Keen eyes might have noticed a fancy new steering wheel in some of the pictures that arrived for the reveal of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan. But there's not just one; there are actually two new designs, one with single-piece side spokes and one with layered double spokes on either side, the latter of which should be exclusive to AMG Line and AMG vehicles.
Both new wheel designs contain buttons, which is nothing new, but they're not actually buttons. Rather, each spoke carries an array of capacitive sensors that tracks where your finger lands. So not only can you tap each symbol on the wheel and get a response, you'll be able to use motions like swiping for additional features, like changing tracks or menus. Current E-Class wheels, by comparison, have two small touch-capable pads on the spokes.
Mercedes-Benz claims the switches on the wheel can handle temperatures above the boiling point of water, so they should work perfectly fine after the car's been sitting in the sun for some time. You know, just in case you were worried about that. You were worried about the thermal hardiness of your steering wheel switches, right?
The steering wheel's trickery doesn't end there. Back in the old days (which are still ongoing, considering the new E-Class isn't on sale yet), when the car's driver-assistance systems yelled at you to have your hands on the wheel, you had to give it a bit of a wiggle to let the torque sensors know your hands are where they're supposed to be. That won't be an issue any longer, as each side of the wheel also carries capacitive sensors, so a firm grip is all that's necessary to keep the electro-nannies from blaring in your face. If you're a rebel and ignore the system's gripes, it'll activate a system that just pulls the car over. Good luck.
The automaker didn't pick this week to unveil these details just because it looked good on a calendar. Instead, Mercedes-Benz is preparing to debut the refreshed 2021 E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet, which will likely carry many of the same tweaks as the sedan, like updated fasciae and the introduction of MBUX, the automaker's latest and greatest infotainment system. Both these variants will be introduced to the world on May 27 at 5 a.m. PT in a digital world premiere on M-B's website.