Mercedes-Benz has revealed more details about the “comprehensively digitalised” generation of capacitive steering wheels set to debut in the recently refreshed E-Class.

According to the Stuttgart-based firm, the new tiller’s rim houses a “two-zone sensor mat” that detects whether or not the driver's hands are gripping the steering wheel.

“The sensors on the front and back of the rim register whether the steering wheel is being held. No more steering movement is required to signal the assistance systems that the vehicle is under control,” said Marcus Fiege, head of steering wheel development at Mercedes-Benz.

The touch control buttons sited in the spokes, meanwhile, now also work with digital signals, with the operating principle having changed from optical to capacitive. This, says Mercedes, reduces the “mechanical operating surfaces to a maximum”.

The seamless control panels are divided into several functional areas and are “precisely integrated flush with the spokes”. As with a smartphone, touches are recorded and evaluated via capacitive sensor technology, which Benz says enables “intuitive operation via swiping gestures and pressing of familiar symbols”.

Mercedes-Benz claims the “high-quality materials have been selected in such a way that operation is possible even in an interior heated up by sunlight”, with the system automatically recognising “where the finger is at any given moment”.

Hans-Peter Wunderlich, creative director for interior design at Mercedes-Benz, says the new tiller is “the most beautiful steering wheel we have ever built”.

“The proportions of the airbag, spokes and rim are absolutely harmonious. The airbag is not concealed, but staged as a flattering sphere,” Wunderlich said.

The new steering wheel will be available in three versions: Sport, Luxury and Supersport.