Currently reading: James Ruppert: The great estate debate
Is the future in doubt for Mercedes wagons? We hope not
5 mins read
5 October 2021

Well, that’s rather upsetting: I learn from Autocar that Mercedes-Benz is not at all sure about the future of its estate cars.

Sometimes it does seem as though the whole motoring world is going to become SUV-shaped. I think this is a good time to remind the company of its greatest load-lugging hits. Maybe Benz will reconsider and keep on making the things.

Where do we start? Ideally at the W123 end of things, because that’s how you begin to make a legend. You don’t see many around now. There are some five-figure examples around, but I was rather taken by a 230TE automatic with a family back story and more than 250,000 miles. It does need work, but a great spec includes self-levelling suspension, rear-facing child seats and electric windows. There is rust, though – front wings, wheel arches, doors – so the £5000 asking price is just the starting point. Sorting that out plus the paintwork is going to be £2000- £3000. Worth it, though.

Click here to buy your next used car from Autocar

Unarguably, the W124 model is the very greatest estate known to humankind. This really was peak Mercedes for build quality and overall engineering integrity. It had a lovely wide and flat load bay and children love the rear-facing seats, but they’re only really suitable for the school run. There are less decent ones around now, but a 1995 280TE automatic with 124,000 miles for £7000 is as good as it gets for value. Leather, electric roof, air-con and windows that all work. There was a lot of detailed history largely reproduced in the advert, which is always reassuring. That’s the one to buy, and £7k is as cheap as it will get.

If you want cheap, then although a 2003 E-Class would not have been Merc’s best, they were at least huge inside. An E320 CDI with 140k miles and three previous owners is £1695. It is a teeny bit tired and there’s some wheel-arch rust, but they all have that, of course. Full history, it says, and it seems to be ready for work.

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If that’s too old and scruffy, give some love to a 2011 E220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE automatic. It has just over 100,000 miles and has a recent enough service and a decent specification with all the usual Comand, climate and, oh, a cigarette lighter and ashtray, so we’ll have to see if there’s a whiff of smoke. Still, £5800 is reasonable and ref lects the increasing diesel-sceptic tax.

If you don’t need a huge amount of space then downsize to a C-Class, which is pretty much the same size as the old E anyway. Just £5300 gets you a 2011 200 CDI BlueEfficiency with 100k miles. It’s a pretty clever way to get around and those engines deliver just shy of 60mpg in ideal conditions. Yes, it’s our duty to make Mercedes estate cars cool again.

What we almost bought this week

Dodge Caliber 2.0 TD SXT Sport: Note we say ‘almost’. In his review of the Caliber in 2006, this magazine’s Matt Prior advised readers not to buy the model. A cheap-feeling interior and crashy ride, poor body control, unresponsive steering, a laggy Volkswagen turbodiesel and a sticky clutch were his criticisms. Our find is a 2007-reg with 90,000 miles for £1799. Best walk away, then.

Tales from Ruppert's garage

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BMW 320, 85,539 miles: One thing I noticed swanning around in the freshly MOT’d Baby Shark was the fact that the wipers were fairly marginal. They worked okay but could be better. Luckily, I have a retro stock of old blades in their original packets. The 320’s are held on with the old pegs. I could get the nearside one out but not the other. I left the new/old stock on the flat surface of the Lorry. The next day I drove off with it on board, so it fell off and I found it a day later as flat as a pancake. As you don’t really want to see a picture of a one-dimensional windscreen wiper, here’s the brand spanking new exhaust in situ.

Readers' Ride

MGF 1.8: Thanks to Craig for sharing this 2001 MGF 1.8 he bought for his other half: “The car I chose had 77,000 miles on the clock and a good history but needed a thorough clean and a refill for the Hydragas suspension. It came with the optional hard top. I found an old Autocar article saying this cost £1095 in 1996 – I paid £1000 for both car and roof, including a full tank of fuel. My partner and I have travelled all over the Brecon Beacons and the South Wales coast. There is that same feeling of freedom you get with your first car.”

Reader's Questions

Q. I’m about to enter the shark-infested pool that is known as the used car market. Are there any new scams I should be aware of? Craig Stone, via email

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A. Used car prices are riding high, so be suspicious of anything youngish and with low mileage that is too cheap. Not everything is fetching strong money, but as supplies dwindle, prices are only going one way. You should always run a history check on a used car, but rather than just one, do two checks, since some companies delve deeper into vehicle histories than others. Pay the smallest pre- purchase deposit you can, check online reviews of the seller and beware of those requesting your payment by bank transfer only.

Q. My car is approaching its first MOT but I’ve heard there’s a backlog of tests this month due to Covid. What is the situation and how has it arisen? Sandra Metcalfe, via email

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The DVSA, which manages MOTs, says last year’s six-month test extension, which enabled people to continue driving through Covid, will increase demand between September and December. However, following discussions with the motor industry, it says it’s confident garages will be able to cope. Call around and establish the picture in your area. You can get an MOT up to a month (minus a day) before it starts and still keep the original renewal date.

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289 5 October 2021

Quite right James, Mercedes-Benz Estates were the class act for many years

W123 model of choice was the 280TE, but the W124 was the ultimate, in either 280 or 320 versions (both are 6 cylinder engines). I have had dozens of them over the years, both company cars and private. Utterly reliable - all in Sportline format with the 7 seat option. Such a shame they dont make anything like that now.

Simple turbo's or complicated electronics. Built like a tank. I woud drive one today if they still made them.

Leyesa 5 October 2021

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scrap 5 October 2021

Mr Ruppert, you drive a Porsche Cayenne. Put your money where your mouth is. No good complaining about estates being replaced by SUVs if you do exactly that.