Styling

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but does E-Class cut a dash out on the road?

Ratings Mercedes 4/5 The E-Class saloon looks fussy in places, but the Estate is far moresuccessful. It’s as if it was conceived, first and foremost, to be aload carrier. The extended roofline is neatly integrated into thedesign, giving the Mercedes a clean and well proportioned appearance.Optional metallic brown paint looks great in bright sunlight. BMW 4/5 Even though the Touring is due to be replaced later this year, there’snot much wrong with it. The once-controversial design has aged wellover the years, and the estate still looks good. It’s also the only carhere to feature a separate opening rear windscreen – a neat andpractical touch that’s very welcome. Audi 3/5 Age is also catching up with the Audi. But as with the 5-Series, the A6Avant doesn’t look out of date. In fact, its flush surfaces, sharplines and clean styling still give a modern appearance. However, itneeds the larger alloy wheels and sporty extras that come withhigh-spec S line trim to make the same impact as its rivals.

*****

Just because you need the added space and practicality of an estate doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the style associated with an executive car – and these models prove it. Load carriers used to be the poor relation of the range, but not any more.

The Mercedes pulls off a handy trick, because it actually looks better as a carrier than it does in saloon guise. From the front, it shares the twin headlamps and famous grille of its four-door stablemate. But it’s all change at the back, where the extended roofline and additional side windows have been neatly incorporated. While the saloon looks frumpy and dated from the rear, the estate is much more modern.

In profile, it has a more upright stance than its rivals, but that’s because the E-Class has stayed true to its roots as an out-and-out load carrier, and it reaps the rewards in practicality. We’re less keen on the contrived front LED running lamps that come as standard in Avantgarde and Sport trims – but the rear light clusters are striking and the overall impression it generates is one of understated class.

Avantgarde trim includes suspension that rides 15mm lower than on entry-level SE models, plus larger 17-inch alloys, which have a sporty twin-spoke design. And these additions help to give it a purposeful appearance.

If the new E-Class is the young upstart of the executive estate car line-up, the BMW 5-Series is the old timer. Although we’ve already tested the new saloon (Issue 1,100), this current Touring version is set to soldier on for a while yet. However, it certainly still looks the part.

With its tapering rear end, the BMW undoubtedly has the sportiest appearance of our trio, and its styling, which created a storm of controversy when the car first appeared in 2004, has aged incredibly well.

In M Sport trim, you get metallic paint as standard, as well as the dramatic 18-inch multi-spoke alloys in our pictures. Lower-spec SE models feature smaller 17-inch rims – the same size as on the Mercedes – but neither includes chrome roof rails. Instead, they come with a subtle black finish. The A6 is no spring chicken, either. It debuted in 2006, but the elegant proportions and facelift in 2008 mean it has stood the test of time. Mixing sharp lines with smooth curves, the Avant is the most reserved model in our line-up – and entry-level cars can look a bit anonymous with their smaller alloys and ordinary headlamps.

Our S line variant stood out thanks to its 20mm lower suspension, LED daytime running lamps, smart 18-inch wheels, unique front bumper and sporty side skirts. However, this kit adds £1,250 to the cost of the mid-range SE – which is already £640 more expensive than the equivalent Mercedes.

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