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Mercedes-Benz previews all-new 2017 E-Class

The next E will make its public debut at next year\'s Detroit show.

Mercedes-Benz is in the final stages of developing the all-new 2017 E-Class, and pictures taken in the company's Sindelfingen, Germany, plant give us a decent idea of what to expect from it when it lands.

The Stuttgart-based automaker 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 will again be 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 next E will share its modular MRA architecture with the C-Class. It won't be noticeably bigger than the current model, but it's expected to lose a considerable amount of weight.

Called w213 internally, the next E will usher in Mercedes' self-driving technology, which uses a combination of lasers, cameras and sensors to take control of the car on the highway at speeds of up to approximately 80 mph. Offered as an extra-cost option, the self-driving function is expected to make the E more relaxing to drive on the highway and a lot safer because it will be capable of detecting accidents before they happen.

Another major innovation will be found under the hood, where the next E-Class will be the first Mercedes available with a straight-six engine in nearly 20 years. Details are 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.

The pictures taken on the assembly line also confirm that a plug-in hybrid drivetrain will join the lineup a little 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.

Additional details about the next Mercedes-Benz E-Class will emerge over the next few weeks. The sedan is scheduled to debut next January at the Detroit Motor Show, meaning it will go on sale shortly after as a 2017 model. Coupe, convertible and station wagon body styles will follow shortly after.

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