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The Top Gear car review: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

£36,605£85,585
8/10
Overall verdict

For: 

A level of comfort that takes it up a class

Against: 

It's expensive but that's about it
The most practical and best thought out estate of all. Basically it’s this or the dynamic vigour of the BMW 5-Series.

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Our choice

Mercedes-Benz

E250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY SE 5dr

£33,250
N/A
50mpg
7.80s
204bhp
150g/km

What we say: 

The E-Class wagon wafts around in comfort, yet still has a huge loadspace. Splendid

What is it?

The E-Class estate has traditionally played it straight down the line. For 2013 though, it gets a truckload of added style, courtesy of the most comprehensive mid-life facelift in Mercedes’ history. All models get the coupe-style front end, the rear end is smoother and the interior is even better finished than before (and that’s saying something).

Two things remain, though: the truly humungous load bay, big enough to even make this a seven-seater if you so wish, plus the fact it’s built to an uncommonly high standard. Seriously, this car feels like it will last for a lifetime. No wonder German taxi firms love ‘em.

Driving

The E-Class has always been about comfort rather than dynamic aggression. Even with the 2013 revisions, which give it a bit of extra focus, it’s still not the best driver’s car in its class – the BMW 5-Series still takes the honours there. However, it has long been the best at performing limo-like duties in a mid-sized footprint, and these are abilities that are also enhanced in the latest version. More softly sprung than the Beemer, it’s a bit wallowy in the corners by comparison, but that’s because it’s geared for comfort. It washes over a manhole cover or pothole like it was scarcely even there and smoothes out the ripples on faster roads like a warp speed steamroller.

Mercedes sensibly focuses on diesel engines, with the two four-cylinder motors taking the bulk of sales. There’s a diesel hybrid version too, along with a creamy V6 oil-burner, while 2013 sees the introduction of a sweet new 2.0-litre turbo four-pot petrol and the continuation of the full-fat AMG V8. It now produces 557bhp, for heaven’s sake! As for gearboxes, every engine above base E 220 CDI gets a standard seven-speed auto.

On the inside

The interior always had plenty of integrity; now, with tasteful trim upgrades throughout, it also looks and feels like a junior S-Class, too. It is spacious throughout and rear passengers will feel cosseted by such a clear focus on comfort. Because of its rear-wheel-drive configuration, however, there is the issue of a meaty transmission tunnel taking up floor space, something that impinges on a third rear passenger. But the estate boot will take up to 1,950 litres. That’s 300 more than an A6 or 5.

Owning

As with all Mercs, you can only hope to off set the irritating extra initial expense over and above its equally accomplished rivals with the strong residual values that this brand enjoys. The low-CO2 engines are reasonably economical though – provided you haven’t bought the E 63 AMG. If you have, then running costs are an irrelevance. But they’re worth it.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
E63 S 5dr Auto
4.2s 232g/km 28.3 585 £85,585
The cheapest
E220 BlueTEC SE 5dr 7G-Tronic
8.6s 124g/km 60.1 177 £36,605
The greenest
E300 BlueTEC Hybrid AMG Night Ed 5dr 7G-Tronic
7.4s 114g/km 64.2 204 £44,910

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

8/10

Skoda Superb Estate

£19,785£35,590
This keeps coming up as a wildcard, but the Skoda Superb Estate. It's huge, comfortable and classless