REVIEW DATE: 14 Aug 2009
The Mercedes E-Class Estate dynasty shows no sign of waning. Steve Walker reports.
Executive car buyers have families too and when that family with its associated cargos stops fitting into an executive saloon, the natural place to look for a solution is an executive estate. Estate versions of the leading executive cars have been around for a long time. They tend to sell less strongly than the saloon alternatives with the domesticated image proving a turn-off for some but an estate rear can often enhance the flow of the styling and few cars of any kind have the same range of talents. Mercedes is confident that its latest E-Class Estate takes the genre to new heights.
The first E-Class Estate hit the streets in 1977 which gives Mercedes cause to claim that it originated the "premium lifestyle segment". It isn't abundantly clear exactly what the 'premium lifestyle segment' is but in the modern market, the term 'premium lifestyle' is more readily associated with premium 4x4s. It's possible to argue that executive estates like the E-Class were the precursors of today's premium 4x4 models. The two classes of car certainly share qualities including a prestige badge and a well-appointed interior with family-friendly design.
In many people's eyes, the 4x4 became a more modern and stylish option than the executive estate but any backlash against imposing off-road vehicles for their social and environmental connotations could play back into the estate's hands. The market isn't exactly littered with estate cars like the E-Class and customers considering one will also be looking at the BMW 5 Series Touring and the Audi A6 Avant. That's if they don't go for one of the more numerous 4x4 vehicles that are around for this kind of money.
The engine department of today's E-Class is looking particularly well stocked and the best units offered in the saloon are carried across to the Estate. The diesel contingent will inevitably prove popular and that means the E220 CDI, a 170bhp four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel, and the E250 CDI which uses basically the same configuration but produces 204bhp and a stonking 500Nm of torque. The top oil burner is the 231bhp six-cylinder 350 CDI.
"Mercedes will be hoping that the big estate's time is coming again and that its latest E-Class lift back can benefit"
The petrol range opens in modest fashion with the 183bhp E200 CGI before progressing through the 204bhp E250 CGI and the E350 CGI with its 292bhp V6 engine. The flagship of the conventional range is the E500 which uses a 388bhp V8 powerplant, but there's always the E63 AMG for those who need to be somewhere fast.
As usual, drive is sent to the rear wheels via a selection of gearboxes. There are six-speed manual ones for the less powerful models along with a five-speed automatic and an advanced seven-speed auto that comes with the powerful petrol contingent.
To help maintain a comfortable ride, even with those big cargos on board, all E-Class Estate models get Direct Control adaptive suspension, combined with a self-levelling rear suspension system that compensates for the weight in the back. Compared to the saloon, the Estate's shock absorbers are stiffer so they perform better with its altered body geometry and Mercedes claims that this makes the car just as agile as the four-door.
When trying to design a spacious and practical car, it's always helpful if you can start with a big one. The Mercedes E-Class is certainly that and in Estate guise, it comes up just 10cm shy of a five-meter overall length. It's 1.85m wide as well but despite this core bulk, the exterior styling is far from frumpy. An angled rear windscreen and a high waistline do a fine job of disguising that voluminous rear end while the blacked out B and C pillars produce a sleeker, more elongated profile. The front-end treatment is lifted wholesale from the saloon but the rear features unique LED light clusters in a fetching two-part design, as well as a chrome tailgate handle.
The cabin is based around the Mercedes quickfold seating system which allows the rear seat backs to be folded down either from the loading compartment or individually from either side door. Once down, they produce a level loading surface and a maximum capacity of 1,950 litres. Combined with a low loading sill height, that should spell first class practicality.
The E-Class Estate also features the Easy-Pack load compartment cover which raises automatically when the tailgate opens to improve access to the cargo area. Buyers wanting extra people-carrying capacity can also specify a folding bench seat that sits under the load compartment floor when not in use.
The amount of technology shoehorned into the E-Class really is remarkable and the most eye-opening features are aimed at improving the car's safety credentials. Mercedes likens the systems to an 'intelligent partner' who can detect and react to danger, which sounds like an automated back seat driver chiming in every time they think you're going to fast or too close to the car in front. The reality is that the systems are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible until stronger intervention is absolutely necessary.
Adaptive High Beam Assist uses a camera on the windscreen to detect approaching vehicles when you're driving at night to modify the headlamps and give an optimum field of vision at all times. Lane Keeping assist vibrates the steering wheel when it senses that the car is drifting out of its lane. Blind Spot Assist warns you when there's a car in your blind spot and Attention Assist measures 70 parameters to detect if you're falling asleep at the wheel. Then there's Brake Assist Plus that automatically applies optimum braking pressure to help you stop in time during emergency braking.
The lower end of the E-Class engine range has been a major focus in the development of the latest model with a particular view to maximising fuel economy. The four-cylinder diesel engines can all return combined economy figures in the region of 50mpg with emissions of 159g/km in the E220CDI version - a very strong showing for an executive car of these dimensions.
All E-Class models except the V8s feature the Mercedes BlueEfficiency technology which comprises a wide range of small modifications that together can deliver a 3mpg economy saving. Weight-saving measures, aerodynamic improvements and low rolling resistance tyres feature among the innovations.
The boom in premium and luxury 4x4 vehicles over the last decade hasn't helped the dependable executive estate. Models like the Mercedes E-Class Estate might be relatively unassuming next to some chrome-spangled off-roader but in many respects, they're just as practical and more adept from a driver's perspective. Mercedes will be hoping that the big estate's time is coming again and that its latest E-Class lift back can benefit. It looks to have the space and the engineering to do so.
The results below show the top E CLASS deals on buyacar
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI SE 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £28,514||Save £5,406|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI AMG Sport 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £30,902||Save £5,633|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E220 CDI SE 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £30,277||Save £5,568|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E250 CDI AMG Sport 4dr Tip Auto diesel saloon|
|Price £33,220||Save £5,865|
|Mercedes Benz E Class E250 CDI AMG Sport 5dr Tip Auto diesel estate|
|Price £34,862||Save £6,028|
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|For E-CLASS ESTATE|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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