Why I'd have this Mercedes E-Class estate in my garage
First drive: Mercedes E-Class
MERCEDES have gone to a lot of trouble to make sure their new E-Class estate doesn't suffer from that 'slab-sided' look that has dogged many a good car over the years.
By stretching the side windows and shortening overhangs they have kept it on the smarter side of the track.
But the inside was a less difficult proposition altogether. It is not just based on the saloon, it is identical to it. And I have to say the first car we drove, an E220d, was one of the nicest I've ever sat into.
It had the optional twin high-definition screens, creating a vast, widescreen cockpit.
Upholstered in two-tone leather, the final touch was a pinstripe effect on the dashboard inlay.
This E220d is expected to be the best seller when the car arrives for 2017 delivery.
The engine is the brand new 2.0 litre, replacing the old and gruff 2.2-litre. It's smooth and powerful with an output of 194bhp. All variants will come with a 9spd automatic transmission as standard.
The new estate is also fitted as standard with self-levelling rear suspension and there's an option of air suspension all around.
The result is a chassis that soaks up whatever bumps come its way while controlling body movements effectively.
It's not a thrilling drive but, for comfortable, secure mile-munching, it's hard to beat.
An estate car is all about load space and here the E-Class excels. Luggage capacity ranges from 670 to 1,820 litres, depending on configuration and, for flexibility, the seat back splits 40:20:40.
The rear seat back can be moved to a more upright position to accommodate an extra 30 litres of cargo even with the seats in use. From the end of the year, an option of a third row of child seats will also be available.
The E-Class comes with lots of tech, including Drive Pilot, which takes control of both speed and steering. I still don't like these systems, but this is one of the best I've tried. Although you're supposed to keep your hands on the wheel, the car was well able to steer and stop on the autobahn.
When you need to change lane, to overtake, for example, you simply indicate and the car does the rest so long as it's safe to do so.
I inadvertently got a chance to try the emergency braking system too. Traffic in front of me stopped suddenly and although I was already braking firmly, the car decided to take over and brake much harder. At the same time, I felt the seatbelt tighten around me as the pre-tensioner kicked in. It's good to know that these safety systems actually work when you need them.
After a coffee stop, we had a brief drive in the AMG E 43 4MATIC, with its 401bhp 3.0 V6 twin turbo. This was an entirely different and exciting driving experience and the sound from the petrol engine was addictive.
For me though, the pick of the range was the car I drove to the airport the following morning. The E350d gave effortless performance from its six cylinder 3.0 litre engine. It's the car I'd put in my garage.
Prices start at €55,700 for the Avantgarde E220d. Exclusive and AMG trims will also be available.