The Mercedes E-Class
was our favourite executive estate before the BMW 5 Series Touring
turned up – and for good reason. The most practical version of the car is also the most stylish.
In Sport trim, you get a host of attractive kit, including 18-inch AMG wheels and styling add-ons. Together with the 15mm lower ride height, they help to give the estate a sleek and purposeful look.
Opening the powered tailgate reveals a generous 695-litre boot. That’s 130 litres bigger than its closest rival (the Audi), and when you fold the rear seats there’s a huge 1,950 litres of space. But sheer volume isn’t the only thing estate car buyers look for.
The Easy Pack folding floor lifts to reveal a further 112 litres of capacity, plus a neat collapsible crate to store loose items. Pay an extra £255 and you get the useful load-securing kit that adds sliding, floor-mounted retaining bars and straps. Neither is available in conjunction with the optional rear-facing child seats that were fitted to our test car.
You won’t be left wanting for kit up front, either, as Sport trim is very well equipped. So it should be, considering its hefty £36,145 price tag, but the latest Edition 125 models (which are available across the range) come with integrated sat-nav at no extra cost.
Luxuries such as heated front seats, faux leather upholstery and Bluetooth all come as standard, too, yet this equipment can’t hide the interior’s dated look and feel. There’s not much wrong with its straightforward layout, but it doesn’t have the high-quality materials or attractive design of its rivals.
At least the dizzying array of gadgets will satisfy technophiles. You can have everything from Night View Assist Plus (£1,225), which uses infra-red cameras to read the road ahead in the dark, to a Driving Assistance Package (£2,345) consisting of radar-operated cruise control, Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane-Keeping Assist.
On the road, the E-Class does what Mercedes tends to do best: prioritise comfort over outright handling. Even though the Sport model has lowered suspension, it shrugs off bumps that send shudders through the more firmly sprung BMW.
Elsewhere, the self-levelling air-suspension at the rear has obvious benefits for anyone planning to tow with the car, but overall, the E-Class’s competitors provide more driving thrills, precision and engagement behind the wheel.
Not that it’s outpaced by its rivals. Its 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel engine produces 400Nm of torque – the most of our three test cars – and is perfectly suited to the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox. That’s a £1,520 extra, but it’s an essential one, as the E-Class’s manual box is poor. The auto is effective around town thanks to its relaxed shifts and stop-start system, yet it falls short when you up the pace, as it’s slow to react to manual inputs.
While speed and cornering prowess won’t decide this test, the Mercedes is more expensive to buy, heavier on fuel and less efficient than its rivals.
Chart position: 3WHY: Huge boot means E-Class trumps its rivals for outright space, and standard kit list is impressive. It’s also hard to ignore the prestige appeal of the Mercedes badge.