Recently I visited Mercedes-Benz’s headquarters in Montvale, NJ to see their all-new 2010 E-Class vehicles. You might be thinking we’re pulling an Autoblog, but we’re not. If you knew the amount of technology and engineering in the new E-Class… well, you’re actually about to.
When you begin to look at how much effort, planning, design, testing, and money goes into creating a line of cars, you realize it’s not an easy task. Forget about competition from other manufacturers, just hearing and seeing the process of how it’s done was an incredible experience for me. We’re going to focus on just some of the technological features in the E-Class which is more than we could ever imagine, so once you add that in with every other component in a car, it’s really amazing. I was lucky enough to get a whole sense of how the process works and how it’s executed. I also test drove two 2010 E-Class vehicles, the E550 Coupe and the E63 AMG Sedan. Read on for my experience and an overview of some of the amazing stuff in the E-Class.
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz North America is a past and present advertiser on BGR.
The E-Class has a feature called ATTENTION ASSIST which is amazingly cool and incredibly brilliant. Mercedes told us that people who drive when they are tired and drowsy get into car accidents roughly 100,000 times a year, almost as much as driving while intoxicated. What Attention Assist does is monitor around 70 different parameters to get a baseline of your habits and then compare it in real-time to your current driving habit. So, you turn on your car and go off for a drive on the highway. For the first 20 minutes, the intuitive system automatically is monitoring different things that you do. Stuff like how aggressive you are with the steering wheel, braking patterns, and much more. Once that baseline is measured, the system then can decide if your patterns changed for the worse and it wants to alert you. There’s an audible alert as well as a visual one in the instrument cluster.
Mercedes told us that in testing, Mercedes drivers typically have a heart-rate that’s reduced by 5% compared to other drivers of other brand vehicles. The reason they said is because of how much attention they pay to the cabin and the entire experience of making the driver feel like a driver, and a driver that’s driving comfortably.
Something else intelligent the new E-Class does is called Adaptive High Beam Assist. It uses a camera that sees oncoming headlights and taillights of cars in front of you. It then automatically softens the headlights as cars pass by you to ease the lighting and not blind them. It will even switch between high-beams and low-beams automatically. But the best part is that it’s all automatic and will auto-adjust your headlights to compensate for 1,000ft of road (including vehicles) in front of you.
The E-Class cars we saw were equipped with a bag load of safety features and it’s really great to see these things start to get implemented faster and faster on different cars from all sorts of manufacturers. PRE-SAFE Brake is another one of these technological achievements that you might wonder why it isn’t available until now. It makes use of something called DISTRONIC PLUS feature (basically think of it as adaptive cruise control that uses radar to see if another vehicle in front of you has stopped while you’re cruising at 75MPH), and what it does is actually stop the car for you in emergency conditions. We’re not talking about just slowing it down and slightly breaking, we’re talking 100% braking power. It works by sensing an impending rear collision (you about to hit another car in front of yours) and will sound about three warning tones.
If you’re listening to Bubba Sparxx too loud on your iPod and don’t hear those tones, and you don’t see the visual alerts because you’re emailing BGR a tip (not smart), the car will be able to detect that you’re a moron and apply around 40% partial braking to the car to slow you down 1.6 seconds prior to impact. But if all the aforementioned things fail, besides the fact you probably shouldn’t be operating a moving vehicle, the car will apply 100% full braking power 0.6 seconds before impact which will create an “electronic crumple zone,” dramatically reducing the impact for you. It doesn’t mean you won’t crash, but it’s an amazing safety enhancement that Mercedes is confident will reduce serious accidents on the road.
What about night vision? Well, Mercedes said they’re one of the only manufacturers to use an actual camera for their night vision implementation, and instead of detecting heat, it works as does a regular night vision product; it shoots out IR light and the IR camera captures it. We were told it enables you to see more or less 500ft in front of you which is unbelievable if you think about it. There’s also a person detection feature that will put people in boxes so you can accurately view them.
If you know me personally (funny guy, aren’t I?) or even follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I absolutely love cars. So mix that love of tech, gadgets, mobile devices, and everything else with cars and you can get an idea of why the E-Class is so interesting and incredible to me. It’s the most advanced vehicle I’ve ever driven and one of the most exciting just from the technology aspect itself. But, who are we kidding. The E63 would have had me excited if there was a rotary phone strapped to it. Just look at it.
The car can also pair up to 5 mobile phones via Bluetooth and will give you much-loved signal strength indicator in the COMAND display as well as load in your entire phone address book if you’d please. The navigation system actually shows a lot of POI data as icons now, so you’ll literally see a Sunoco sign if there’s one close to you, or a McDonalds, or what have you. Completely unnecessary yet surprisingly enjoyable. Something else interesting is that DVD-based navigation is no longer necessary in this vehicle as it uses a built in hard drive to store everything. There is also around 4GB of free space for you to copy MP3 files to and play back at your leisure.
Another great feature for us phone freaks is that pretty much all Mercedes have dedicated phone number pads.
What about suspension? Isn’t there some tech in there, too? Definitely. There are two different suspension options on the E-Class. One is a spring-suspension system and the other is AIRMATIC suspension which lets the driver select either comfort or spots mode at the touch of a button to fine turn their driving experience. We would have preferred even more control on the suspension, maybe four modes, like some other cars offer, but oh well.
There’s literally so much technology in this car — obviously why I jumped at the opportunity to do this article — that we could go on and on for a pretty long time. If the car senses an incoming collision the seats will move automatically to a more favorable crash position to try and protect the occupants, if the car is about to roll over, the sunroof and windows close automatically, there are up to 11 airbags in the car (9 standard) and a whole lot more. What’s great about all this technology though, is that it’s configurable. We often asked if you could disable almost every new feature they briefed us on, and the answer was always yes. We’ll be following up with a video post on the E-Class that will give you a more visual look at the car’s styling and design elements as well as a nice walk-through from our friend Bart Herring who is Product Manager for the E-Class series at Mercedes-Benz.