IF you were to have one car for the rest of your life, what would it be? I have my answer and it’s been the same for decades. It’s the Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate. Relaxing to drive, built so well that it will last a lifetime and extremely practical. I’ve owned one myself (one of the legendary 1990 W124 models) and have regretted selling it even though I don’t need such a big car now.
Mercedes launched a new version of the E-Class saloon earlier this year and, since one in three E-Classes sold in Europe are estates, it hasn’t hung about building this car. So is it still a car for life or has Mercedes botched the job? We’re testing an E220d in the AMG Line. That’s the top spec, while the SE is the more modest trim choice.
Engines offered at the moment (before the thermonuclear AMG versions arrive, see below) are 2.0-litre diesels: this one with 194bhp, the E200d with 150bhp and the E350d with 258bhp. The on-the-road price for our car is £40,430 without options. Big money, but Mercedes does highly competitive leasing deals with surprisingly low monthly payments.
We recently tested the new Volvo V90 estate and noted that it had a very un-Volvo sloping tailgate. It’s as if Mercedes’ designers saw this car coming and decided to give their usually boxy estate a similar bit of swoopy style. This is fine as long as luggage capacity and practicality isn’t lost in the sexing-up process. Thankfully, the reverse has happened here – and the new E-Class estate has more load capacity than the model it replaces.
That said, the curvier tail might make loading large pieces of furniture slightly more awkward. Seats down you have 1,820 litres of space to play with. All versions have self-levelling rear suspension, seats that fold at the press of a button and an optional electric tailgate that can be opened by a waggled foot under the bumper. We car critics do perform a useful function after all. I and many others criticised this engine when we tried it in the new E-Class saloon earlier this year. Despite its high tech innards, it was noisy and gruff.
The engineers have taken note and recalibrated the engine management with noticeable results. The engine is now as quiet as it should have been in the first place and works brilliantly with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration to 62mph from rest is 7.7sec, but a combined fuel consumption of 61.4mpg is more relevant. You’ll easily average over 50mpg in the real world.
Air suspension is an option not fitted to our test car, but even on normal standard springs the E220d estate rides comfortably. Inside, you obviously get the same choice of kit you do in the saloon which includes Mercedes’ excellent 12.3in configurable dashboard display and – if your wallet will run to it – the outstanding optional Burmester audio system which was part of our car’s £3,895 Premium Plus Package. My 1990 E280 estate was fitted with an optional third row of seats to bring capacity to seven. That’s an option on the new car for £1,250. Pretty good value for what it adds. I’d tick that box ev