From electric mobility to ride-sharing—the automotive industry has had to deal with quite a few of the major disruptions. This is not even accounting for environmental roadblocks like compliance with ever-stricter climate targets, fiercer competition, the digital disruption and a global pandemic.
Meanwhile declining sales figures worldwide are being further exacerbated by the Covid-19 scourge which has caused unprecedented damage to many economies; but lately, Mercedes-Benz has made an unprecedented effort in regaining the hearts and minds of consumers wondering what the “new normal” for the auto sector will look like.
A pioneer of the automobile, the Stuttgart based marque often seeks innovations which provide for pleasant, safe and resource-friendly mobility, and in the E-Class, the Mercedes-Benz heralded a truly exceptional vehicle. Brimming with high-tech features, an exquisite interior, among the smoothest drives ever, the new 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-class epitomises sophistication and uncharacteristic intelligence
“The interface with the driver is not something that we would like to outsource to somebody else.” – Chief Executive Ola Källenius
Beauty, Brains & Brawn: The Mercedes-Benz E-class evokes desire
Having spent years—and billions of dollars— most carmakers including Mercedes-Benz have prepared for a shift in production toward electric vehicles, but the real battle front is coming from what used to be an unrelated sector: information technology – the field which gave us ride-sharing apps. A new breed of digitally “connected” savvy consumers, growing dependent on the new genre of peer-to-peer ride-sharing is proving to be an even greater disruption to the traditional business strengths of car manufacturing.
According to business intelligence consultancy Deloitte, CASE (connectivity, autonomy, shared mobility and electrification) technologies are causing wholesale transformation of the global automotive sector; while no single development will doom the industry, it is the convergence of these technologies and the backdrop of looming macroeconomic headwinds which will shape global car manufacturing over the next decade. In light of this, Mercedes-Benz is just one of two German carmakers working on a proprietary operating system that will run not just Mercedes’s infotainment system but also crucial elements of the driving experience, including self-driving features and battery management. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Ola Källenius said, “The interface with the driver is not something that we would like to outsource to somebody else.”
Indeed, a leading search engine provider is currently trialing their own autonomous smart vehicle (yet another threat), continues to refine a vehicle-centric edition of its popular smartphone software, CEO Källenius is right to not want to cede control of such a crucial element of the driving experience given that just 9 years ago, app companies like Uber wasn’t even on anyone’s radar and today, they’re largely considered one of the biggest disruptors to car ownership.
Beauty: A philosophy of sensual purity
The designers in Stuttgart had conceived of a philosophy of sensual purity, a delicate balance of aggressive masculinity and the sensuousness of well sculpted, seamless elements: Think the physique of bodybuilder meets male gymnast. It’s these unexpected moments where high-quality materials snuggle up to gently curved trim parts, which run like waves from the dashboard to the doors. Or the flex-worthy power domes which capture the power and stance of the E-Class, matching other bold and eye-catching elements in the grille and wheels which truly sets this vehicle apart from anything else on the market.
The stimulating contrast of the new Mercedes Benz E-Class is achieved via creative use of materials, colour, and form in places one might not expect. Inner beauty matches its exquisite exterior as you find yourself in the embrace of inviting leather seats in both the driver and passenger sections. These comfortable environs make ample (and intelligence) use of proportions and design to achieve a sense of energy and harmony which permeates every fibre of the E-Class from frame to wheels.
Arguably, the most enlightened aspect of E-Class aesthetics extends to the nigh miraculous ability of the designers to join two opposing concepts like Freeform & Geometry. Mercedes-Benz accomplishes an aesthetic impossibility simply by applying these philosophies in different areas of the car: The core of the car uses “clear, comprehensible shapes” (geometry) while the styling embraces “sensual, sculpted surfaces” (freeform).
If eyes are the windows to the soul, then the E-Class possess ‘eyes’ (read: headlights) which telegraph a sophisticated automative spirit, creating a visage for the E-Class that is alluring yet powerful with refined, precise and sculpted ‘windows’ which peer deep into the heart of Stuttgart’s latest magnum opus.
It’s hard to deny the natural chemistry and undeniable attraction when feels when you gaze upon the E-Class’s natural perfection; an alchemic composition of haptic materials, colours and moods, combined with surprising muscular forms like a crouched panther is evocative of a rearing its haunches, its power, tamed under your control.
Brains: More Driver-Centric than Ever thanks to MBUX
While the Mercedes-Benz operating system, MB.OS, is not expected to manage Mercedes’s automobiles until 2024, what the new E class demonstrates today is an automotive future not unlike the one presented with the world’s first smartphone – the iPhone: with the E class, screens have become the heart of the driving experience. The Widescreen cockpit which is made up of two 12.3-inch screens (media display touchscreen and instrument cluster) transforms Mercedes-Benz’s latest car into a bonafide smartcar. Instead of the old rotary dial controller, you get touchscreens, and a touchpad on the center console, including a built in a voice assistant, not unlike Siri. But these are just the mere metaphorical ‘dressing’ on the core of the E-class experience: a truly evolved driving experience.
Yes, the E-Class is currently fully mapped for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but it is clear that the marque is pushing for sheer driver satisfaction with their eventual OS.
It used to be that mere weight or pressure on the steering wheel alerted the car to your presence but now, the new E-Class steering wheel features capacitive hands-off detection: a two-zone sensor pad in the steering wheel rim where sensors on the front and reverse sides of the rim register whether the driver’s hands are on the wheel. If the system detects that the driver does not have their hands on the steering wheel for a certain time, a warning cascade is started, which finally activates Emergency Brake Assist if the driver continues to be inactive.
Engineers thought of everything
Gone too are awkward manual controls, Mercedes-Benz embraces the future with capacitive Touch Control buttons integrated into the steering wheel spokes, with thoughtfully arranged jointless control arrays divided into functional groups allowing intuitive operation using swiping gestures and pressing the familiar symbols, much like touch impulses on a literal smartphone. User friendliness and thoughtful intelligent choices permeate every inch of the E-Class right down to its leather fibres (we’ll get back to that in a moment).
With the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems providing cooperative support to drivers, you don’t ‘drive’ the E-Class but rather ‘command’ it: Digital solutions such as the networking of safety and assistance systems ensure that the E-Class is probably the most intelligent saloon in its segment. The new E-Class actively assists the driver when things get critical to prevent unfortunate outcomes.
Alongside an enhanced multi-purpose stereo camera behind the windscreen and new multi-stage radar sensors with adjustable range and opening angle around the vehicle, the numerous networked sensors include ultrasonic sensors and the 360° camera’s lenses provide the on-board systems with a continuous stream of data allowing analysis of complex traffic situations. With Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC turned on, the E-Class is now even able to respond route-based speed adjustment in conjunction with navigation. The raw intelligence of the E-Class provides better detection of potential dangers on the road, and therefore the ability to further enhance the increasing number of functions provided by the safety and assistance systems.
This results in an especially high level of active safety: the vehicle is able to react intelligently and rapidly if the driver fails to respond. Like the fore-mentioned Emergency Brake Assist, Active Brake Assist uses satellite and sensor data on the movement of the traffic ahead which and in many situations, use autonomous braking when necessary to prevent a collision or mitigate its severity. The system is also able to brake for stationary vehicles and crossing pedestrians at typical city speeds and even to prevent collisions, depending on the situation.
While massage functions in the car seat are still rare, they’re a common enough feature in premium offerings for many luxury carmakers but what really takes the cake is something the maker of the new 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class calls “seat kinetics”. The driver’s seat of the E-Class actively conforms to your body and on longer drives, makes a variety of subtle yet crucial shifts to alleviate discomfort arising from being in the same seated position for so long. A touch interface allows you to make ‘shaped’ adjustments by allowing you to ‘draw’ your desired seat posture on the screen allowing for maximum comfort.
Teases at an Extraordinary Future
Based on an intelligent algorithm that approaches some semblance of artificial intelligence, the new E-Class is also able to make driver comfort recommendations according to biofeedback data retrieved from appropriately compatible Garmin wearables; personal values such as stress level or sleep quality optimise the precision of the comfort control programmes’ recommendation. Via the Mercedes me App, the smartwatch sends vital data of the wearer to the vehicle, e.g. pulse rate, stress level and sleep quality, ensuring that the driver feels well and relaxed even during demanding or monotonous journeys.
Depending on driver stress levels, Mercedes-Benz astute “Energizing” programmes are active for ten minutes. They are visualised on the media display with colour graphics, and backed by suitable music and suitable lighting mood provided by the ambience lighting.
With over 14 million Saloon and Estate models delivered since 1946, the E-Class is the best-selling model series in the history of Mercedes-Benz. It is perceived by many as the “heart of the brand”. Contemplative and considerate, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class teases at an extraordinary future beneath its clean yet emotionally appealing design. The wealth of innovations in the area of the driving assistance systems make an incredible counter-argument to one of the company’s harshest critics – Mark Wakefield, an industry analyst commented, “There are a lot of economies of scale in software development. Auto makers who want to get more programmers and do the work themselves are generally underestimating the costs.”
What begins to be clear is that at Mercedes-Benz, there can be no price to sheer driver-centrism and with more than 1.2 million customers around the world have bought a current-generation E-Class Saloon or E-Class Estate, this complete package of emotional appeal and intelligence is undeniably successful.