Mercedes E350 CDI Estate: Fourth report

We prepare to wave a fond farewell to estate after a year of great service as a capable long-distance star

  • Practical, tough, versatile: I can’t praise the E-Class’ ability as a family car enough. But although the specification is out of this world (it even has a night-vision camera, which I never used), it’s still extremely comfortable over long distances. And the rear seat entertainment system keeps the kids happy, too.
  • With no stop-start system and a turbo big enough to propel its sizeable bulk to almost 160mph, the 231bhp E-Class was always going to be thirsty for fuel. Our last holiday run saw the car return a 30.7mpg average. That’s some way off the official figure of 39.7mpg.

The kids have just gone back to school, but it’s nearly the end of term for our long-term Mercedes E-Class Estate.

It’s going to be missed, and not only by me, but it didn’t start off that way. While the massive specification of this car was undeniably impressive, it did leave me cold at first.

With a list price of £41,185, and nearly £23,000 of options fitted, the E-Class also seemed to serve as proof of Mercedes’ talent for making a fortune out of its unsuspecting customers with lots of expensive extras.

But tours of Belgium, Italy, Germany and France (twice) have made the estate one of our most travelled long-term cars. And it turns out that great distances make the heart grow fonder.

Overseas work trips, holidays, weddings and weekends away – the E-Class soon became the office’s first choice for those important long-distance drives.

But as much as it provided upmarket, comfortable transport, it was the car’s ability to deal with extremes of road conditions and a variety of uses that helped seal its reputation as a top performer.

Highlights of its year with us included a 157mph blast through Germany, with its 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine touching 5,000rpm for mile after mile.

And then there was the time we drove all the way back through Belgium to Calais on less than a quarter of a tank of fuel.

By the time we hit home soil, the tank was so dry that we ended up splashing £115 of diesel into it at the first (and horrendously expensive) service station that we reached in the UK.

I was able to use the Merc as an MPV thanks to its pop-up rear seat, which is an absolute must for young families – my daughter loved it. Then I folded all the seats down and filled its 1,950-litre boot for a trip to the tip.

I also drove 1,000 miles with my family down to the south of France, and back again. And all in perfect air-conditioned comfort.

The appeal of this Mercedes lies in its high quality. While the interior isn’t quite as well finished as an Audi A6’s, and the driving experience doesn’t grab your lapels like a BMW 5 Series, it’s the kind of machine that gets better the more you drive it.

When the journey stretches out for hundreds of miles ahead of you, or includes something unexpected, then the Mercedes’ depth of character and breadth of ability really shine through.

It feels built to last, too – it’s a car you could live with for years. But we’re near the end of the road. And that staggering list price means there’s no way I can afford to buy it used. A standard model would now be worth slightly under £30,000, but with all of its optional kit, ours should fetch more than that. If the E-Class really is as well made as I reckon it is, it should still be knocking around in five or six years – I think I might be able to afford it by then.

So, if you do end up behind the wheel of KN60 DNU, give it some time to grow on you. And look after it, too. I’ll come to pick up the keys around 2017...

Extra Info

“I didn’t cover thousands of miles in the E-Class, but I have spent plenty of hours behind the wheel, crawling towards the office in heavy rush-hour traffic. It’s during these journeys that I wouldn’t wish to be driving any other car. The air-suspension, great stereo and comfortable seats make any stressful commute fly by.”

Luke Madden, Motoring writer

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