What is it?
There’s something reassuringly constant about the Mercedes E Class. This is the brand’s heartland car, a car that you know will always be there, and will always offer the same considered blend of conservatism, advanced technology, good taste and fine manners.
The E-Class, and its differently labelled predecessors, has always been provided as a saloon, quite often a coupé and since 1978 as an estate, the first of these based on the long-lived W123. Mere months after the arrival of the seventh generation E-Class saloon we now have the estate, its speedy arrival no surprise given that one in three E-Classes is sold in this form across Europe.
The E-Class estate formula again remains constant, its boxier rear body providing a tailgate and a long, flat load floor. This time, though, the rear end has more of a coupé silhouette, despite which the seats-up load capacity rises from 600 to 640 litres, or 670 litres when you use the facility to position the backrest slightly closer to vertical. Self-levelling rear suspension is standard (the 350 gets Airmatic, too), the optional tow-hook is now electrically powered and height adjustable, the rear seats can be electrically released via boot-mounted buttons and the parcel shelf rises when the standard electric tailgate opens.
Waggling your foot beneath the back bumper to raise the tailgate only works if you order the option, but it now functions with the tow-hook. Later this year a foldaway third row of seats for kids will be available allowing space for seven.
The wagon is available with all the engine options offered in the saloon, the most popular of these is predicted to be the 220 d, featuring Mercedes’ all-new four-cylinder diesel. It promises useful improvements over the outgoing 220 d, its 7.7sec to 62mph, 61.4mpg combined and 120g/km of CO2 are all substantial improvements over the previous engine.
Much effort has been expended not only in making this engine quieter, but also making the E-Class estate’s cavernous cabin structure less of a noise-generating boom box. A strengthened engine bay, floor reinforcement struts and extensive sealing - including the door handles – are the results of this campaign. If you’re noise-obsessed, you can also order an acoustic pack featuring sound-suppressing glass, too, making the mighty, optional Burmester stereo that bit more impressive.
What's it like?
As you’d hope, it’s quiet, and the new 220 d motor is noticeably quieter than it was in the E-Class saloons sampled a few months ago. E-Class engineering chief Michael Kelz says there have been engine management recalibrations since, and they now produce a soundtrack worthy of all the innovation that this engine carries.
The 220 d works very effectively with Mercedes' nine-speed automatic transmission, a refined shifter of gears and a significant contributor to its potential fuel economy. It needs to be good because the old 2.1 diesel was pleasing for its ability to do 50mpg-plus almost everywhere, despite its coarse manners.
You’ll need to play with the dynamic toggle on the centre console to extract performance that feels like 7.7sec to 62mph, but this is hardly a hardship and provides something of a dual character for this car. It’s not a sports estate, but body control is impressive when you push it hard. On optional air springs it’s supple too, producing a ride to complement the near-silence that you ride in.
And so to the rear end. The new, curvier tail also produces a curvier upper tailgate opening, which might make furniture loading more of a challenge, although you’re more likely to notice the boot’s considerable length and intrusion-free flanks. Seats down – they handily split 40/20/40 – the E-Class provides 1820 litres and a flat deck, although this has been achieved by raising the boot floor, and you’ll need a luggage net to stop small items skittering off the front end of the deck to tumble into the rear seat passenger footwells. Unless you’re trying a van-free house move, though, this car is likely to provide all the carrying capacity you’ll ever need.
That said, rear seat occupants may beg to differ despite the claimed gains in leg and head room, space for your feet is limited if those up front sink their seats low, and the cushion could provide more support, its shape presumably compromised by the desire for a flat-folding backrest.
Should I buy one?
As you’d hope of this Mercedes hardy perennial, the E-Class estate does exactly the job you’d expect, but with more efficiency, quietness, pace and a little more dynamic verve, too. Its cabin can look fabulously sumptuous if you tick the right trim and option boxes, and it’s very well made.
The estate obviously comes with all the features of the E-Class saloon, including the optional and hard-to-resist 12.3in configurable dashboard display and a phalanx of semi-autonomous driver aids that for the most part enhance the driving experience, add a layer of interest and strengthen the car’s safety defences.
Small packaging flaws apart, the 220 d estate is a mighty impressive tool, and a highly civilised, intriguingly advanced one besides.
Mercedes-Benz E220 d AMG Line Estate
Location Germany; Price £40,430; On sale now; Engine 4cyls, 1950cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 191bhp at 3800rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1600-2800rpm; Gearbox 9-spd auto; Kerb weight 1780kg; 0-62mph 7.7sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 61.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 120g/km, 24% Rivals BMW 5 Series Touring, Audi A6 Avant