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New Mercedes-Benz E-class picks up panache and gadgetry galore

Rafay Ansar

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Until now, the only way to experience the kind of technology featured in the Mercedes-Benz S-class was to buy a Mercedes-Benz S-class. Not anymore. Under the distinctive new sheetmetal of the 2010 E-class, Mercedes engineers have loaded nearly all of the technological wizardry found in the top-of-the-line luxury S-class sedan, and then some. With night vision with pedestrian-recognition ability, lane-departure warning, drowsy-driver detection, adaptive cruise control and intelligent lighting, the new E-class harbors a CIA warehouse's worth of special electronics designed to keep the car safe and on the straight and narrow.

"Beauty is nothing without brains," said Thomas Weber, Mercedes-Benz director, extolling the car's high-tech features at its un-veiling at the Geneva motor show in March.

Those "brains" include this standard and optional equipment:

-- Distronic adaptive cruise control teamed with Mercedes' Pre-Safe braking system, with the addition of Attention Assist. The system monitors driver awareness, using steering sensors to determine whether a driver is beginning to doze. If drowsiness is detected, audible and visual warnings alert the driver.

-- The lane-departure-warning system uses cameras to detect lane markings and recognize unintentional drifts, prompting driver correction via a game-controller-like steering-wheel vibration that mimics rumble strips. The system does not activate when the driver uses a turn signal or when lane changes are clear and decisive.

-- Adaptive Highbeam Assist uses the same cameras to adjust the variable high-beam headlights when it detects oncoming vehicles or the taillights of cars ahead.

-- Blind Spot Assist uses radar to detect cars in side blind spots and provides visual and audible cues to the driver when a turn signal is activated and a car is in the blind spot.

-- Night View Assist is carried over from the S-class but adds a pedestrian-detection camera. The night vision is spectacular in its ability to highlight hidden hazards, and pedestrian detection makes it invaluable. The only negative is that the view is displayed on a central stack screen (rather than on the instrument panel as in the S-class), requiring the driver to look away from the road to check the monitor.

New, more efficient gasoline-engine technology offered in European models won't come to the U.S. market, at least in the short term. While European E-classes run all-new V6 and V8 direct-injection gasoline engines, in the States, the E-class will soldier on with the E350 and its 3.5-liter, 268-hp, 258-lb-ft V6 and the E550 packing a 5.5-liter, 382-hp, 391-lb-ft V8. Mercedes says improvements in U.S. fuel quality are needed before the Euro engines can come stateside.

Inside, Mercedes trims the seats in padded piping, but the most noticeable improvement is that the shift lever moves to a column-mounted stalk, freeing up real estate in the center console for the all-new, do-everything Comand-system controller knob.

The 2010 E-class sedan goes on sale in July (rear-drive E350 and E550), following the coupe, which hits the market in June. All-wheel-drive 4Matic models go on sale in September, followed in November by the 2010 E63 AMG. In early 2010, the E350 Bluetec diesel arrives, followed late next year by the E-class wagon, both as 2011 models.



2010 MERCEDES-BENZ E350

ON SALE: July

BASE PRICE: $53,000 (est)

DRIVETRAIN: 3.5-liter, 268-hp, 258-lb-ft V6; RWD, seven-speed automatic

CURB WEIGHT: 3,891 lb (est)

0-60 MPH: 6.5 sec (est)

FUEL ECONOMY (EPA): 20 mpg (est)
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