Given the significant amount of time we spend in a vehicle, and the increasing interaction between man and machine that happens within the confines of a cabin, the car interior should at the very least rank alongside the exterior in the order of importance when mulling over the purchase of a car.
When you lay eyes on the elegant lines and sporty silhouette of the new tenth-generation E-Class, it bears all the hallmarks of what a modern Mercedes-Benz four-door limousine should look like. The ‘Sensual Purity’ design philosophy, as evidenced in E-Class’ elongated hood, coupé-esque roofline and broad-shouldered flanks exude sophistication, dynamism and a sense of luxury. It’s all well and good, but what about the interior?
Next level interior design
In recognition of user experience and connectivity being key areas of interior design and development, Mercedes-Benz set up two new dedicated departments (Digital Graphic & Corporate Design and User Interaction) to meet the new demands of the connected society as well as the challenges of tomorrow.
“With the interior of the new E-Class, we are giving a new interpretation to the concept of contemporary luxury,” says Hartmut Sinkwitz, Head of Interior Design. “We have designed a spacious and intelligent interior. True to Mercedes-Benz’s design philosophy of ‘Sensual Purity’, it employs technological innovation and high-grade equipment to create an exceptionally emotive experience for driver and front passenger. The E-Class thus not only sets a new standard in the business class. Alongside a workplace and private environment, it also becomes a ‘third place’ – a living area in which passengers are able to enjoy contemporary luxury.”
Appealing to emotion and intelligence
Combining the elegance of the luxurious S-Class with the cultivated sportiness of the C-Class, the design of the new E-Class interior is characterised by the unique interplay between strong, sculptural shapes and the cutting-edge clarity of the control and display functions.
The lower horizontal trim portion of the instrument panel with its sweeping form that continues through to the door surfaces generates a visual sense of space – a key design cue of Mercedes-Benz interiors. This is punctuated by rich contrasts in the choice of materials and defining elements such as the circular air-conditioning vents. With the cutting-edge high-resolution widescreen displays taking centre stage, the embodiment of two opposite poles of emotion and intelligence is very much on show.
Artistry on display
The abundance of computing power and advancement in display technologies have afforded car interior designers a range of possibilities in how information is presented to occupants. In the new E-Class cabin are two 12.3-inch high-resolution (1920 x 720 pixels) LCDs that function as the driver’s instrument cluster as well as the infotainment display. Yet to the observer, the dual screens of the Widescreen Cockpit (as Mercedes-Benz calls it) come across as a seamless single-frame display as both screens are nestled behind an expansive sheet of glass.
Just like smartphones and tablets, the information displayed by the Widescreen Cockpit can be configured according the user’s preference. There are three different themes to choose from: Classic, Sport and Progressive, each with its own distinct content and aesthetics, and you can even choose the appropriate shade of ambient lighting to match from a staggering choice of 64 different hues to subtly bathe various areas of the cabin. More importantly, Widescreen Cockpit as the centre of focus, serves to minimise dashboard clutter, thus allowing for the design and textures to really shine through.
Full control at your fingertips
To ensure complexities never get in the way of driving, the driver of an E-Class is able navigate menus and select functions shown on the Widescreen Cockpit while keeping both hands on the wheel. This is achieved though the ingenious invention of the Touch Control – a first for Mercedes-Benz cars. Much like how a smartphone responds to finger swipes, touch-responsive buttons located on the horizontal spokes of the steering wheel facilitate multi-directional scrolling through swiping motions, and menu selection with a press of the button.
Of course, the more familiar method of input via the Comand controller and integrated touchpad located on the centre console is available to the front passenger who wishes to manipulate the centre display in this manner. Either way, intuitiveness and safe usage are baked into the operation of the Widescreen Cockpit while often-used functions such as the climate control retain their physical switches to ensure that the driver is never distracted from the primary task of driving the E-Class.
Whether it’s wood veneers, intricate metalised surfaces or plush Nappa leather, the use of authentic material is a consistent theme across the E-Class interior to attain a high level of craftsmanship and perceived quality. Meticulous attention is also paid to the combination of textures and colours, as seen on the dashboard and the highly contoured seats of the E-Class which depending on trim lines (Exclusive, Avantgarde or AMG) get their own unique design for that all-important personalised look and feel.
Clearly, Mercedes-Benz is living up to its brand ethos of being the ‘best or nothing’ by sparing no expense in elevating interior design in the new E-Class, with the result being a sumptuous and inviting cabin that complements the exquisite exterior design.
The proof is in the pudding as they say and Mercedes-Benz has already been presented with no fewer than three “Automotive Interiors Expo Awards” in 2016, with Sinkwitz voted as the Interior Designer of the Year by leading motoring and design journalists. The new E-Class also won the prize for the Best Interior of a standard-production automobile, while the touch control technology on the steering wheel was voted as Interior Innovation of the Year.