By Mario Cywinski
MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS: PILOT LITE
Autonomous vehicles are on their way sooner rather than later. As part of the drive to that reality, automobile manufacturers are adding semi-autonomous vehicle features that make today’s vehicles able to ‘almost’ drive themselves. The all-new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is such an offering. It comes with a slew of safety and technology features to assist the driver.
“The E-Class sits at the core of the Mercedes-Benz brand and has historically redefined the standards of the business-class segment. It continues this tradition with a wealth of top-class innovations. The new E-Class takes another major step towards fully autonomous driving: it enhances efficiency, safety and comfort, reduces stress, and intensifies driving pleasure,” said Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.
The first technology is Drive Pilot. It is an adaptive cruise control system, which is able to keep a safe distance to vehicles in front in stop and go traffic, up to speeds of 210 kilometres per hour. Through Steering Pilot, it is capable of keeping the vehicle in the centre of the lane (on a straight road or on slight curves) by using lane markings and vehicles in front. Active Lane-change Assistant helps with lane changes by using steering torque, when the turn signal is activated and no vehicle in detected in the other lane. Traffic Sign Assist reads certain road signs and notifies the driver. These can include speed limits, as well as having a visual and sound warning if the driver is going in the wrong direction of a sign.
Drive Pilot also includes Active Emergency Stop Assist, which will bring the vehicle to a complete stop if it detects that the driver is unable to operate the vehicle or is distracted. Available in the Premium package is Parking Pilot which when activated can find a parking space suing sensors and will park the vehicle. It can park forward, backward, or in parallel. It will also auto correct when parking to make sure it in the centre of the parking spot between two vehicles.
Using these technologies on the drive in and around the Ottawa area, the systems worked as promised. It did seem a little strange to have the vehicle perform driving tasks that are traditionally the driver’s responsibility. Many of the systems are meant as active safety features that help to mitigate the possibility of an accident. While advanced, the systems are not meant as a replacement for driver input but as a helping hand, just in case.
Also offered on E-Class is Pre-Safe, the standard version will tension the seat belt, adjust seat position, and close all open windows when a potential collision is detected. Pre-Safe Plus helps with a potential rear end collision, and Pre-Safe Impulse Side will push the driver or front passenger towards the centre of the vehicle when it detects a side collision. Evasive Steering Assist supports evasive maneuvers that are initiated by the driver in case of a pedestrian in front. Other safety features that are packed into the E-Class are crosswind assist, blind spot assist, attention assist and active brake assist.
There is more than just technology in the new E-Class. The interior of the vehicle is redesigned with an optional (available with Premium package) 12.3-inch widescreen cockpit display with three styles (classic, sport and progressive). Classic and Sport displays are similar, however, the Progressive display is more of modern take on the traditional instrument cluster. An instrument cluster with seven-inch display is standard. Centre console includes a 12.3-inch COMAND display, ambient lighting allows for 64 colours to be displayed in various parts of the inside of the vehicle.
On the exterior, styling has been updated from the previous model, with standard AMG styling, and updated front fascia. A luxury grille which harks to past E-Class models is available as part of the luxury package. Overall, the E-Class is now more in line with the styling of other models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup.
The 2017 E-Class will be offered in E300 4MATIC form with a 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine offering 241 horsepower and 273 foot/pounds of torque and fuel economy of 10.8/8.1 L/100 kilometres (city/highway). It will also be offered in an E400 4MATIC version that offers a 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder engine outputting 329hp and 354 ft/lbs of torque. An AMG version will also be available in E43 4MATIC trim with a 3.0L biturbo six-cylinder engine outputting 396hp and 384 ft/lbs of torque. Each model is equipped with a new nine-speed automatic transmission, which is equipped with ECO start/stop. All models on the press drive were E300 4MATIC models.
Standard Dynamic Select system allows the driver to select a variety of driving styles including, comfort (standard setting), eco (focus is on fuel economy), sport (sporty steering, throttle and transmission response), sport+ (more aggressive setting than sport), and individual settings. An Airmatic agility system is optional on E-Class and helps to tune suspension in Sport mode.
A couple of interesting technologies that are part of the E-Class package are Pre-Safe Sound system which helps to reduce injuries caused by accident noise by way of using the onboard sound system to emit a brief sound to help precondition the heading. As well, for those who want to have their vehicles smelling fresh all the time, Air Balance package allows for four interior fragrances to be distributed through the vehicle, as well as oxygen ionization and filtering of incoming air and recirculating air to improve air quality.