Mercedes E-Class Estate review
Vast Mercedes E-Class Estate is one of most practical and classy load-luggers money can buy
Revealed in 2009, the Mercedes E-Class Estate continues the brand’s long tradition for making big and practical family holdalls. What’s more, the handsome estate is actually better looking and more desirable than the four-door saloon it’s based on, although it's not quite as striking as its rivals to look at. Buyers get a huge choice of petrol and diesel engines, including gruff four cylinder units, silky smooth V6s and a thumping V8 in the scorching AMG range-topper. And while the styling of the Mercedes isn’t as modern as a BMW 5 Series Touring or Audi A6 Avant, it’s vastly more practical, while the lure of the three-pointed star on the bonnet gives it as much kerb appeal.
Our pick: Mercedes E250 CDI SE
There’s no doubting the Mercedes E-Class Estate looks a little old fashioned when lined up alongside sleek rivals, such as the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant - even after its facelift of 2013, which added new, hi-tech part-LED headlights. Still, it’s arguably the best looking model in the E-Class line-up, as its extended estate body is better proportioned than the awkwardly styled saloon version. Buyers wanting to make even more of an impact should opt for the AMG Sport version, which adds a neat bodykit and attractive 18-inch AMG alloy wheels. Mercedes has a hard won reputation for quality, so it’s no surprise to find the cabin is solidly built and bursting with first-rate materials. What’s more, it’s very well-equipped, with all models getting Bluetooth, heated seats and parking sensors. So it’s a shame that the angular and upright dash looks so dated and unattractive.
Keen drivers looking for the ultimate in sharp handling should look elsewhere, as it only takes a short stint behind the wheel to realise the Mercedes has been developed with comfort in mind. All versions get adaptive dampers as standard, which help make the E-Class one of the most comfortable estate cars money can buy. Estate models have self-levelling rear air suspension too, so handling isn't compormised when you're carrying heavy loads. Better still, low noise levels and a perfect driving position make it a superb long distance cruiser. Yet with its slick steering, decent body control and rear-wheel-drive chassis, the big Mercedes can be hustled through corners with surprising pace and composure. Entry-level versions get gruff four cylinder diesel powerplants or a smooth petrol. Only the entry-level E220 diesel can be had with a vague and clunky six-speed manual gearbox – the excellent seven-speed auto is standard on all other cars. Pick of the line-up is the refined and rapid 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
As you’d expect from a Mercedes, the E-Class put on a strong five-star display in the Euro NCAP tests. Sturdy construction, a full complement of seven airbags and standard fit electronic stability control all helped the Mercedes notch up a top result. What’s more, all versions also get a driver fatigue detection system, plus there’s the option of a night vision set-up, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and radar-guided cruise control which can even steer the car, provided you keep one hand on the wheel. Solid engineering suggests that the E-Class should be as dependable as its famously tough ancestors, while the standard three-year warranty is backed up by the firm’s Mobilo scheme, which delivers breakdown cover for up to 30 years if you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer.
The E-Class is a big estate car, so it’s not a surprise to find it has a huge load area. Open the standard powered tailgate and you’ll be confronted with a vast 695-litre load bay, while folding the rear bench flat liberates a cavernous 1,950 litres of carrying capacity – no other rival gets close to matching these figures. Better still, all models benefit from self-levelling rear suspension, so heavy loads never upset the car’s composure. Five adults have enough head and legroom to lounge around in comfort, plus there’s the option to add a third row of chairs. These rear-facing units fold out of the boot floor and turn the E-Class into an occasional seven-seater. A quick inspection of the interior reveals plenty of useful storage cubbies, plus a large glove box and a huge lidded compartment between the front seats.
Almost all the models in the E-Class line-up feature the brand’s BlueEFFICIENCY eco-friendly badge of honour. Yet it’s the E220 CDI and E250 CDI that are the cleanest of the lot. Thanks to the stop-start technology, both models emit 143g/km of CO2 and promise to return 52.3mpg. But even the muscular E350 CDI diesel will manage over 45mpg and emits only 162g/km. As with any Mercedes, exploring the options list can end up costing a small fortune – specifying sat-nav or a real leather finish for the seats will leave your bank manager in tears. And as with its saloon counterpart, the E-Class Estate suffers from surprisingly poor residuals, with some models only just holding onto around 40 per cent their value after three years – the BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant are stronger performers here.