Since 2009, Mercedes-Benz has seen sales numbers jump every year, and 2015 is shaping up to be no different. With the CLA and GLA, its’s broadened its spectrum to successfully field entry-level cars, and with the new GLS, it’s expanding further into the luxury SUV segment, a move that should keep it growing well into the future. Overall, the brand has a strong, competitive, and good-looking lineup — save for one thing: its infotainment system.
Mercedes’s externally-mounted infotainment screens have been the bane of design nerds for several years now. Inside tastefully leather-clad cabins with a wood-inlaid, aluminum accented dash that recalls the iconic 300SL, Mercedes went and stuck an iPod in the middle of the dash that looks like it’s been mounted with an off-brand Garmin stand (seen below). Compared to Audi’s screen, which gracefully retracts into the dash when it’s not in use, and BMW’s neatly-integrated setup, Mercedes’s infotainment system looks in every way like an afterthought — and a decidedly un-premium one at that.
Well, the era of the afterthought infotainment system is drawing to a close, because Mercedes has an all-new E-Class coming for 2017, and instead of leaking cryptic photos of a grille shrouded in darkness, or a menacing profile, it’s released photos of the car’s interior. Unsurprisingly, it looks like a great place to spend some time in — Mercedes says it’s “a living area in which passengers are able to enjoy contemporary luxury.” But most importantly, that clumsy infotainment system is a thing of the past. The new car takes its inspiration from the flagship S-Class, for a cockpit that’s aggressively high-tech.
The old adage goes that whatever shows up on the S-Class will trickle its way down the Mercedes line within a few years, and since the current flagship was new for 2014, the new E-Class will be the first new design to benefit from its goodies. The car will have a number of new features, including touch control buttons mounted on the steering wheel, updated COMAND infotainment software, and newly-designed seats, but for Mercedes it all comes back to the new instrumentation, saying:
The eye-catcher in the comfort-oriented, luxurious interior of the new E-Class is two displays each with a 31.2 cm (12.3-inch) screen diagonal and a resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels. These merge visually to form a wide-screen cockpit, thus acting as a central element to emphasise the horizontal bias of the interior design of the new E-Class. As the instrument cluster, this wide-screen cockpit contains a large display with virtual instruments in the direct field of vision of the driver as well as a central display above the centre console. A common glass cover results in a modern flat-screen look.
Overall, we think Mercedes has pulled it off. With the pinstriped piano black trim shown above, we could easily mistake it for the cockpit of the S-Class coupe. And with the nice mixture of materials and notable lack of obvious plastic parts, it stands out in stark contrast to rivals like the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6.
We’ll have to wait until the Detroit Auto Show in January to get a better look at the new E-Class, but Car and Driver has already had a ride in a prototype, and said “The Mercedes-Benz E-class is not just a prototypical luxury sedan, it’s the embodiment of the Mercedes-Benz brand.” The new car is slightly sportier than the outgoing model, yet is still likely to stay the most comfortable in its class. Thanks to a 150-pound weight loss and better aerodynamics, the E-Class is expected to be a whopping 20% better on gas than the out going model. And like the Tesla Model S, it will come with Mercedes’s “Drive Pilot” system, which will keep the car in its lane and maintain a safe distance from the cars around it at speeds up to 120 miles per hour. It also has turn signal stalk-activated lane change, just like the Model S.
With the current car starting at around $52,000, expect a slight jump for the new model when it arrives later in 2016. The midsize luxury sedan segment isn’t as high-profile as the lower-level C-Class/3 Series/A4 scrum, but it’s equally prestigious and nearly as profitable for Mercedes. The E-Class has long been a prestige car in the brand’s lineup, and with the all-new 2017 model, it’s shaping up to be the most competitive looking E-Class we’ve seen in years.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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