Detroit LIVE: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The next E-Class takes safety and technology to the next level.

Mercedes-Benz has introduced the brand new 2017 E-Class at the Detroit Auto Show.

The Stuttgart-based car maker is playing it safe and giving the next E a look that borrows more than a few styling cues from the smaller C and the S flagship. Buyers are again asked to choose from two front ends, a sporty-looking one with an oversized three-pointed star emblem integrated into the grille, and a more elegant-looking one with a multi-slat grille and a smaller three-pointed star mounted on the hood. The tail lamps can be ordered with an optional sparkling effect that Mercedes calls "stardust."

The next E shares its modular MRA architecture with the aforementioned C-Class. It's about two inches longer than the current model, but it's expected to weigh considerably less thanks to the use of lightweight materials. Full specifications won't be published until closer to the sedan's on-sale date.

Tech-FocusedCalled w213 internally, the next E ushers in Mercedes' self-driving technology. It uses a combination of lasers, cameras, and sensors to accelerate and stop the car on the highway and on back roads at speeds of up to 130 mph. The driver still has to control the steering, but Mercedes' Steering Assist helps by reading the road markings and keeping the car in its lane. For the new E, Mercedes has "taught" Steering Assist how to keep the car in its lane even if the road markings are absent or unclear.

Alternatively, Mercedes has developed an application that allows motorists to drive the E-Class with a smartphone at ultra-low speeds. The app is designed to facilitate the task of parking in a tight spot.

Buyers can replace the base E's analog instrument cluster with a high-resolution screen that can be configured to display a wide variety of information about the car and its surroundings. The center console is dominated by a 12.3-inch screen that runs the sedan's infotainment system. The driver can navigate the system using voice commands, a controller knob on the center console, and a pair of touch-sensitive squares located on the steering wheel.

Mercedes' Pre-Safe Sound technology takes safety to the next level by emitting a short signal through the speakers if it detects that a collision is imminent. The signal protects the occupants' ears by triggering a natural human reflex called the stapedius reflex. Another new feature is Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which moves the front passengers 2.7 inches away from the side of the car if they detect that a lateral collision is unavoidable.

Mechanically SpeakingAt launch, the E will be offered with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to make 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. The four-banger shifts through a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Additional engines will be added to the lineup later in the production run. Notably, the next E-Class will be the first Mercedes available with a straight-six engine in nearly 20 years. Details are still scarce, but both gasoline- and diesel-burning straight-sixes will replace the V6 units that are currently found in the automaker's parts bin. The engines will debut on the E, and they will gradually spread to most members of the Mercedes lineup including the C, the S, the GLE and the SL. Buyers in Europe will also have access to a full lineup of turbodiesel engines, and a plug-in hybrid model will join the lineup later in the production run.

At the top end of the lineup, the M5-punching Mercedes-AMG E63 will get a down-sized, twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine tuned to send over 600 horsepower to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Early estimates peg the E63's 0-60 time at about three and a half seconds. All told, Mercedes-AMG's upcoming super-sedan is shaping up to be considerably more powerful and faster than the BMW M5, its main rival, though the Munich-based car maker could up the ante once again when it fires back with a new M5.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is scheduled to go on sale across the nation this summer. It will be followed by a station wagon, a coupe, and a convertible, though whether the wagon will return to our shores is anyone's guess.

Live images by Brian Williams.

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