Having had their hand tipped by a couple of leaks (including ours!) this week, Mercedes-Benz has released full details for the updated 2014 E-Class, due for SA debut in June 2013 - and MBSA has confirmed that means the whole range - sedan, estate, coupé and convertible.
More importantly, this is more than a nip-and-tuck, it's a pretty radical makeover and the result is just that - pretty.
But there's also a lot of good stuff under the new sheet metal and plastic, including a new, two-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with spray-guided direct injection, and no fewer than 11 new or improved driver aids, primarily developed for the next-generation S-Class, which will make their world debut in this model.
The front styling has gets new headlight clustwers, with all the functional elements behind a single lens, although flowing light elements inside clusters help retain the signature E-Class “four-eyed” look. LED running lights are standard, full LED lights are an option.
A new, simpler bonnet with smooth flowing lines lead to a a grille with a sporty central star, over a new bumper without any lighting functions and just the suggestion of a wing-shaped spoiler lip.
A new feature line below the structure line from the rear door through to the tail light, making the car look longer, and the side trim has been shifted downwards, while the tail lights and bumper have been revised with a new two-tone look and a black inset respectively.
The interior styling has had a more subtle rework, centring on a two-part trim that stretches right across the dashboard; and which can be ordered in either wood or aluminium, irrespective of the equipment line.
A new three-tube instrument cluster frames a trapezoid display in the head unit, and there are new-look central air vents, either side of an analogue clock.
What isn't there, is the gear lever - its functions have been shifted to a 'direct select' button on the steering wheel and the paddle shifters behind it.
The revised driving aids are built around a new multi-purpose camera with stereo vision, with two “eyes” set at an angle of 45 degrees that produce a three-dimensional view of the area up to about 50 metres in front of the vehicle.
That allows the car to evaluate vehicles that are driving ahead, oncoming or crossing, as well as pedestrians and a variety of traffic signs, while upgraded multistage radar sensors help the adaptive brakes reduce the risk of a rear-end collision.
An adjustable driver monitoring system warns you about your level of fatigue and how long it has been since the last break, steering assist now helps keep the car centred in its lane, by applying the brakes on one side and, if the driver ignores a blind-spot warning, will gently nudge the car back into its own lane using the brakes on the 'safe' side.
It tracks traffic in tailbacks, and the revised brake assist system can now detect crossing traffic as well as pedestrians - and boost the driver's braking effort accordingly.
Pre-Safe now not only detects pedestrians and brakes automatically at up to 50km/h, it recognises an imminent rear-end collision and then pulls the front occupants away from the direction of impact by their seat belts and firmly applies the brakes to prevent secondary crashes.
Adaptive highbeams let you leave the main-beam headlamps on all the time without dazzling oncoming traffic, and active parking assist enables automated parking with active steering and brake control into both parallel and end-on spaces.
In addition to speed-limit signs, the new E-Class can read overtaking and entry restrictions - as well the signs showing the end of those restrictions, while a 360-degree camera projects an overview of the vehicle and its surroundings as a virtual bird's-eye view on the display, with guide lines to help with entering and exiting from parking spaces.
The big news under the bonnet is actually the smallest engine option, a new 1991cc direct-injection turbopetrol four with fast-acting piezo injectors for multiple injection, quick multi-spark ignition, fully variable camshaft adjustment on both sides and a controlled oil pump.
In what Stuttgart claims as a world first, it uses the stratified lean burn process in combination with turbocharging and external high-pressure exhaust gas recirculation to achieve an average fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100 km and CO2 emissions of 136g/km, making it the only car in its class that doesn't pay emissions tax.
In E200 tune, it delivers 133kW at 5500rpm and 300Nm from 1200-4000rpm, and disposes of the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.9 seconds. The same engine with E250 mapping, using the same amount of fuel, kickes out 155kW and 350Nm, knocking half a second off the 0-100 time.
The diesel range includes the four-cylinder E200 CDI (100kW/360Nm), the E220 CDI (same 2143cc engine but 125kW and 400Nm), the E250 CDI (same again, but 150kW and 500Nm), and the 2987cc E350 CDI V6, with 185kW and 620Nm.
Full engine details and listings for the South African market will be announced at the launch in June next year.
What is definite is that the new E-Class will be available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a 7G-tronic auto transmission. The later has, however, been updated with a short-term manual that automatically switches back to automatic after a set time - which may upset customers who actually enjoy driving their E-Class.
FOUR SUSPENSION CONFIGURATIONS
These start with a comfort-orientated Direct Control system that has selective damping. The same set-up is also available with 15mm shorter springs and dampers.
Or you can specify the lowered suspension in conjunction with an exterior sports package or an AMG sports package.
Finally, you can have Airmatic air suspension with electronically controlled damping - which is, very sensibly, standard along with auto levelling, on Estate models .
All new E-Class variants will come with a new variable-ratio, electro-mechanical power steering set-up that not only gets stiffer as the speed rises, it also gets quicker the further it moves from the centre position.