One sausage, three lengths. I’ve seen the new E-Class, and while I can’t show you a picture of the car’s exterior, you’ve already seen it anyway if you’ve looked at the C-Class and S-class. Positioned between the two with typically Germanic precision, the E’s a handsome beast, while simultaneously totally unsurprising in silhouette.
However, that’s just the wrapping. Aside from sport-coupes and AMG products, Mercedes are more about interior comforts than exterior shouting. If the exterior is reserved apart from trickle-down S-Class touches like the LED-studded headlights, the new innards of the E-Class mark a definite departure for the M-B mainstay mid-sizer. So let’s take a look.
The main element that immediately grabs your attention is the new high-resolution display replacing both the driver’s instrument panel and central COMAND screen. The C-Class still has that unintegrated central screen, but the E-Class skews higher, basically giving off the feel of a lower-case-s-class. It looks great, bringing the car several leaps forward into the future, and allowing for three-mode configurability and better navigation integration.
The three modes – Sport, Classic, and Progressive – aren’t wildly different in layout, just more a change in looks. Sport, for instance, apes the current AMG GT3 car’s yellow and grey look, while Progressive ditches the tachometer entirely so that you can have fuel economy displays to the left and navigation to the right.
Along with the look of the driver’s instrument panel, there’s also several displays available to replace the right-hand tachometer. For instance, you can now embed a smaller version of the navigation display right in front, handy for urban travel.
While it’s covered by a single piece of glass, the instrument panel and centre screen are actually two separate displays, each 12.3-inches on the diagonal with a resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels. Both are clear and bright, and while effort was made to give the same floating appearance that you see in the S-Class, it’s a much more cohesive look than the C-Class currently offers.
New for Mercedes, and something not yet offered in the S-Class, is the introduction of two small capacitive controls on the spokes of the steering wheel. The leftmost one lets you scroll through instrument panel functions, where the right one is a short cut for the centre display. There’s also the expected and familiar central controller with its touchscreen and dial. Voice command functions are also similar to what you already get throughout the Mercedes range.
The capacitive controls are a very helpful adaptation in making COMAND easier to, uh, command. Just a few minutes of fiddling is required to figure out how best to use them, and they make navigating Mercedes’ wealth of menus and submenus quite easy.
The centre screen contains everything you’d expect to have for infotainment and navigation functions, with the ability to zoom down to 20m resolution for the latter. Mercedes also had an app for the European market that listed fuel prices underneath local gas stations – such a thing would be neat to have in the Canadian market, as an E-Class “knows” whether it’s meant to be filled with gasoline or diesel.