Mercedes E-Class 2005 review

Diesel is the fuel of choice for today's executive car drivers, thanks to a blend of economy & ever-improving performance.

Big diesels have always been one of Mercedes' strong points, and the E320 CDI upholds this tradition. The firm's reputation for reliability isn't as strong as it was, but resist going mad with the cost options and the E-Class estate is a tempting buy. However, we can't help feeling lower CO2 emissions would make it even better.

Despite its rising cost, diesel is the fuel of choice for today's executive car drivers, thanks to a blend of economy, and ever-improving performance.

Mercedes' fashionable new 3.0-litre V6 oil-burner is a perfect example. We first tried the powerplant in the C-Class, and now the German manufacturer has found space for the unit in the bigger E-Class. To see how the newcomer measures up, we drove the estate.

Its motor uses the latest-generation direct-injection technology to produce 510Nm of torque. Allied to a power output of 225bhp, this gives the big carrier serious pace and a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds.

On the move, the E-Class displays impressive in-gear performance and overtaking is completed with minimum fuss. The seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission helps, as it is well suited to Mercedes diesels, and the huge reserve of torque delivers smooth, refined progress.

There is the option to shift ratios manually, but most drivers will be content to flick the auto to its Sport setting when they want to raise the pace.

With fuel economy of 34.9mpg, you can afford to be heavy footed, but this figure is actually less economical than that of the old 3.2-litre engine, which the V6 replaces. The newcomer has slightly higher CO2 emissions than its predecessor, too, producing 202g/km from the Euro IV-compliant unit - a figure also bettered by the BMW 530d's 184g/km. But there is a noticeable improvement in performance, as the diesel provides quiet, high-speed cruising and has a keener throttle response.

The cabin materials and layout are high quality, but newer rivals are challenging Mercedes' once-unbeatable standards. However, in load-lugging form at least, the E-Class continues to have plenty to offer, and the lure of the three-pointed star is still strong. Inside, the massive cabin is attractively styled and the 650-litre boot is the biggest in its class. Features such as the Easy-Pack fixing kit (£160) - designed to stop small loads from sliding around - and the automatically opening and closing tailgate (£400) boost practicality, albeit at a price. Our Avantgarde model also had rear-facing child seats in the boot, which reduce load space but provide seven-passenger potential.

The refined and powerful oil-burner, on sale now, boosts the ageing E-Class line-up. It is an accomplished long-distance hauler, making this practical variant an excellent estate car choice. If only it was a little cheaper.

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