 0.28.

Inside, the instrument binnacle is equally bluff, and the switchgear and surfaces feel like they’re built for the end of time. All models get a high-mounted center ICE/Navigation screen with superb control logic and graphics. The cars we drove featured poly-adjustable

heated and cooled massaging seats, but the normal chairs are also shaped for a perfect long-distance driving position. Rear head-and legroom are carefully planned for this car’s pivotal role in the German taxi trade.

The bodyshell uses high-strength steel to produce better crash results than ever without adding weight. Indeed, the shell is optimized for the V-6 models: The V-8 and AMG editions get reinforcements, so that the base-engine cars aren’t unnecessarily heavy. To protect pedestrians who stray into its path, the rear of the hood pops up on impact to give their heads a cushioned landing.

A switch to a three-link front suspension improves crash performance, though it required a lot of development driving to ensure the dynamics weren’t compromised compared with the more complex previous design. The new suspension also improves component commonality with the C-Class. In fact, Mercedes engineers no longer talk of the C and E being separate platforms.

On the active safety side, a bundled option is radar cruise control with collision mitigation. If the driver neglects to react to a closing gap ahead, it will sound a warning, then tighten the seatbelts, next tap the brakes, and finally, if the driver still remains unresponsive once it deems a crash inevitable, apply the brakes fully. “The electronic crumple zone,” Mercedes calls it. There’s also a night-vision option, lane-change blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, and, as standard, a drowsiness sensor.

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