Celebrating its world premiere at the New York International Automobile Show yesterday (Wednesday), the new E-Class features innovations Mercedes says are without comparison in its segment world wide.
When the new-generation E-Class hits showrooms in Europe in early June and in the US a few weeks later, customers will be able to choose from 29 model variants - 16 sedans and 13 station wagons.
The range is however not expected to be quite so diverse when the new cars hit South Africa in July.
On the outside changes to the new cars are few, but significant.
The revamped front-end design sees the bumper and radiator grille in a pronounced V-shape, and Mercedes-Benz has enhanced the twin-headlamp face of the E-Class by adding transparent louvres to the top sections, producing a striking light effect when switched on.
LED park lights
And for the first time white LEDs have been used as parking lights.
A more modern look is gained on all model variants by the inclusion of side skirts and rear bumper in the AVANTGARDE design
New features for the vehicle interior include attractive new colour combinations, a new four-spoke steering wheel and a new control unit for the automatic climate control system, which is standard equipment.
"One of the key features of the new-generation E-Class is its outstanding safety level," says Maier.
Standard equipment in the sedan and the station wagon models will now include the anticipatory PRE-SAFE® system, which automatically activates safety measures for the driver and front passenger if an accident becomes imminent.
The award-winning system makes the most effective use of the seatbelt and airbag in the event of a collision.
No other upper-range car in the world offers a comparable safety system.
Also unique are the standard NECK-PRO headrests, which provide sensor-controlled head support for the driver and front passenger during rear-end collisions.
Mercedes-Benz has also enhanced occupant safety by equipping the new-generation E-Class with blinking brake lights that activate to prevent rear-end collisions during emergency braking manoeuvres.
The new E-Class is the world's first car to be equipped with adaptive headlights that optimally adjust to driving and weather conditions.
The new headlight technology - known as the Intelligent Light System - is available as an option for the sedan and station wagon and features five different light functions.
The new country mode extends the motorist?s field of vision, ensuring faster recognition of obstacles or other road users.
The system?s highway mode creates a uniform cone of light that automatically illuminates the width of the entire road at speeds of 90 km/h and higher.
Compared to the previous version, the new system extends the driver?s field of vision by about 50 meters in the centre of the cone.
An improved fog light system also makes it easer to drive in fog, and the active cornering light function has been enhanced as well.
The Intelligent Light System also features a cornering light that improves safety at intersections and when taking curves at low speeds.
Six of the 10 engines available for the new-generation E-Class are either new or have been enhanced.
The four-cylinder-diesel engines for the E 200 CDI and E 220 CDI in particular have been optimised down to the last detail in order to further improve output, torque and smooth running characteristics.
The petrol engines for the E-Class have also been enhanced, and the engineers at Mercedes focused particularly on the four- and eight-cylinder drive systems.
The four-cylinder engine in the E 200 KOMPRESSOR delivers 135 kW, or 12.5 % more output than before, while maximum torque has been increased to 250 Nm.
From mid-2006 the E-Class engine range will be headed by the newly developed 5.5 litre V8 engine from the S-Class with an output of 285 kW.
Compared with the previous V8 the new engine delivers 26% more power, while torque of 530 Nm also comfortably exceeds that of the preceding engine by around 15%.
The new E 500 delivers the performance profile of a sports car, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than the previous model.
The six cylinder engine of the E 320 CDI remains unchanged with an output of 165 kW and torque of 510 Nm.
But the most powerful E-Class to date, the new E 63 AMG, is fitted with a naturally aspirated V8 engine delivering 378 kW and maximum torque of 630 Nm.
Agility and driving pleasure is greatly enhanced not only by the new and improved engines, but also by the DIRECT CONTROL package with more responsive steering and a retuned chassis.
The 60-year success story of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class: 10 million E-Class vehicles delivered to customers world wide
And the seventh generation of this successful model, the current E Class, has also been a great success: One million sedans and station wagons have been sold worldwide since this model was launched on the market in 2002.
As a result, more E-Class vehicles were sold during this time period than any other competing premium-class car.
In 2005, the E-Class defended its leading market position in both its home market of Germany and in the rest of Western Europe, despite having to contend with substantially younger competitors in the premium segment.