It took Daimler's slap-up pre-show launch party for the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class - MC'd, as capably as ever, by the company's venerable chairman Dieter Zetsche - to show us how close this important new saloon is bringing us to autonomous driving.

The event will go down as one of my highlights of Detroit 2016, a vast hotel ballroom not far from the Detroit motor show's Cobo Hall, ringed on all sides for the evening with panoramic screens that at times massively displayed famous quotations about intelligence ('Beauty without intelligence is a masterpiece painted on a napkin'), and at others showed vast outdoor scenes that seemed to make the place as big as the Grand Canyon.

Zetsche's aim was to show us that this all-new five-metre saloon, looking much (some said too much) like its Cand S-Class brethren, and as central to Mercedes-Benz's car portfolio as the Focus is to Ford, had surprising new built-in abilities that could work for its owners in new ways. It could anticipate difficult situations on the road and adapt faithfully to them, while motoring with unprecedented efficiency for a car its size. Its biggest party trick was a new level of connectivity with surrounding cars, which Zetsche labelled a 'Car-to-X', all in the cause of greater safety and efficiency.