We've been teased and tantalized by a constant feed of previews, and now Mercedes has finally ripped the covers off its E-Class sedan. With a suite of semi-autonomous driver aids, a range of efficient engines and S-Class aping levels of luxury, Mercedes' new midsize sedan looks like it was worth the wait.
The first thing that grabs your attention when you look at the car is, at risk of stating the obvious, its sharp styling. The E-Class looks like a slightly shrunken S-Class, with a sculpted bonnet, creased flanks and sloping rear deck.
Compared to the stodgy, fussy last generation E-Class, it's as if Mercedes has jumped forward by three or four generations. Inside it's the same story, where the widescreen displays and horizontal design mimic the more expensive S-Class' high-luxury environment.
Just how modern the car looks depends on which trim level you choose. Cars bought in Sport trim are fitted with massive three-pointed star inside the grille, while luxury-spec cars get a more traditional emblem on the end of the bonnet.
Compared to Mercedes' last business sedan, the W213 E-Class has a 2.6-inch (6.6 cm) longer wheelbase – part of a 1.7 inch (4.3 cm) increase in overall length. The extra length means extra space for rear seat passengers, crucial in the showroom against the new Volvo S90 and upcoming BMW 5 Series. The extra rear seat space is also likely to make a difference in China, where luxury car buyers like to be driven, not drive.
That's not to say Mercedes has neglected drivers – thanks to multi-chamber air suspension, the ride can be firm and sporty or soft and cushy. Three chambers of air in the spring struts on the rear axle, and two in the struts on the front axle give drivers three different levels of stiffness. The system will automatically level when the car is fully loaded, and automatically sits the car lower at high speed for improved economy, or sits it higher on rough roads.
No new Mercedes tech-leader would be complete without a raft of new safety systems. The E-Class is chock full of fancy driver assistance systems to make your morning commute safer and easier. The car uses the seat bolsters to actively move you further away from a side-impact collision, and will even make a sharp noise before an accident to prepare your ears for the shock that's coming up.
If you're not so keen to take the wheel, or simply afraid you'll make a mistake that triggers one of these features, the E-Class will also deal with a huge amount of the driving for you.
Drive pilot provides assistance to the steering wheel to keep the car in its lane, and will follow the traffic in front at speeds up to 210 km/h (130 mph), making autobahn driving an absolute breeze. The system will even follow the road when lines are missing because of roadworks at speeds up to 130 km/h (81 mph).
Of course, helping the driver when the road is long and straight is one thing, but helping them in an emergency is potentially life saving. That's why the new E-Class is fitted with evasive steering assist, which adds torque to steering inputs when a driver swerves to keep the car under control.
At launch, there will be just two four-cylinder engines available: the first is the 2.0-liter E200, which makes 135 kW (184 hp) and 300 Nm for a 7.7 second sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph). The second is the E220 diesel, which drinks just 3.9 l/100km (60 mpg) despite having an extra 100 Nm and 8 kW (11 hp) over the petrol engine.
The range will expand to include a six-cylinder diesel with a monstrous 600 Nm of torque and a plug-in hybrid with 30 km (19 mi) zero-emissions range.
The E-Class will go into battle with the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6, so don't expect much of a price rise over the current car when it drops.