What is it?
The problem with being top dog is that you can fall flat whenever you’re forced to change.
Which is why the latest Mercedes E-class estate sticks closely to the virtues of its strong-selling predecessors. That means it avoids the sportier, style-led approach of some rivals, and holds to the conventional, upright design that Merc buyers know well.
What’s it like?
While the exterior boasts an edgy new look as well as slightly larger dimensions all round, Mercedes has ensured that the new E-Class wagon is still the load capacity leader.
Its 695-litre boot may be no bigger than the outgoing model’s, but it beats the Audi A6 Avant by 130 litres and the BMW 5-series Touring by 195 litres. And with the rear seats folded down, capacity increases to 1950 litres – again, well up on the competition.
But it’s the ease of use that’s most impressive. An electrically operated tailgate, for instance, is now standard across the range, and two levers at the rear of the cargo bay allow you to drop the rear seat backs without having to walk around and open the rear doors.
Criticisms? As in the C-class estate, the rear seat bases no longer hinge forward, so the front section of the load bay isn’t perfectly flat. Nor does the front passenger’s seat fold down, limiting the overall length of the load bay.
No fewer than nine engines are on offer, from a 134bhp 2.1-litre diesel to a 383bhp 5.5-litre petrol V8. We drove the E250 CDI with a twin-turbo version of Merc’s latest 2.1-litre, common-rail diesel feeding a five-speed automatic gearbox.
With 201bhp and 369lb ft, the engine works hard. There’s real shove from low down and great mid-range tractability. The best bit, though, is the combined fuel figure of 48.7mpg. But watch out: this model gets a 59-litre fuel tank; petrol versions have an 80-litre tank.
Dynamically, the E250 CDI leaves little to be desired. It’s a big car that drives small on winding roads. The steering is light but precise, and its wonderfully composed ride continues to set the E-class estate apart.