The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is selling in bigger numbers and the S-Class is earning bigger profits, but no other Mercedes is positioned closer to the core of the brand than the E-Class. An extensive reskin is slated for the 2013 model year and it eliminates most of the overly decorative styling cues while taking on numerous new technologies.
Most noticeable, the quad headlamps will be replaced with new single-piece multi-functional headlamp units. The E-Class will also take on a small army of cameras, lenses, and sensors that feed the more advanced driver assistance systems. These include:
- An improved night vision assistant, which not only draws the attention on cyclists and pedestrians but also warns of crossing animals.
- A dynamic light assistant that no longer uses adaptive bi-xenon technology, but instead relies on fast-moving multi-directional LED pixels that automatically avoid oncoming traffic.
- Intelligent lane assist that monitors both the car's own lane as well as oncoming traffic and can issue an early collision warning.
- A congestion assistant, which will automatically follow the vehicle in front at up to 40 mph, even if the route involves direction and lane changes.
- A revised magnetic ride control system employing a stereo camera that scans the road surface and makes the black box adjust the damper action accordingly.
- An extended head-up display with state-of-the-art graphics and multi-color imaging.
- Car-to-X communication that will recognize emergency vehicles and relay car-to-car messages about things such as black ice or hydroplaning warnings. The system can also permit partially autonomous driving through brief steering, braking, and acceleration inputs.
A Design OverhaulOn the way out are the ponton-style rear side panels, the quad headlamps, and the ritzy daytime running lights. Instead, the revised E-Class features a brand-new front end, restyled rear side panels, and a heavily modified rear view. It's hard to believe, but the only exterior elements that the 2013 model will carry over from the current vintage are the roof, the front doors, and the windows. Everything else is new, fresh, contemporary, less contrived, and more coherent than before.
Although Mercedes won't start its "Real Design Revolution" before 2014 with the next-generation C-Class and all-new S-Class coupe (formerly CL-Class), the facelifted E-Class is notably more elegant than the version it replaces. The sedan goes on sale in Europe in the spring of next year, the wagon is the summer, and the AMG and 4Matic all-wheel drive editions wrap up things in the autumn.
Powertrain RevampMercedes-Benz still has no answer to the high-performance diesels offered by Audi's 313-hp 3.0 TDI V-6 and BMW's 381-hp twin-turbodiesel I-6. Despite having an all-new E-Class due in 2015, an all-new diesel engine that would net the kind of power boost needed to be competitive has yet to be funded.
In Europe, the only V-8 that survives the 2013 facelift is the 537-hp 5.5-liter powerhouse reserved for the E63 AMG. The E500/E550 becomes an export-only model that sheds the ageing 408-hp 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 unit in favor of a turbocharged 4.6-liter motor good for 435 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The down-market E200 will be equipped with a 156-hp 1.6-liter four built by Renault - of course to Mercedes-Benz specifications. That engine will be one of the first fruits of Benz's deal with the French automaker; expect to see the same 1.6-liter unit to proliferate across the Mercedes, Renault, Nissan, and Infiniti lineups, including the upcoming Infiniti compact.
The E350 gains extra grunt with its 3.5-liter V-6 growing from 302 to 333 hp, all the better to compete with the 300-hp BMW 535i and 310-hp Audi A6 3.0T. The only change on the diesel front concerns the demise of the E300 CDI; remaining will still be the E200 CDI, E220 CDI, E250 CDI, and the E350 CDI (known in the U.S. as the E350 BlueTec). In terms of alternative drivetrains, there is a 27-hp electric motor slated for the E300 BlueTec Hybrid and the U.S.-bound E400 Hybrid in the works, which will be followed by a 68-hp plug-in edition in 2014. In 2015, a 109-hp top-of-the-line planet saver will join the E-Class lineup.
One more thing: the 252-hp engine earmarked for the European-market E300 may be switched at the eleventh hour from the familiar 3.0-liter V-6 to a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four. Seems like the new BMW 528i has given the competition some food for thought.