THE E-Class has always been an important car for Mercedes-Benz, but to date has perhaps been considered a little more traditional than its rivals from BMW and Audi. However, the forthcoming new E-Class is set to bring this range right up to date, and will introduce new technology to the sector.
Before looking at this new technology however, it is worth considering the car itself. It has been described by some as looking like a larger C-Class or shrunken S-Class, and the styling certainly does follow the current Mercedes-Benz design language for their saloon cars.
It is likely that future new models will be judged as much on their technological advancements as their physical improvements
However the shrunken S Class tag is quite apt – as well as sharing exterior cues with the flagship car, it also offers a similar widescreen glass instrument panel, and there are more similarities under the skin.
The longer wheelbase, nine-speed gearbox, and new four-cylinder diesel engine should all help to create a more refined driving experience, and the addition of Dynamic Select will enable a more agile chassis set up to be selected if desired.
These physical improvements alone should be enough to ensure the new E-Class has a strong RV. But for many the big news is the new technology that is being introduced.
The two 12.3ins wide glass screens are one of the more obvious additions. Whilst they may look similar to those in the S-Class, they are better integrated and offer a near seamless panoramic display.
Their content can be configured as desired, and they can be controlled from touch buttons on the steering wheel spokes, or from the central control wheel and touch pad that are familiar from the C-Class.
Supporting these screens is a new level of connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both supported, whilst the optional wireless charging pad will ensure your smartphone remains charged.
Additionally, as well as feeding the demands of the infotainment system, Near Field Communication means your phone can also be used to unlock the car and via the Remote Parking Pilot, it can even be used to move it into and out of parking spaces.
With connectivity being the key requirement of today’s drivers, this technology clearly brings the new E-Class right up to date, introduces new functionality into the sector, and sets a new benchmark.
For a while, it will be the most connected and technologically advanced car in its sector and this will undoubtedly be reflected in its RVs, but it is unlikely that its key competitors – Audi, BMW, and Jaguar – will take long to respond.
In terms of model development, adding and upgrading the electronic side can be relatively straightforward, but the physical elements may take longer to develop – Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is already available and offers similar flexibility, but is only half the size of the E-Class’s twin screen option.
With such an emphasis being placed on connectivity and technology, it is likely that future new models will be judged as much on their technological advancements as their physical improvements, and RVs will reflect this.
One other manufacturer worth considering is Tesla. Their Model S sits, in price terms at least, above this sector, but while the new E-Class has similar levels of connectivity and technology, it lacks the Tesla’s ability to receive software upgrades throughout its life.
Since 2014 all Model S have been built with all the necessary cameras and sensors to enable such things as lane and traffic identification and automatic parking.
As the software has been developed and enhanced, these upgrades have been available to download to all vehicles, in much the same way as a smartphone or PC would be upgraded. Thus virtually all Model S on the road today have the same functionality as a car fresh from the showroom.
With the increasing requirement for such technology in cars today, this type of remote upgrade would appear to be vital to ensure future models keep up with the much more rapid developments in technology – it would also enhance the used values of vehicles that have that functionality.
Whilst the Model S may still be rather rarefied, Tesla’s next models – the 3 and the X – will be much more mainstream in terms of pricing, and will be likely to apply pressure to the values of the more established models.