“It might not look like it, but it’s one of the most comprehensive facelifts we’ve ever undertaken,” says Michael Kelz, laying his hand on the bonnet of the lightly disguised E-Class.
We’re stood in a lay-by not far from the pulsing neon heart of Las Vegas in the US, where the project leader for the facelifted E-Class is taking a break from final validation testing to run through the changes made ahead of its Geneva debut this March. The disguise hides subtle tweaks, including a wider grille, reprofiled bumpers and a reshaped bootlid – but also what Kelz describes as literally hundreds of detailed modifications.
“We’ve gone through every individual component and asked ourselves if it can be improved,” he says. “The biggest individual change is the upgrade to the electrical system. It allows us to add a number of new intelligent driver assistance systems with level two capability and the latest in ‘car-to-X’ communications. It’s now more advanced than the S-Class in certain areas.”
That allows the latest MBUX user interface to be brought into today’s large dual-display system (optional on lesser grades), alongside a new touchpad controller, detail trim changes and the return of Avantgarde spec as the base variant. The prototype we’ve been riding in is the new four-wheel- drive E450 4Matic. It runs Mercedes’ turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine mated to a 48V mild-hybrid system.
With 362bhp and 368lb ft plus 21bhp and 132lb ft from the electric motor, it boasts tremendously effective low-to- mid-range performance and outstanding refinement. The big news on the engine front, though, is a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder M254 unit, replacing the M274. Brought in for Euro 7 emissions rules, it’ll also be offered in mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid form, Kelz says.
On the diesel front, Kelz promises a “more than 31-mile electric range” from an upgraded version of the E300de, which, he says, uses a larger lithium ion battery than before. A version with twice that range, borrowing the 31.2kWh battery from the GLE 300de, will be restricted to the long-wheelbase, China-only model.
The 2020 E-Class’s dynamic character won’t change substantially, though, with only minor tweaks to improve efficiency on the latest-generation tyres.
Kelz (far right) tells Kable about the “comprehensive facelift”