Against the downbeat backdrop of recession-hit Detroit, it's good to see that at least one manufacturer still has enough confidence to invest in some old-fashioned showmanship.

The maker in question was Mercedes, which used Saturday evening to give a preview of the new E-class saloon complete with dancing girls, overwrought choreography and enough vol-au-vents to fill the Cobo arena and then form a bridge across the river to Canada.

Strangely, the E-class itself won't be going on display at the show proper, but journos were given a couple of hours to have a good poke around it.

And I emerged from the experience impressed. From some angles the new E looks a bit Lexus-like, but up close it radiates the sort of solidity that made my much-missed 1993 E-Class feel so special.

In the excitement of meeting the E, Merc's other Detroit debuts were almost forgotten, including the limited edition SLR Sterling Moss roadster. It's an amazing-looking thing, and for my money definitely the most handsome of the various SLR variants, losing the nose-heavy proportions of its coupe and roadster siblings.