German luxury automaker Daimler AG has long had a reputation for offering some of the most technologically advanced vehicles both beneath the hood and behind the wheel. The upcoming 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class unveiled Sunday night in Detroit is the latest expression of this — a car packed with technology that puts it at the cusp of autonomous driving.
Now in its 10th generation, the midsize luxury sedan is an important one for Mercedes, so it’s no surprise that Daimler has made it the flagship of the latest ready-for-prime-time technology.
“As the second-best-selling vehicle in the Mercedes lineup, the E-Class is an important vehicle for one of the premiere luxury marques,” Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an e-mail. “The new E-Class should come chock full of new technology, including autonomous features — something many luxury cars are starting to offer.”
When the E first came out it was one of the first high-volume cars to come with a fuel injection engine. The E is an abbreviation of the German word "einspritzmotor," named after the engineering that made the carburetor obsolete. Now the E could easily stand for “electronic assist.”
The car comes with an optional Driver Assistance Package that will automatically control acceleration, braking and lane changing. The so-called Drive Pilot will follow along with traffic up to 130 miles per hour, while the auto-braking system will autonomously stop the vehicle to avoid collisions. This will be the car Mercedes uses to test fully autonomous driving this year after the company receives a license from the state of Nevada to do so. Like other automakers — as well as Google and possibly Apple — Mercedes-Benz is trying to stay in the game of whatever future is in store for vehicle mobility.
When the new E-Class goes on sale in the U.S. this summer, consumers will see smartphone-style controls on the steering wheel that allow drivers to “swipe” control the infotainment system without reaching for the center-console touch screen. One of the oddest features is in the audio system, which during collisions emits a frequency that causes occupants’ eardrums to tense to avoid ear injuries that can occur from the accidents' sounds.
The U.S. version of the E-Class will come with a turbocharged 2-liter, four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A plug-in hybrid is likely in subsequent model years. The car's price is not yet released, but the current E-Class starts at about $52,000.