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2009 Detroit Auto Show: Mercedes-Benz unveils 2010 E-Class luxury sedan

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Daimler Chief Executive Dr. Dieter Zetsche poses with the new E 350 CGI sedan. (AP Photo by Gary Malerba)

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Mercedes-Benz upgrades E-Class sedan, outlines plans for electric car at Detroit auto show

DETROIT January 11, 2009; Ken Thomas writing for the AP reported that Mercedes-Benz is upgrading one of its top luxury sedans and giving consumers a glimpse of a planned electric car.

Daimler AG unveiled the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan Saturday on the eve of the North American International Auto Show. The E-Class will arrive in U.S. showrooms next summer, offering an array of new safety features and two engine variants.

With many shoppers seeking green cars, the German automaker also showcased Concept BlueZero, three vehicles with alternative electric drive systems that could travel up to 375 miles on a single charge.

The vehicles will utilize lithium-ion batteries, which are already widely used in consumer electronics but are being adapted to meet automotive requirements. An hour of charging time can provide a range of about 60 miles.

BlueZero F-Cell, a fuel cell vehicle that uses electric drive, will be produced in limited numbers later this year, Daimler executives said, and offer a range of up to 250 miles.

By 2010, Mercedes-Benz plans small-scale production of BlueZero E-Cell, a similar vehicle with only battery-electric drive, offering a range of up to 125 miles.

The third electric concept, BlueZero E-Cell Plus, has electric drive and a more conventional internal combustion engine to extend the vehicle's range to up to 375 miles on a single charge.

The pod-shaped electric cars provide ample space for luggage and can hit zero-to-60 miles in less than 11 seconds.

"Zero emissions does not mean zero performance at all," said Dr. Thomas Weber, a Daimler Board of Management member responsible for research and development.

For more conventional car buyers, the E-Class, which features more of an angular front end, builds upon several safety technologies found in previous Mercedes vehicles. It has technologies that assist braking to avoid an accident or notify a driver who is exceeding the speed limit. Monitoring systems recognize when a driver is tired or is drifting into another lane.

"This system can and will save lives," said Daimler AG chief executive Dieter Zetsche.

Consumers will be able to choose between a 268 horsepower V6 engine in the E350 and a 382 horsepower V8 in the high-end E550.