Bigger, bolder and more technologically advanced than ever before - that's what is expected of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which has been spied in next-generation guise undergoing winter testing in Europe.
The new model - seen here in heavily camouflaged prototype guise - is to be built upon the same modular 'MRA' platform that underpins the recently released C-Class. That means it will likely be lighter, and according our sources, more rigid than the car it replaces.
As with that car, the new E-Class will grow in length and width, though the car seen in these pictures is wearing some thick body cladding that makes it appear even more voluptuous than the production car will look.
However, what is almost certain is that the wheelbase of the next E-Class will be longer than the current car's 2.873-metre stretch between the front and rear wheels, with increased interior space (namely legroom) the main result of such a change.
Powering the E-Class will be a range of petrol and diesel engines - all turbocharged - while there will also be a plug-in hybrid version available, and according to our spies, that's the model you see here. Topping the range will be a Mercedes-AMG version of the E63, likely powered by a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 that takes the spot of the old naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8.
While the company's largest and most expensive sedan, the S-Class, has long been the technological showcase for the brand, it is expected this new-generation E-Class will take the baton and bring a new level of automotive technology to the market. Expect this to include further enhancements to the brand's semi-autonomous driving systems, likely including an aut0mated parking device.
In terms of design, the new E-Class will adopt similar styling to the larger S-Class and smaller C-Class, with a more upright grille, more rounded bumpers and smaller tail-lights.
While timings are yet to be confirmed, expect to see the new E-Class sedan unveiled early in 2016, with the E-Class Estate (wagon) a few months later. A new E-Class Coupe and E-Class Convertible will likely follow within 18 months.
Stay tuned for more news on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Click the Photos tab for more 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class images.