The first Benz hybrid for Australia is being readied in Germany to spearhead a major mid-life overhaul of the mid-sized Mercedes E-Class. The updated E is set for sales from July, with a significant boost to value and technology, although the BlueTec hybrid is likely to be a little later.
It combines diesel and electric power with the promise of a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5 seconds and fuel economy of 4 litres/100km. The hybrid is the headliner but, once again, Benz has gone overboard with an update package that is almost the equivalent of a full model change at other brands.
It also gets an early break on some of the technology that was developed for the upcoming renewal of the S-Class flagship, which will be previewed later next year. There are around 2000 new parts in the 2013 E-Class, a similar approach that was begun with the previous-model E and carried into last year's compact C-Class.
The timing of the updated E, and the depth of the changes, reflects the imminent arrival of an all-new 5-Series from Mercedes-Benz's deadliest rival, BMW. It's clear that Benz wants to get out first with a car that makes it hard for customers to choose a BMW, even after a total overhaul.
"It's still early for pricing and models, but we're working towards a specification that will change the segment as it stands," the spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Australia, Jerry Stamoulis, tells Carsguide. "That means safety equipment and comfort features we might not have seen in the past at the lower end of the E-Class range."
The current lineup starts at $79,900 for the E200, a level that's unlikely to change, running up to the E63 AMG at $240,485. Major changes to the nose and tail announce the arrival of the 2013 E-Class, as well as reflecting the latest design direction for the brand. It's not a radical move and there are no changes to the mid-section, but it is an obvious update.
At the front, the car still has a four-lap look but it's integrated into a pair of headlamps - with the Benz star sitting proud in base models and integrated into the grille on upscale cars. "It's still a classic E-Class shape, although it points to our latest design direction," says Stamoulis.
Inside, the car is freshened with new materials and a different instrument layout. Stamoulis says Mercedes-Benz will be making plenty of noise about the hybrid E, even though there is lots of other technology in the car. "Hybrids haven't been available to us until now, but we had our hands up as soon as we could get it.
It combines a 2.1-litre diesel engine with 500 Newton-metres of torque with another 280 from an electric motor," he says. "It's a diesel 500 newton-metre engine, 2.1 with. 280Nm electric motor. 0-100 in 7.5 and 4 litres/100km. "From a powertrain perspective, this E-Class moves things on again. It's the diesels, the BlueDIRECT petrols and the introduction of the BlueTec hybrid."
Beyond that, Benz's 'intelligent drive' package for the E includes automatic anti-collision systems aimed at vehicles and pedestrians - and rear-end impact - as well as anti-glare continuous high-beam headlamps. The lane keeping assist also picks up an active steering assistance.