After a trip to collect the latest addition to the Auto Express fleet, I feel like I know the car inside out. I was handed the keys to our E-Class Estate at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands in Surrey, and I’d recommend the five-star handover process to any prospective buyer.
Now I could tell you that our E350 CDI’s 1,950-litre boot is the biggest in its class. I could even explain how the cutting-edge PRE-SAFE auto brake function helps cut the severity of accidents, and that with a drowsiness detection system and nine airbags fitted as standard, the Merc is one of the safest new cars on the road.
Not that anyone wants to listen, though. All that my friends, relatives and colleagues really want to know is how on earth I managed to add a staggering £22,590 of options to a car which already costs £40,920.
To put that into perspective, I could have bought a B-Class with the money spent on extras, and for the total purchase price of £63,510, I could have got my hands on a flagship S-Class model! The truth of the matter is that adding a third to the purchase price was easy – but was it really worth it?
Some of the options are without doubt worth having – such as the £2,230 COMAND multimedia system. Controlled by a rotating, multifunction dial on the centre console, it includes a brilliant sat-nav and traffic message channel, as well as 6GB of music storage. There are cables with which to connect an iPod, plus Bluetooth for my phone.
I’m also a big fan of the £2,345 Driving Assistance Package, the highlight of which is the Distronic Plus radar-based cruise control. Not only will this system smoothly match the car’s speed to that of the vehicle in front, it will also bring the motor to a complete stop if necessary. A leap of faith is needed to allow the car to perform this hi-tech trick first time around, but once you’re used to it, it’s a fabulous safety feature and one that really takes the effort out of motorway driving.
There was plenty of debate over the wisdom of plumping for the £1,055 AirMATIC suspension. It offers Comfort and Sport settings, as well as a self-levelling system, and adaptive dampers.
If you regularly drive sweeping A and B-roads, I would give it a miss. The standard car’s set-up is more than good enough.
However, if you spend a lot of time commuting to and from big cities, as I do, then it’s well worth considering. The Comfort setting takes the sting out of potholes and speed humps, while the Sport mode allows you to make the most of the car’s handling once you break free of city congestion.
But that’s enough about the bits I like – what about the bits I don’t? Well, asking £335 for DAB radio seems a cheek, particularly after you’ve shelled out for the COMAND system. I feel the same about the £645 metallic paint. The night-vision technology isn’t worth the cash, either. Yet I am enjoying the steering, which is very accurate. And there’s plenty of grip on offer – even on winter’s cold, slick roads.
My only worry is that I will not have time to use every one of the options before Mercedes wants the keys back!