Let’s start with the visual tweaks, which are minor enough for our photographer to enquire what exactly has changed over the old model. The front end carries most of the changes, including standard LED lights inspired by the latest CLS and a new grille and bumper arrangement.
A fresh set of tail-lights has also been added at the rear, but the refresh is unlikely to change anyone’s fundamental opinion on the E-Class’s styling. Frankly, with both core German competitors moving to ever-bolder and more aggressive design approaches, the relatively polite and elegant E is a breath of fresh air.
Things get more interesting inside. Architecturally it’s familiar, yet the detail changes are extensive. The first change is easy to spot: the steering wheel has moved to a more minimalist split three-spoke design, allowing for two separate bars of switchgear to be installed along the two horizontal spokes. These are now capacitive touch controls, which seem a bit form-over-function at first but become more natural to use with practice.
They also allow greater functionality: if you want to adjust the cruise control’s speed by 5mph, for example, you can firmly press the up/down button, while a gentle slide of the finger up or down will increase or reduce the speed in 1mph increments.
Elsewhere, the E-Class has moved to Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment and connectivity software. As first rolled out on the brand’s compact models, it’s incorporated into the same dual-screen display set-up (now standard fitment, with a size upgrade in higher trims), but with the right-hand display now touch-operated via the screen itself, with a square pad to replace the rotary click wheel control.
With the more advanced voice control also offered, it’s a case of ‘choose your weapon’ with the control interfaces, and although none proved as naturally intuitive on the move as the old rotary control for this tester, we’ve little doubt that, as is the case with the steering wheel, you’d get used to it.
To complement the new E-Class’s more advanced driver assistance suite, the wheel’s capacitive capability means you no longer have to wiggle the wheel to let it know you’re paying attention in full lane assist mode. Now it can detect your hand grip more effectively, while new connected systems mean the car can slow itself in anticipation of traffic ahead.
Comfort is further enhanced by the optional Energising Plus package, bringing not only more ergonomic seats but also features such as S-Class-style heated door and console armrests, alongside the usual heated and ventilated seats. The seats really are very comfortable, although this and myriad other options contribute to a laugh-inducing sticker price of €96,877 (around £87,500) for this German press car.
Mechanically, beyond the mild-hybrid revisions and some engine tweaks elsewhere in the range, there isn’t much to shout about. Suspension changes are minor, focusing on fettling the set-up to work more capably with the latest efficiency-minded tyre compounds.