What is it?
The fourth generation of a car that has long deserved a place in the UK but which continues to be overlooked - the Mercedes E-class 4Matic.
Visually, there's very little to distinguish the 4matic from its rear-wheel drive E-class sibling; a new set of standard fit alloy wheels, marginally higher ground clearance and 4Matic badges being the only tell tale signs.
Owing to the cost involved in re-engineering its additional front driveshaft and planetary gear set for right-hand drive, however, the new E-class 4Matic and a whole raft of four-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz siblings, including the C-class, S-class and new GLK, are not available in the UK.
What's it like?
Uncompromised in ordinary driving situations, and ideally suited for any severe winter conditions.
The added traction and grip enhancing properties afforded by its permanent four-wheel drive system as well as its fast acting stability control system helps limit slip and provide confidence inspiring progress even on the most treacherous of snow covered roads.
The planetary drive differential doles out drive in a nominal 45:55 split front-to-rear but can vary it to a level of up to 70:30 when sensors detect greater grip at the front end or subsequently 30:70 when the rear end is deemed to possess the better traction.
The various electronic driver aids - stability control, traction control and anti skid - have been specially calibrated to enhance traction and operate in the same unobtrusive way as they do in standard rear-wheel drive E-class models.
Of particular note, is the E-class 4Matic's ability to pull away smartly on icy surfaces without any undue wheel spinning antics thanks to its limited slip centre differential, which limits the torque going to all four wheels to just 37lb ft when it detects big variances in traction front to rear.
By doing away with the additional gear set for the front axle, Mercedes has been able to package its latest 4Matic system without any significant changes to the E-class's three-link front suspension.
It has also been able to retain the positioning of the steering pump ahead of the engine. The upshot is a more direct and responsive feel to the steering along with added fluidity and willingness to the handling in dry conditions. It also rides superbly with excellent suppression of road noise.
The four-wheel drive E350CDI is even more likeable given that the additional 70kg brought on by the new four-wheel drive hardware has no great effect on performance or fuel consumption, which is put at over 40mpg.
Should I buy one?
The Mercedes E350 CDI 4Matic is an enticing proposition but you'd have to endure the every day difficulties involved in running a left-hand drive car here in the UK. For despite continual promises that it would find a solution to enable its burgeoning line-up of four-wheel drive 4Matic models to be sold in right-hand drive guise, Mercedes-Benz is yet to deliver on them.