Mercedes E-Class Estate review
The Mercedes E-Class adds vast carrying ability to the saloon's formula off quality, comfort and luxury
Few cars are as synonymous with spacious family transport as the Mercedes E-Class Estate. The E-Class Estate of today has moved a long way upmarket from Mercedes's original estate cars, although it can trace its roots to the late 1970s and the W123 series.
The current model is the W213, and was introduced in 2016 as a saloon, with the estate version arriving soon after. The estate shares the sweeping lines of its four-door sibling, but adds an extended roof line with integrated roof rails and extra rear windows. Other standard kit includes a power tailgate that can be set to open at different heights and self-levelling air suspension at the rear.
Inside, you get a 640-litre boot, which is more than you'll find in the E-Class Estate's main rivals, the BMW 5 Series Touring, Volvo V90, Audi A6 Avant and Jaguar XF Sportbrake. The back seats fold in a 40:20:40 split and create a maximum of 1,820 litres with them all folded. Mercedes also claims that there's enough depth in the boot and width between the rear wheelarches for a Europallet cargo pallet to fit - it's one of the few cars that's capable of carrying one.
Car group tests
There's plenty of tech carried over from the saloon, too. The semi-autonomous 'Drive Pilot' system is offered, while Merc's smartphone-controlled remote parking system is available. Inside, the twin 12.3-inch displays give the dashboard a hi-tech feel to go with the luxury and comfort found elsewhere inside.
There are three diesel and three petrol engines available in the E-Class Estate, although there's no plug-in hybrid E 350e Estate. The E 200 d and E 220 d use the same 2.0-litre diesel which is far smoother than Merc's ageing 2.1-litre, and they make 150bhp and 194bhp respectively. If that's not enough, the E 350d gets a silky smooth 3.0-litre V6 that makes 258bhp. All cars come with Merc's 9-speed G-Tronic auto, while 4MATIC four-wheel drive is offered on the E 220d and E 350d.
The petrol cars are the powerhouses of the range, as they are all rapid Mercedes-AMG models in the shape of the E 43, E 63 and E 63 S Estates. The 43 gets a 401bhp 3.0 twin-turbo V6, while the 63s get a 4.0-litre twin-tubro V8 with either 571bhp or a massive 612bhp, while all three feature 4MATIC four-wheel drive, with the 63 models gaining a '+' version with more adjustable settings.
There are two basic trims offered on the E-Class Estate - SE and AMG Line (although the E 350d is AMG Line-only) - while both can be upgraded with Premium and Premium Plus packs. The petrol AMG cars are considered models in their own right, while the other model in the range is the E-Class All Terrain, a high-riding estate with 4WD, plastic body cladding and a raised ride height.
It should come as no surprise that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate is just as alluring and desirable as the saloon. It retains that car's elegantly styled, solidly built and tech-laden interior, plus its excellent comfort and refinement, and adds a boot that's bigger than any rival's in the class.
Those after the most accomplished blend of agile handling and comfort should consider the BMW 5 Series Touring, but the E-Class still has strong, efficient engines, while the models with air suspension are exceptionally cossetting. it's not exactly cheap to begin with, so the extensive (and expensive) options list means you need to be careful when speccing it up.
Engines, performance and drive
Mercedes has its Modular Rear Architecture (MRA) to underpin the E-Class. The car benefits from a multi-link rear axle, and the E-Class Estate has self-levelling air suspension at the rear, while adaptive dampers are standard.
19-inch wheels are standard on AMG Line cars, while optional 20-inch items are offered. These do affect the ride quality as the E-Class feels a little harsher than a BMW 5 Series Touring over similar surfaces.
You notice bumps more, sometimes by the resounding thud, but on faster A-roads and motorways the E-Class feels more at home. The chassis copes with gentle, rolling tarmac well, allowing the body to float over less severe imperfections to deliver a decent level of comfort, but you’re never too far from a harsher impact due to the larger alloys and low-profile tyres.
The Mercedes isn’t as capable dynamically as a 5 Series, either. There’s still a good level of grip, but the chassis feels more inert and less agile, taking longer to respond to your inputs – especially when it comes to changing direction.
Settle down to a cruise and on the motorway, and you're playing the car to its strengths. The nine-speed automatic gearbox makes for low cruising revs of just 1,300rpm at 70mph, while the slippery shape also means there’s virtually no wind noise, even in the All-Terrain model, which sits a little higher off the ground.
The E-Class estate doesn't offer a lot to reward the keen driver in entry-level form. There’s grip and composure, particularly on models fitted with the 4MATIC air suspension, but there's little interaction and the E-Class feels more heavy than agile. The E43 AMG is better, with loads of grip from its 4x4 system and a more alert chassis.
The Mercedes is available with air suspension, but it’s quite a pricey option on the four-cylinder E200d and E220d models. However, it's standard on the E350d (including the All-Terrain) and on both Mercedes-AMG models. The system keeps the car level when fully loaded and floats comfortably along on faster, smoother roads but the larger wheels mean the ride feels a little unsettled on jagged surfaces. Hit a corner quickly, and you’ll find body control soft in Comfort mode. Sport or Sport+ settings reduce roll, but also add an artificial weight to the steering. At least, with that option box ticked, there's an 'individual' mode which lets you set different parameters for the steering, gearbox and suspension.
What may be a surprise is that the All-Terrain model can venture surprisingly far off the beaten track. The All-Terrain drive mode and 4MATIC four-wheel-drive mean that it can head fairly comfortably up and down muddy, rocky tracks, even with a trailer in tow. Keep things under 19mph, and the air suspension remains propped up as far as it can go, giving a respectable 156mm of ground clearance.
The 2.0-litre diesel units are smooth and refined enough, and the E 220d delivers strong straight-line performance. With 191bhp and 400Nm of torque produced at 1,600rpm, the Mercedes accelerated from 0-60mph in 7.6 seconds when we tested it.
Thanks to the nine-speed automatic gearbox it’s serene at speed, although it’s not quite as snappy as a BMW 5 Series. While the new engine is definitely more refined than its predecessor, it’s also no quieter than the 5 Series and gets a little rattly at the top end. But use the low-down torque rather than stretching the 2.0-litre unit and the E-Class is a relaxing car.
The 3.0-litre V6 diesel is even better in that regard. It’s torquey and feels powerful, plus it’s much smoother than the four-cylinder units. It’s expensive to buy and drinks more diesel, but will be worth it for some. This is the only engine offered on the tougher looking All-Terrain, and while it's expensive it plays to that car's character well, and is hugely refined.
The ballistic E43 has a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol that’s happy to be revved, and sounds good - though it’s very hushed on the inside, so it’s other road users that will enjoy the sound most. It’s very fast, too, thanks to a grippy 4x4 system and nearly 400bhp.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The Mercedes E-Class Estate is a bit pricey to buy, but the E 220d model’s 67.3mpg and 109g/km CO2 economy figures are impressive enough. The E 200d model has less power, but returns exactly the same figures.
The more powerful 350d car returns 48.7mpg and emits 151g/km of CO2, which means it’ll cost more to run than the four-cylinder versions - though that’ll be worth it for the smooth engine for some buyers. Company car buyers will definitely prefer the 220d.
Those choosing the all-wheel drive system will see a slight hit at the pumps as a result - company car drivers are unlikely to do so as it moves the E-Class up a tax band on most versions. The All-Terrain model takes a further small hit in terms of fuel economy, but the Mercedes-AMG E43 Estate returns 32.8mpg, which isn’t bad for a car that can do 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, and emits 197g/km of CO2.
The most expensive E-Class Estate to insure is the E63, which sits in group 47, partly because of its blistering performance - although it’s not much worse than the All-Terrain model, which sits in group 43.
The E 220d is in group 31, but the cheapest model to insure is the E 200d, which manages to dip into group 29.
Interior, design and technology
The E-Class saloon takes its inspiration from Mercedes’ S-Class, so it gets plenty of the larger car’s svelte curves. However, look to the back of this estate version and it is the smaller C-Class Estate that serves as a template. That means the E-Class Estate gets the same sweeping roofline and steeply raked tailgate, plus similarly distinctive LED tail-lights that are joined by an eye-catching chrome trim strip.
Overall, it’s a classy design, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that, from many angles, it resembles a scaled-up C-Class Estate. Still, AMG Line models look more distinctive thanks to the addition of a sportier bodykit with bigger grilles, a deep rear bumper and chunkier side sills. It also gets eye-catching 19-inch alloy wheels that hide larger, drilled brake discs. There's also the All-Terrain model, which gives the estate an SUV-style makeover, with a raised ride hieght and rugged cladding on the body.
Inside, AMG Line models have Mercedes’ Seat Comfort package, which provides an even wider range of adjustment and helps make the car as comfortable as a Volvo V90. Other equipment highlights include adaptive dampers, LED headlamps, a self-parking system, a reversing camera and parking sensors. Sat-nav, heated seats, keyless go and a sports steering wheel with Mercedes’ new twin touchpad controls are also on the kit list.
The cabin feels upmarket, with the slick centre console design, metal-finish air vents and 64-colour ambient light set-up helping to give the car the same luxurious ambience as the brand’s S-Class flagship. And, while you’ll have to pay £1,595 extra for real leather (man-made Artico leather is standard), build quality is high.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Mercedes’ upgraded COMAND Online infotainment is well worth the £1,500 price. The screen size grows from 8.4 to 12.3 inches, but the sat-nav itself is also upgraded over the standard Garmin Map Pilot system.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, while Mercedes’ me connect services, giving details of fuel prices and restaurants and hotels near you, are included. The latter is free for one year, and upgrading to COMAND Online also adds traffic sign assist.
The system is easy to control using the scroll wheel and responds relatively quickly to your inputs, although it’s not quite as intuitive to use as BMW’s iDrive.
We’d also suggest paying the extra £495 for the second 12.3-inch screen in front of the driver, as this completes the classy cabin. The digital display can be configured to show nav data and driving readouts. The 13-speaker Burmester sound system is a nice option, but is £3,895 as part of the Premium Plus pack.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The E-Class Estate features a powered tailgate, remote release buttons for the 40:20:40 folding bench and luggage retaining net, plus the rear seatbacks can be tilted forward slightly for an extra 30 litres of space. The car also features a low load lip (although it's a little higher on the All-Terrain version), while the retractable cover rises up as the tailgate opens, making it easier to access items in the boot. Storage is good, too, with a large central cubby and a big trinket tray.
The E-Class won our 2017 Tow Car of the Year award, and it’s not hard to see why. A 2,100kg limit is 300kg more than the Volvo V90 can manage, while an electrically deployable tow bar is a £695 option.
With 640 litres of luggage space, the latest E-Class is 80 litres ahead of the Volvo V90, but 55 litres behind its predecessor. It’s a similar story when the seats are folded, because the Mercedes’ total capacity has shrunk from 1,960 litres in the old car to 1,820 litres in the newcomer.
Reliability and Safety
The E-Class adopts some of the safety tech from the S-Class, and gets autonomous braking as standard, plus seven airbags and the Attention Assist driver fatigue system. However, while adaptive cruise is included on the Volvo V90, it’s only available on the E-Class as part of the £1,695 Driving Assistance Plus Package.
Mercedes’ form in our Driver Power satisfaction survey isn’t as strong as you’d expect from a manufacturer that relies heavily on its premium status, with the brand finishing our 2016 poll in 12th place, just ahead of Volvo. More concerning for Mercedes will be the performance of its dealers, placed in a lowly 20th by owners, who were critical of the customer service and value for money.
Mercedes’ £37-a-month maintenance plan adds up to £1,332 for three years’ worth of servicing, which is £376 more than Volvo’s similar scheme for its rival V90.