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Inside-out reveal for new, more up-market E-Class

Mercedes-Benz has revealed the interior of the next-generation E-Class, ahead of a full reveal early in the new year.

The company has followed form by showing the inside of the car first – it did the same with the S-Class and V-Class. And the new E-Class has more than a hint of S-Class about its dash, carrying over the full digital dual panel of the flagship saloon.

This wide high-resolution display comprises two 12.3in screens and a resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels that “float” in the dashboard, with ambient lighting behind, just like on the S-Class.

The driver can customise the display from three different styles: Classic, Sport and Progressive. The twin screens are not fitted to entry-level models, which retain twin analogue dials and a separate sat-nav screen.

And the E-Class is adding new features that will also be added to the upcoming S-Class facelift, including touch-sensitive control buttons on the steering wheel. These allow the driver to control the entire infotainment system using finger swipes without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

Alternatively, the Comand controller familiar to C-Class or V-Class drivers is also fitted to the centre console, and this also includes a touch-sensitive panel on the top, as well as a rotary input wheel and buttons. The touchpad also permits letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in “handwriting”.

Voice control is also included in the system, and there is also the option of using direct buttons, such as for controlling the air-conditioning system or – in another first – for simple activation/deactivation of certain driver assistance systems. The idea is to make the system intuitive, allowing the driver to switch between input methods at will. A new, clearer menu structure also makes functions easier to select.

Depending on the transmission, the new E-Class comes with two different centre consoles. Models with automatic transmission have a straight-through centre console which rises dynamically to the cockpit, and including a control panel in a “black panel” glass look. Models with manual transmission have a centre console with two separate trim parts.

Hartmut Sinkwitz, head of interior design, described the interior as “spacious and intelligent” interior. Some of the materials have been upgraded, including genuine-metal controls. Four circular air vents are used, as in the S-Class, emphasising the luxury interior of the new E-Class.

High-grade materials include open-pore woods, and wood in a “yacht” look. Leather-covered doors are fitted to some trim lines, and new interior colours include various shades of brown, including new combinations such as brown/macchiato and saddle brown/macchiato. This allows a personalised interior design. The seats are new, and different designs for the three trim levels.

European trim levels include Avantgarde, AMG and Exclusive. UK spec usually sees Avantgarde become SE, but AMG has been the top spec line. Chauffeurs would certainly welcome a more luxury-focused top line, and many are still pining for the return of the “gunsight” grille.

New headlamps include an optional multi-beam LED system using 84 individually controlled high-power LEDs in each headlamp. These automatically illuminate the road surface with precision-controlled light distribution, without dazzling other road users.

In a world first, the dynamic cornering light function is implemented purely by electronic means. In addition, a host of new, adaptive light functions are possible that make night driving safer for both the driver and other road users. These include newly developed bad-weather lights, a city light and a navigation-based junction light.

The new E-Class also takes a step closer to autonomous driving with a new Active Lane Change Assist (ALCA) system. This radar- and camera-based assistance system supports the driver in changing lanes, for example when overtaking on multi-lane roads.

According to Mercedes, nearly 15% of all German road accidents are between two vehicles travelling in the same direction, and 20% result from collisions when changing lanes.

The new feature has been developed from the Active Blind Spot Assist (ABSA), launched in 2010. Apart from the visual and additional audible warning when the turn indicator is activated, ABSA intervenes with one-sided brake applications to keep the vehicle in its lane.

ALCA uses the same technology to aid overtaking. When the driver activates the turn indicator for more than two seconds to change lanes, ALCA steers the E-Class into the adjacent lane. A long-range radar system and the stereo camera monitor the area in front of the vehicle, while multi-mode radar sensors permanently check the area to the rear and sides. The vehicle will only change lanes autonomously if the sensors do not detect any vehicles in the relevant safety zone.

ALCA works at speeds between 50mph and 110mph.
The active lane change is aborted by the system when the sensor system detects an obstacle, no longer sees lane markings, the driver countersteers or the system is switched off.

The German Federal Motor Vehicle and Transport Authority has already issued provisional approval for ALCA, and the application procedure for EU-wide approval has been started.

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