For me this launch was about the technology innovations, but it can also be revealed that the E-Class offers no surprises in the drive – it gets an A!

Mercedes-Benz aims to save not only the lives and limbs of drivers but their hearing too!
The prestige German manufacturer unveiled and demonstrated a remarkable suite of autonomous driving and safety technology at the Canadian launch of the 2017 E-Class sedan.

Fascinating though the list of technology firsts were, the ears of most of those present were caught by the explanation of how a system designed to counteract the potential damage caused by an airbag explosion works.

“Our ability to hear relies on three fragile bones in our inner ear that, once damaged by loud noises, cannot be repaired,” revealed MB technician Ryan Lee. “Car accidents produce a tremendous amount of noise, which is why Mercedes-Benz developed PRE-SAFE® Sound to reduce the effect of accident-induced high sound pressures on occupants’ hearing. The technology works by recognizing that a crash is imminent, and emitting a noise – brief rushing sound – through the vehicle’s sound system that causes the ear’s natural protective mechanism – the stapedius reflex – to spring into action before the collision takes place.”

Amazing. Needless to say we didn’t test the system with a costly airbag blowout so we’ll have to take Mercedes’ word for it.

MY2017 E400 Wagon – Euro Spec Shown
The 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43

But those attending the Ottawa region launch did test the rest of the technology through its paces in a demonstration area and on the nearby roads of Ontario and Quebec.

With its corporate chest puffed out, MB proudly reeled off a series of industry firsts and innovations, which it boasted makes the beautifully appointed tenth-generation E-Class “the most intelligent luxury sedan in the world.”

Let’s start with what is standard fare: the safety suite includes Blind Spot Assist, Pre- Safe, Pre-Safe Sound, and Active Brake Assist.

The radar-based driving assistance system prevents accidents with vehicles ahead and crossing pedestrians or reduces the damage of such accidents. This is achieved by first presenting audible and visual warnings of imminent collisions.

If the driver brakes the system increases the braking pressure if it deems it necessary. If the driver doesn’t respond, then autonomous emergency braking if an impending collision is detected.

On a closed circuit I attempted to wipe out a dummy pedestrian wandering out onto the road ahead, without success. Likewise, my attempts to crash into the rear of a parked vehicle and crossing vehicle also failed due to the combination of the radar and onboard cameras.

Crosswind Assist is active at speeds of 80 km/h and above. It reduces the vehicle’s sideways drift substantially in windy driving conditions, by automatic braking the wheels facing the gusts. Sadly, my search for detectable for crosswinds was fruitless. Pity. I’ve battled some serious crosswinds on a number of high-altitude roads around the world – this is no novelty piece of tech.

Steering Pilot generates steering torque to keep the vehicle in the centre of its lane on straight roads and slight bends, taking its guidance from vehicles ahead and lane markings.

For most of the ride on a busy freeway this was a blessing but a bit of a curse when driving by huge trucks. I prefer to move a little to the left of my chosen lane. That said, such a preference is more for my own psychological comfort.

The Active Lane-change Assistant helps with lane changes by increasing the steering torque when the driver signals a lane change and no other vehicle is detected in the next lane.

You can drive with your hands off the wheel for up to seconds before the system pines for the touch of your warm hands. If you fail to respond to its advances, then the car will flip on the emergency lights and grind to a controlled stop. I’m probably being a little too flippant when one ponders the thoughts of drivers suffering a heart attack or stroke.

I should save my frivolous remarks for the options category. The Air Balance package, which offers four choices of fragrances to sweeten the interior to “your preference and mood”. Worry not, you can control the intensity of the pong. The system increases oxygen ionization to improve air quality and reduce the number of viruses, bacteria and spores in the cabin.

The optional Parking Pilot is super, with some reservations. You pick from the choice of suitable spaces detected by the system, then select forward or backwards parking and away it goes. My two reservations: I don’t like forward parking and I do hope we all continue to teach new drivers how to park properly – manually!
I like the optional Drive Pilot for city driving; it really pulls all the standard features together and adds the ability to let the car ease the negotiation of slow traffic.

For me this launch was about the technology innovations, but it can also be revealed that the E-Class offers no surprises in the drive – it gets an A!

First up in Canada is the E300 4Matic with a turbo charged four-cylinder 1.9-litre gas engine, mated to a 9-speed auto transmission. The E400 4Matic with a 2.9-litre V6 biturbo power plant and same transmission will follow – details later. I suspect the four-banger, if I can be so crude, will likely satisfy most needs.

Starting sticker price for the E300 is $61,200. You can soon boost that by another $10,000 with optional packages but the base model is hardly basic.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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