For decades, the E-Class has been the vehicle that defines Mercedes-Benz - stylish, safe, solid and comfortable, not to mention packed with useful industry-leading technology. In recent generations, the 1996 E-Class set a new design theme for the entire auto industry with its distinctive elliptical headlights, and the 2003 E-Class eclipsed its predecessor with bolder, sleeker lines.
For more than a half-century, the E-Class has set new standards in vehicle safety, comfort and driving dynamics. With each new-generation vehicle, Mercedes-Benz engineers increased its chassis rigidity while reducing weight through extensive use of high-strength steel, lightweight materials and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Historically, the E-Class established many "firsts" in its segment. For example, the previous E-Class boasted PRE-SAFEÂ®, a revolutionary system that represents the next big step in automotive safety technology. Mercedes-Benz safety engineers felt that cars could be equipped to take preventive action in the valuable seconds before the actual impact when sensing an imminent crash. As a result, they designed the innovative PRE-SAFE system to first tension the seatbelts if the car senses an impending collision. Further, if the front passenger seat is overly reclined or forward, and if the seat cushion angle is too shallow, PRE-SAFE moves it to a more favorable crash position. Finally, if the vehicle skids (sometimes a precursor to rollover), the system automatically closes the sunroof.
Beginning with the industry's first crumple-zone body in the 1950s, E-Class cars have always featured a full array of Mercedes-Benz safety technology, and in recent times, this has included ABS anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, the ESC Electronic Stability Control and traction control as well as an adaptive restraint system using state-of-the-art air bags.
The new 2010 E-Class represents the ninth generation of the highly successful model line, with a total of more than 10 million E-Class sedans produced over the past 70-plus years. Packed with useful new safety technology, the new E-Class is likely to become another industry trend-setter, and with a full compliment of sedan and coupe models, the lineup should appeal to more consumers than ever.
With an impressive aerodynamic drag coefficient of only 0.25, the base European model of the new E-Class is literally the slickest luxury sedan on the planet. While the wider tires of the U.S. model give it a Cd of 0.27, the car's still slippery profile means even better fuel economy and less wind noise on the highway. The new E-Class body is also 30 percent stronger, thanks to intelligent body construction, which includes more lightweight, high-tensile-strength steel.
Standard ATTENTION ASSIST
Among its many standard safety features is an innovative "ATTENTION ASSIST" system which couples a steering sensor with intelligent software that can identify the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy. Elegant in its simplicity, the system senses drowsiness and alerts the driver.
Other examples of trailblazing innovations include optional automatic emergency braking, which can now be activated 0.6 seconds before an imminent collision, and adaptive high beams that use a small windshield-mounted camera to control high-low beam operation automatically. This system also provides a soft transition from low to high beam. An optional Driver Assistance package includes Blind Spot Monitor and a new Lane Keeping Assist feature, which alerts the driver if the car drifts from its lane without the turn signals on.
The design of the new-generation E-Class begins with a "cubist" treatment of its trademark twin-headlight face. Two parallelogram lights are recessed into each front fender, bracketing the three-dimensional chrome frame of the front grille.
Both models have grown slightly as compared to their predecessors. The sedan grows wider by 1Â¼ inches and longer by 5/8-inch while the coupe is 1.8-inches wider and 1.9-inches longer. The overall E-Class body shape features large concave and convex surfaces defined by taut, clearly defined lines. In particular, a graceful line follows each rear wheel well and shapes the muscular contours of the rear fenders. While the car looks futuristic, aficionados might recognize styling cues reminiscent of the famous "Ponton Mercedes" of the 1950s.
Mercedes-Benz designers paid careful attention to the interior, to ensure that every surface is appealing in both functional and emotional terms with its form, color and material. The sedan cockpit features five analog gauges, including two outer pairs that overlap each other. Standard equipment includes a four-spoke, premium leather-covered steering wheel with integrated multi-function switches and a Direct Select electronic shift lever mounted on the steering column. Coupes feature a 3-spoke steering wheel and console-mounted shift lever with TouchShift.
Also standard is a new COMAND system featuring a seven-inch color display screen with a standard in-dash, six-disc CD / DVD changer. Using a console-mounted controller, the central display in the dash can be operated by either the driver or front passenger. The COMAND system can be equipped with optional GPS navigation, an iPod/MP3 interface, satellite radio and a number of other useful features.
Sport and Luxury Models
The New E-Class sedan is available in Sport and Luxury trim that is designed to appeal to a wide range of customer tastes. All Luxury models come with a comfort suspension, while Sport models are fitted with a sport suspension that has stiffer shocks and springs as well as slightly lower ride height.
The Appearance package for the E-Class coupe includes a number of features for the sport-minded driver - perforated brake discs with painted calipers, 18-inch AMG alloy wheels, aluminum pedals with rubber studs and black gearshift paddles. Multicontour seats are also available.
Carrying the Sport concept yet a step further, all Mercedes-Benz E550 coupes come with shift paddles mounted to the three-spoke sport steering wheel and sport body styling that includes a deeper front air dam, side skirts and rear apron. The Mercedes-Benz E550 also has standard perforated brake discs and painted calipers.
Three Versatile Engines For The E-Class
The 2010 E-Class line is being launched in the U.S. market with three distinct models. The Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan and coupe use the latest four-valve-per-cylinder V6 engine that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, while the Mercedes-Benz E550 models are powered by a 32-valve 5.5-liter V8 delivering 382 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque. The high-performance E63 AMG sedan is fitted with the first engine developed entirely by AMG - a 6.3-liter V8 that makes 518 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque.
One of the most powerful naturally aspirated production V8s ever, the engine boasts a wealth of features derived from AMG's successful racing efforts. Built almost completely from a high-strength silicon-aluminum alloy, the 6.3-liter features four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, "bucket" followers (rather than rocker arms) and a variable intake manifold.
The trademark twin-headlight face of the E-Class has been reinterpreted in the new-generation car with a more rectangular design reminiscent of the geometric shapes in cubist art. Two parallelogram lights are recessed into each front fender, bracketing the three-dimensional chrome frame of the front grille. On each side, the look resembles a long rectangular lens with an angled stripe of body color separating the lens into two sections.
Below the headlights, optional LED daytime driving lights make a dramatic visual accent. Recessed in the front apron, the LED lights form an inverted "L" on each side.
The overall body shape of the new E-Class features taut lines that define large concave and convex surfaces. In particular, a graceful line follows each rear wheel well and shapes the muscular contours of the rear fenders. While the car looks futuristic, aficionados might recognize styling cues reminiscent of the famous "Ponton Mercedes" of the 1950s.
Sedan Versus Coupe
While there's an unmistakable family resemblance between the new E-Class sedan and coupe, the sedan wears a three-pointed star on the front hood above its familiar louvered front grille, and the coupe version has an entirely different look to its face, thanks to a large star emblem in the center of a sporty two-lamella grille.
In general, the two-door E-Class coupe boasts a more muscular shape that gives it an athletic, more dynamic presence. With "frameless" doors and no B-pillar, the coupe features an airy, uninterrupted expanse that extends from the front windshield to the rear window whenever the front and rear side windows are fully lowered.
At the rear, the E-Class coupe sports longer, more sharply angled LED taillights, as well as a center brake light integrated in the trunk lid. The sedan has a more traditional look, with a third brake light in the rear window.
The larger "eye" holds a halogen low beam, with a turn signal at the outer edge, and the high beam is located in the smaller lens. Supplemental LED turn signals are integrated in the outside mirror housing.
Standard fog light/daytime running light pair is flush-mounted in the front apron below the bumper, and optional LED daytime running lights form a distinctive signature. The eye-catching daytime running lights are more noticeable than conventional low beams and are designed to last the life of the car.
Bi-Xenon Lights See Around Corners
Optional bi-xenon high-intensity gas-discharge headlights are self-leveling, so they're always aimed properly, regardless of vehicle loading, even under the pitching of braking or acceleration. Coupled with the new Adaptive Highbeam Assist, the bi-xenon lights can provide the maximum possible illumination for a given situation.
The bi-xenon package includes a high-pressure jet wash system with two telescoping nozzles on each side that clean the lenses whenever the windshield washer is operated.
The bi-xenon lights also feature active-curve illuminating technology, in which the headlights actually turn slightly (up to 15 degrees) with the steering wheel to light up each approaching curve. In a long curve, the driver can see about 30 yards farther with active-curve illuminating lights.
A cornering light is also integrated into each headlight (no longer in the fog light). At low speeds whenever the steering wheel is turned or the turn signal switched, the cornering light helps to light up the road.
The interior of the new E-Class is appealing in terms of both style and function. Mercedes-Benz designers strived to ensure that form, color and material all work together, while ergonomics engineers developed a layout that is intuitive and logical. Although there are more features than ever, controls seem simpler and even easier to use, in part because many functions can be operated in multiple ways, i.e. - via a central controller, the multi-function steering wheel or console-mounted buttons.
The sedan's cockpit features five analog gauges, including two outer pairs that overlap each other. Standard equipment includes a premium leather-covered steering wheel with integrated multi-function switches and a Direct Select electronic shift lever mounted on the steering column.
A sweeping console groups many of the car's controls for easy reach, including audio system and climate control, remote lowering rear headrests, optional heated seats, power rear sun shade and PARKTRONIC parking assist.
A new standard COMAND system features a seven-inch color display screen with a standard in-dash six-disc CD / DVD changer. Using a console-mounted controller, the central display can be operated by either the driver or front passenger. A Bluetooth interface (standard on sedan models and optional on the coupe) allows a phone still in a pocket or purse to be operated through the car's audio system.
The COMAND system can be equipped with optional GPS navigation, an iPod/MP3 interface, Sirius satellite radio, HD radio, real-time traffic information, Zagat restaurant ratings and an advanced voice control system for the audio, navigation and phone systems. Found in the optional "Premium I" package those features are paired with a 610-watt harmon/kardon audio system (450 watts on the E-Class coupe), a six-gigabyte hard drive with Music Register for music files and access to the Gracenote database.
The power-adjustable multifunction steering wheel provides the driver with large, illuminated rocker buttons that are a convenient way to control many of the car's systems. Linked to a multifunction display in the center of the speedometer, two clusters of six buttons can access anything from vehicle settings and navigation instructions to a selected radio station or personal phone book.
The multi-function switches can adjust many different functions such as the trip odometers and trip computer that includes fuel tank range; audio system (station seek, CD track, disc skip, seek, volume); interior / exterior light dimming; and Easy Entry function.
Within each of the basic menus displayed in the instrument cluster, the driver can scroll up or down between additional menus using the scroll buttons on the left side. These buttons also provide choices for various functions within each system.
An optional voice control system operates major navigation, telephone and audio functions. All it takes is a couple of words from the driver to enter a destination, dial the phone automatically, or have the car radio search for another station or skip to a new CD track.
Newly designed 14-way adjustable power front seats feature divided stylish seat cushions that cover steel seat frames with integrated suspension. Traditional Mercedes-Benz pictogram seat controls are conveniently located on the door panels. Seat positions for up to three people can be stored in memory (along with steering wheel and exterior mirror placement), and these positions are retrieved simply by pushing numbered buttons beside the pictogram controls.
An optional multicontour driver's seat (as well as passenger seat on the coupe) offers impressively variable seat adjustments through mechanical bolsters and a series of air bladders that are integrated into the bottom cushion and seat back. Additional controls for the multicontour seats are tucked between the seat cushion and center console.
Heated and Ventilated Seats, Too
In addition to multicontour and heated seats, E-Class coupes and the E550 and E63 AMG sedans offer Active Ventilated Seats, an option first introduced in the S-Class. Small electric fans inside each of the front seats draw up cool air from the footwell. The air passes through special plastic ducting and permeable fabric to flow evenly from the perforated leather seat upholstery. Seats that have been warmed up by direct sunlight cool down quickly.
Two-Zone Climate Control
The new E-Class sedans and coupes come standard with dual-zone automatic climate control that allows front seat occupants to set their own preferred air temperature. A multifunction sensor monitors humidity and pollutant levels in the ambient air, so if nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide levels in the air get too high, the climate control system automatically switches over to air recirculation mode.
Two Ways To Let The Sun Shine In
A tilt-slide power glass sunroof is standard on E-Class sedan models, while all coupes come with the Panorama sunroof (an option for sedans) that features twice the glass surface area. With glass from the windshield to the rear window, the Panorama sunroof essentially provides the car with a glass roof.
At the push of a button, the front section of the roof glides backwards, and a mesh screen pops up to act as a wind deflector. Designed to slide along the top of the body, the Panorama sunroof does not restrict occupant headroom. As with the tilting/sliding sunroof, the moving section of the roof can also be tilted upward. The SmartKey remote control will operate either roof. The Panorama roof also features power-operated roller shades to block the sun's rays.
Surround Sound On Wheels
An eight-speaker premium audio system is standard in the new E-Class. The optional harman/kardon Logic 7 digital surround sound system on sedans plays through 14 high-end speakers with a total output of 610 watts while the coupe features 12 speakers with 450 watts. All systems compensate for ambient driving noise. The harman/kardon system uses a digital signal processor to convert every conventional stereo signal from the car radio or CD player into surround sound with seven output channels.
Power Trunk Closer
An electronic trunk closer is optionally available for E-Class sedan models. Pressing a button on the inside of the trunk lid (or on the driver's door) pulls the lid downward, and a servo locking mechanism then locks the lid completely. As a safety precaution, applying just light force on the lid will stop it from closing.
Go with KEYLESS-GO
With the optional KEYLESS-GO system, simply touching one of the door handles or the trunk lid handle unlocks the car, as long as the driver has the key in a pocket or bag. After depressing the brake pedal, the driver starts the car by touching a button on the dash. Antennas located in several locations in the car pick up a signal transmitted from inside the SmartKey.
Easy Parking with PARKTRONIC with Parking Guidance
The optional PARKTRONIC uses sensors in the front and rear bumpers to detect obstacles in front, behind and to the left and right of the car's corners. To alert the driver about the proximity of obstacles, the system uses audible warnings and bar graph displays - one on the dash for the front and another for the rear, which is visible in the rear-view mirror. PARKTRONIC includes Parking Guidance, a system that can identify right-size parking spaces and provide helpful steering guidance in the instrument cluster.
The 2010 E-Class features a lighter, stronger steel body structure with, in the case of the sedan, use of 72 percent high-strength steel - up from 47 percent for the previous model. In addition, newly developed grades of super high-strength steel are also being used. Several under-floor panels as well as the reinforcements used around the bumpers and springs are made from super high-strength steel with a special dual-phase microstructure that helps it withstand extremely high loads. As a result, the new E-Class sedan provides 31 percent more chassis rigidity as well as crumple zones that offer more collision protection.
The E-Class is one of the few large-scale production vehicles making extensive use of aluminum. Following the principle of "the right material in the right place," Mercedes engineers use aluminum in areas where it holds the greatest benefits compared to steel, and these components include:
Many body panels are assembled using the "low-stress joining" principle to ensure precision fitting. The flanges around the borders of the steel parts are shaped so that any tolerances are balanced out as soon as the panels are placed together, allowing the bodywork parts to be welded to one another under low-stress conditions. The rear side members, the firewall cross member, the rear wall of the passenger cell and the parcel shelf all employ this sophisticated manufacturing process.
Zinc-Galvanized for Corrosion Protection
The entire steel body shell is zinc-galvanized for good long-term corrosion protection. Precise fit of body parts, low-stress joining technology and state-of-the-art spot and laser welding methods used for assembly of the body shell all combine to further enhance corrosion prevention. These assembly techniques totally eliminate the need for MAG (metal active gas) welding seams at panel joints, which used to be particularly susceptible to rusting. Additional cavity preservation and seam sealing are used, and the entire body is immersed in an electrophoric primer bath.
By lining the entire underbody of the vehicle with Pentalaminat plastic panels - which also enhance aerodynamic performance - Mercedes engineers were able to omit the conventional PVC underbody protection in the new E-Class without compromising long-term corrosion prevention. These panels cover the engine compartment, wheel arches, outer floor panels and rear axle links, effectively protecting the body from stone chippings that could lead to rust. To improve anti-corrosion and reduce weight, the spare tire well is formed from glass-mat reinforced thermoplastic.
Front Safety Structure
The E-Class has a front safety structure with a full-width cross member that connects the two firewalls, a design that distributes the force of an offset frontal impact over a broad area to help protect the passenger cell. Some of the crash forces are even directed into the transmission tunnel and the side members.
The entire nose of the vehicle is now connected to the passenger cell by four steel panels (previously three) at the firewall. A vertical reinforcement further increases the strength of the firewall and restricts movement of the pedal unit toward the passenger compartment in a severe frontal collision. Steel reinforcements around the wheel wells help prevent wheel intrusion into the passenger cell and minimize crash deformation.
The sidewalls of the E-Class are made up of a number of panels that are laser-welded together and then pressed into the desired shape. Steel tube reinforcements in each roof pillar also help to protect the passenger cell in the event of a rollover. High-strength steel blanks are used for the door shells, and each door incorporates two diagonal side-impact beams. High-strength door hinge mounting plates are welded to the inner door shells. The result is a rigid integrated side structure that provides effective protection in the event of a side impact.
Manufacturing Processes Ensure High Strength
Mercedes employs several different manufacturing processes to add strength to the body structure without adding excess weight. The main floor assembly consists of three different tailored blanks, which are laser-welded together and then precision fitted. The middle of the three blanks is a sturdy panel forming the transmission tunnel, the strong backbone of the passenger cell.
A "flexible rolling" technique is used for making the two connecting members - which extend the front side members back into the structure of the floor assembly - to give them the required material thickness and strength. The current E-Class represented the first time the flexible rolling technique has been used in large-scale series production.
In the flexible rolling process, high-strength steel can be machined at the rolling plant in such a way that a single component can contain varying panel thickness. As an example, the front of the connecting members, where the loads exerted in a collision are greatest, is made thicker (1.15 millimeters) than the rear section (0.88 millimeters), which is not subject to such high loads. Impact energy flows more smoothly through a component made with this process compared to using a number of different, pre-fabricated panel blanks joined together.
In addition to the two flexibly rolled connecting members, the body structure features a solid cross member running under the front seats, a load-bearing section between the B-pillars and reinforcement paneling in the foot wells. The rear side members use a continuous closed-box section with carefully graduated material thickness, which enables them to absorb high impact forces in a rear-end collision.
Impact Energy Absorption
The E-Class body absorbs impacts in three phases. In impacts up to 2.5 mph, the flexible bumper covers deform, but then return to their original shape. An aluminum cross member behind the bumper redirects the forces to the side, also absorbing impact energy.
Special "crash boxes," replaceable modules (aluminum in the front and steel in the rear of the car), absorb crash energy at impact speeds of up to 9.3 mph (15 km/h), ensuring that the supporting structures behind remain undamaged. Bolt-on connections make the front and rear crash boxes easier to replace after a low-speed impact, eliminating the need for straightening, welding and repainting. Even the individual components contained within the modules are bolted together.
At higher impact speeds, reinforced rear side members of the body shell use a continuous closed box section with carefully graduated material thickness to absorb high forces. A plastic fuel tank is located under the back seat where it is protected from any impacts.
Several innovative safety technologies make their debut in the next-generation E-Class. These new systems form yet another layer in the thick fabric of potentially life-saving Mercedes-Benz safety features. The company that pioneered the SRS concept, the crumple zone, ABS anti-lock brakes, traction control, ESP stability control and PRE-SAFE continues to lead the auto industry in the research and development of new approaches to vehicle safety.
Making its industry debut in the new E-Class, an innovative "ATTENTION ASSIST" system couples a steering movement sensor with intelligent software that can identify the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy. When the standard-equipment system senses drowsiness, a warning message appears in the instrument cluster, and the driver is also alerted by a display that says, "Time for a rest?"
The software receives signals from the steering sensor and monitors 70 different parameters that help calculate a driver's level of fatigue and drowsiness. Several years of research and testing have shown that drowsy drivers begin to make minor steering errors that are corrected in identifiable ways. Sophisticated enough to disregard sporty driving involving high cornering speeds and lane changes, the system works between 50 and 100 mph. Elegant in its simplicity, ATTENTION ASSIST essentially adds intelligent computer software to existing sensors.
Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist
Optional on the sedan, a Driver Assistance package includes Lane Keeping Assist which alerts the driver by simulating rumble strip vibration in the steering wheel if the car drifts from its lane unintentionally. Images from a small camera are analyzed by a computer that identifies and monitors traffic lanes.
The Driver Assistance package also includes Blind Spot Assist, which uses two radar sensors in the sides of the rear bumper to monitor the blind spot area. When a vehicle enters the blind spot, a red triangle appears in the respective outside mirror. If the driver actuates the turn signal with a vehicle in the blind spot, a warning tone also sounds.
Adaptive Highbeam Assist
An optional adaptive high beam system uses a small windshield-mounted camera to control high-low beam operation automatically. The camera senses headlights from oncoming vehicles as well as the taillights of those ahead. Whenever it senses traffic, the system lowers the headlights, providing a soft transition from high to low beam and, when the way is clear, back to high beam.
Night View Assist PLUS
Night View Assist debuted on the S-Class and is an available option on the 2010 E-Class sedan. An active night-vision system, Night View Assist can extend the driver's ability to see ahead to nearly 500 feet without potentially distracting high beams. In contrast to competitors' passive systems that rely on thermal imaging, this innovative active system bathes the road ahead with infra-red light - invisible to the human eye - from two infra-red projector beams mounted in the headlight assemblies.
An infra-red camera discreetly mounted in the windshield receives the reflected images and displays them on the high-resolution display in the COMAND screen, which appears similar to a highly detailed black-and-white video image.
Night View Assist has been improved to create Night View Assist PLUS, which is now available as an option in the new E-Class Sedan. This new system features a special pedestrian detection function - as soon as Night View Assist PLUS detects pedestrians ahead of the car, they are highlighted in the onboard display, thus significantly improving the warning effect.
PRE-SAFEÂ® - Now with Automatic Emergency Braking
Standard equipment for the new E-Class includes PRE-SAFEÂ®, a revolutionary system that made its industry debut in 2002 on the S-Class. When it's networked with the optional DISTRONIC PLUS system, PRE-SAFE now also comes with the ability to initiate partial braking automatically in certain situations as well as full-power emergency braking.
Mercedes-Benz safety engineers felt that cars could be equipped to take preventive action in the valuable seconds before the actual impact when sensing an imminent crash. As a result, they designed the innovative PRE-SAFE system to tension the seatbelts if the car senses an impending collision (through the sensors for ESC stability control that are networked with PRE-SAFE). In addition, if the front passenger seat is overly reclined or forward, and if the seat cushion angle is too shallow, PRE-SAFE moves it to a more favorable crash position. Finally, if the vehicle skids (sometimes a precursor to rollover), the system automatically closes the sunroof. Side windows also close to provide better support for the window curtain air bags and to prevent occupants' heads or arms from swinging outside the vehicle.
The system uses electric tensioners in addition to the existing pyrotechnic belt tensioners that deploy in some crashes. If a crash is averted, the electric belt tensioners unwind and are ready.
Double-Link Strut Suspension in Front
The new-generation E-Class sedan and coupe make use of a strut-type front suspension that combines two lower links with a coil spring strut, along with twin-tube gas shocks and a stabilizer bar. Rather than a single "A" arm like conventional struts, two separate lower links help provide better impact absorption in the case of a frontal impact. Their low mass also contributes to more precisely tuned wheel control and damping. In addition, sensitivity to wheel imbalance or brake fluctuations is minimized. While the forward links are forged aluminum, the links behind them are made of forged steel.
The top of the struts are connected to the body by triple-path head bearings, in which spring forces are transmitted directly to the body, but damping forces (via the shock absorber piston rod) go through a rubber bushing that turns with the bearing during steering. The third path involves forces exceeding suspension travel, which are directed through a buffer stop directly to the body.
The front suspension links are mounted to a sub-frame of high-strength steel that also carries the engine and transmission as well as the aluminum rack-and-pinion steering unit, which is mounted in front of the wheel center.
Multi-Link Rear Suspension
The proven, Mercedes-patented five-link rear suspension design has been refined for its application in the new E-Class. Built up from variable-thickness sheet steel, a lightweight subframe carries the suspension links and the rear final drive gears. The links, wheel carriers and struts have all been revised. While four of the rear suspension links are steel, one link that's not subjected to bending (only stretching and compression) is made of forged aluminum.
Standard on Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan and coupe models, AGILITY CONTROL provides the best of both worlds for a conventional coil-spring suspension. A small piston is connected to a bypass port in the hydraulic flow of each shock absorber. Its design provides a softer, quieter ride on normal roads but retains full shock damping over dips and twisty roads when it's really needed.
The suspension on the Mercedes-Benz E350 coupe can be upgraded to the AGILITY CONTROL Sport Suspension with stiffer damping. The Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe is equipped with the Dynamic Handling suspension which includes electronically-adjustable shock absorbers as well as modified throttle response.
AIRMATIC: Computer-Controlled Air Suspension (V8 sedans only)
Standard on the Mercedes-Benz E550 sedan and E63 AMG sedan, AIRMATIC air suspension uses compressed air in special rubber bellows instead of conventional coil springs to provide simultaneous computer-controlled springing and damping. When the vehicle is in motion, an electrically powered compressor charges the struts with compressed air via fast-acting solenoid valves. The solenoid valves regulate air volume and hence air pressure and the springing rate. A charge valve combines a central pressure sensor and the connectors for the pneumatic lines, which are made from polyamide plastic. At low speed or at a standstill, the system draws on pressure from the accumulator (central reservoir) with a charging pressure of 227 psi (16 bar) to ensure rapid and noise-free ride height control.
Comfort and Sport Suspension In One
The AIRMATIC system offers a sports suspension and comfort suspension in one. The system's adaptability solves the usual suspension tuning conflict between comfort and high dynamic handling by adjusting the springing and damping rates in response to driving input and road conditions. Under normal driving conditions, the entire air volume remains active to provide optimal comfort - as with soft-rate conventional springs. When cornering at speed, however, AIRMATIC briefly releases a portion of the air volume, resulting in a "harder" spring rate to reduce pitch and roll. The air reservoirs are integrated into the spring struts in front and remotely mounted on the subframe in the rear.
The suspension computer considers input from two body level sensors on the front suspension and a third on the rear suspension. In addition, the AIRMATIC control unit receives signals from three acceleration sensors on the body and a steering angle sensor, and uses these to determine the required shock absorber force and spring rate.
Solenoid valves on the shock absorbers provide four levels of damping, determined by the computer in response to sensor input. The valves can switch damping rates in less than 0.05-second. The four damping levels include:
Stage 1: Soft compression and rebound stage during steady-state driving
Driver-Selectable Shock Absorber Damping
In addition, the driver can select from two suspension damping settings, from maximum comfort to sporty. The system switches thresholds between the four stages and the spring rate. When the driver selects the sport program, the harder springing and damping stages are activated earlier than in the comfort program. In addition, the body lowers by 0.6-inch. Damping and springing remain constantly "hard."
Automatic level control maintains the same spring travel regardless of vehicle load. For traveling over rough roads, the driver can raise the body by one inch at the touch of a button. The car automatically returns to normal ride height if speed briefly exceeds about 75 mph, or if the vehicle sustains 50 mph or higher for more than five minutes.
All E-Class models come with four-wheel vented disc brakes and a tandem vacuum brake booster. Mercedes-Benz E350 models use single-piston floating calipers up front, while the Mercedes-Benz E550 employs four-piston fixed calipers. To provide braking power commensurate with its high performance, the new E63 AMG has perforated, vented discs with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston ones at the rear.
Wheel and Tires
The Mercedes-Benz E350 and E550 Luxury sedans come with 17-inch wheels shod with 245 / 45 all-season tires, while Sport sedan models the E63 AMG sedan come with 18-inch wheels and staggered-width tires - 245 / 40 in front and 265 / 35 at the rear. Mercedes-Benz E350 coupes come standard with 17-inch wheels with staggered-width 235/45 tires at the front and 255/40 tires at the rear. Mercedes-Benz E350 coupes with the optional Appearance Package and E550 coupes come with 18-inch wheels and staggered-width 235/40 tires up front and 255/35 tires at the rear.
Tire Pressure Monitoring
All tires slowly lose some air through the rubber, and, as a result, maintaining correct tire pressure is easy to overlook. At the least, low tire pressure degrades handling and causes more rapid tire wear, but it can also lead to a tire blowout that can trigger a collision or rollover.
On the new E-Class line, sensors mounted inside each tire (on the inner wheel) transmit radio signals about tire pressure, temperature, direction of rotation and an ID number (to identify each wheel) to a control unit over the rear axle. If there's significant pressure loss, a "Check Tires" warning message appears in the central display, and if there's a rapid pressure loss, a "Caution Tire Failure" warning appears. The warning disappears automatically when correct tire pressure is restored. The system also provides displays individual tire pressures.
New Systems Help Maximize Fuel Economy
A number of refinements help provide the new E-Class with outstanding fuel economy:
The power steering pump in the new E-Class has a special bypass valve that supplies hydraulic pressure to the steering only during turns. This means the steering pump draws almost no engine power when the car is driving straight ahead.
The Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan and coupe are powered by a 3.5-liter all-aluminum V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, with maximum torque available from 2,400 rpm all the way up to 5,000 rpm. And, from only 1500 rpm, the V6 engine develops 87 percent of its maximum torque.
DOHC Layout For Variable Intake and Exhaust Valve Timing
Variable intake and exhaust valve timing requires separate camshafts for the intake and exhaust valves. While variable valve timing gets a lot of credit for the engine's unusually broad torque curve, a two-stage intake manifold and intake tumble flaps play a key role as well.
Tumble Flaps Improve Fuel Efficiency
One of the most powerful engines for its size, the 3.5-liter V6 is equipped with innovative tumble flaps in the intake passages near the combustion chamber. The tumble flaps pivot open under part load, improving combustion by creating additional turbulence around the intake valve and in the combustion chamber. During higher engine loads such as full throttle, the tumble flaps are completely recessed in the wall of the intake manifold.
Better combustion helps improve engine torque, but the primary purpose of the tumble flaps is to further increase fuel economy, and tests show that the tumble flaps indeed boost fuel mileage by about two percent.
From Start to Finish
First, a forged crankshaft with four main bearings is placed into an all-aluminum engine block that features wide main-bearing saddles and transverse bearing supports that minimize vibration. To compensate for the inherent imbalance and vibration of a 90-degree V6 engine, a balance shaft is then installed in the block between the two cylinder banks, about where the camshaft is located on a pushrod-type V6 or V8 engine. The balance shaft is driven from the crankshaft by a long double chain that loops around one camshaft in each cylinder head and engages the underside of the balance shaft sprocket. This means the balance shaft counter-rotates at crankshaft speed, and its balancing "lobes" cancel out the inherent vibration of the 90-degree V6.
Iron-coated aluminum pistons are pinned onto forged steel connecting rods that are about 20 percent lighter than other comparable engines. The pistons slide into the cylinders, and the connecting rods are clamped around the crankshaft journals. When the aluminum-silicon engine block is pressure-cast, its cylinder bores are etched to expose a surface of almost pure silicon - a long-life, low-friction running surface for the piston rings. In addition, the block is nearly seven pounds lighter than if it was fitted with conventional cylinder sleeves.
The cylinder heads are bolted onto the block, and twin camshafts are installed in each cylinder head. The intake camshafts are driven by a double chain, and small helical gears on the intake cams in turn drive the exhaust camshafts.
Five Mufflers and Three Catalysts
All new E-Class models come with a dual exhaust system that begins with a catalytic converter and front muffler on each side. Both exhaust pipes then flow into a center muffler and catalyst before separating into two rear mufflers. This design provides relatively low back pressure for good power and fuel economy, excellent noise muffling for quiet engine operation and exemplary exhaust gas cleaning for low exhaust emissions. The E-Class coupe features a more sporty exhaust note.
Known inside the company as the M273, the 5.5-liter V8 in the Mercedes-Benz E550 sedan and coupe produces 382 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque, with maximum torque available from 2,800 rpm all the way up to 4,800 rpm. Characterized by double overhead camshafts in each cylinder bank and variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust valves, the V8 engine makes use of the latest advances in lightweight design, with an aluminum block and cylinder heads as well as low-friction silicon-aluminum cylinder liners. This engine also features intake "tumble flaps" for even better fuel economy and a two-stage intake manifold that helps broaden the power curve.
In the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz pioneered advanced engine technologies that featured three valves per cylinder, in which a single exhaust valve kept exhaust temperature high and emissions low. In the ensuing years, Mercedes engineers have developed new ways to minimize emissions, allowing them to utilize higher-flow four-valve architecture for the new engine family.
In addition to internal exhaust gas recirculation and secondary air injection, the new engine uses two close-coupled catalysts with linear oxygen sensors to ensure low exhaust emissions.
Variable Intake and Exhaust Valve Timing
Valve timing on the V8 is automatically adjusted within a range of 40 degrees using electro-hydraulic vane-type adjusters on the end of each camshaft. At part throttle, the valve timing adjuster keeps the exhaust valves open as the intake valves are opening, using this valve overlap for internal exhaust gas recirculation, reducing exhaust emissions and improving fuel economy. However, approaching full throttle, the camshaft adjustment optimizes valve timing for maximum power.
To minimize disturbing air flow through the ports, valve stems are only six millimeters or about 1/4 inch in diameter (most valves have 7 or 8 mm stems), and the valves are angled at 28.5 degrees to optimize the combustion chamber shape.
Tumble Flaps Improve Fuel Efficiency
The V8 engine is equipped with tumble flaps in the intake passages near the combustion chamber. The tumble flaps pivot open under part load, improving combustion by creating additional turbulence around the intake valve and in the combustion chamber. During higher engine loads such as full throttle, the tumble flaps are completely recessed in the wall of the intake manifold.
Better combustion helps improve engine torque, but the primary purpose of the tumble flaps is to further increase fuel economy, and tests show that the tumble flaps boost gas mileage by about two percent.
Two-Stage Intake Manifold Fattens the Torque Curve
While variable valve timing gets a lot of credit for the engine's unusually broad torque curve, a two-stage magnesium intake manifold plays a key role as well. At relatively low engine speeds, a set of flaps in the manifold close off short intake passages, forcing intake air to take a much longer route into the engine. This creates pressure waves that help the intake process and improve torque at lower engine speeds. Above about 3,500 rpm, the flaps open and intake air flows the shortest distance to the combustion chambers, helping to make more horsepower, especially at higher speeds.
Assembling the New V8
First, a forged crankshaft with five main bearings is placed into an all-aluminum engine block that features wide main-bearing saddles and transverse bearing supports to minimize vibration.
The engine block is cast around Silitek cylinder liners that provide a long-life, low-friction silicon-aluminum running surface for the piston rings. In addition, the block is nearly seven pounds lighter than if it was fitted with conventional cylinder sleeves. Aluminum pistons are pinned onto forged steel connecting rods that are 20 percent lighter than comparable engines. The pistons slide into the cylinders, and the connecting rods are clamped around the crankshaft journals.
The two cylinder heads are bolted onto the block, and twin camshafts are installed in each head. The intake cams are driven by a double chain from the crankshaft, and small gears on both cams in turn drive the exhaust cams.
Double-wall exhaust piping is used to keep the exhaust air as hot as possible leading down to twin catalytic converters. With the help of secondary air injection, the catalysts promote additional downstream conversion of pollutants into carbon dioxide and water vapor, and two oxygen sensors for each catalyst monitor and help manage the entire process.
All 2010-model E-Class sedans and coupes are equipped with the Mercedes-Benz seven-speed automatic transmission. When compared to other transmission designs, the seven-speed makes the vehicle faster and more economical while providing smooth, barely noticeable gearshifts. Seven gear ratios provide a wider spread of ratios between first gear and top gear and, at the same time, allow smaller increases in engine speed as the vehicle accelerates through the gears. This gives the electronic control unit more flexibility to maximize fuel economy and make the transmission's reaction time faster.
Skip a Gear When You Need To
Unlike most transmissions, the seven-speed transmission will skip up to three gear ratios if necessary when it downshifts, shifting directly from seventh to fifth, for example, or even sixth to second. This helps the transmission choose the best gear for quick acceleration and ensure smooth, almost imperceptible shifts in the process.
Lock It Up for Better Fuel Mileage
The Mercedes-Benz seven-speed uses a refined, proven hydrodyÂ¬namic torque converter with a special lock-up clutch inside the converter for maximum fuel efficienÂ¬cy. The clutch eliminates the usual torque converter "slippage," providing the direct connection and fuel efficiency of a manual transmission when the clutch is engaged. In the seven-speed, the clutch engages in all seven gears. (To put that into perspective, many cars lock the converter only in top gear.) The Mercedes-Benz lock-up clutch is submerged in oil and uses special long-life friction materials.
The Mercedes-Benz E350 and E550 sedans now come with a small stalk on the right side of the steering column that serves as the gear selector, freeing up valuable real estate on the center console between the seats. The column-mounted "Direct Select" lever electronically controls the seven-speed automatic - just lift the stalk up for reverse, push down for drive, and push a button on the end for park. Once underway, pushing one of the paddles on the "back" of the steering wheel provides manual gear changes.