Thursday 23 November 2017

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate: 'It will spoil you and your family rotten'

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate will spoil you and your family rotten, but at a price. Campbell Spray reports

NICELY SCULPTED: The new E-Class Estate looks good from the outside and stays on the elegant side of ‘pimp’ on the inside too
NICELY SCULPTED: The new E-Class Estate looks good from the outside and stays on the elegant side of ‘pimp’ on the inside too

We spoil our children so much it's almost merciless. Perhaps we know that we shouldn't but we still do.

Any excuse will do and there is none better than Christmas. Especially when your son is returning for the festive break after getting a massive promotion in his already pretty impressive job. And it's time for Dad to show off a bit too and live the life to which he aspires.

There was probably no better car in which to pick up my son at Dublin Airport a week or two back than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. The E-Class Saloon was probably the best - pound-for-pound - car launched last year for everything from technology, and driving ability to comfort and safety. It's a real looker too.

The estate might not be as good but it is almost there and the test model was shiny white with a lovely ivory leather interior. All I needed was a black suit and peaked cap and I could have acted as a chauffeur. Not that the son and his girlfriend minded. This was high-class luxury anyway.

The E-Class Estate even has the option of two child-sized rear-facing seats in the back which makes it a great option against rather unsightly SUVs.

It reminded me of my old Saab 9-5, the estate version of the classic rally-winning 96, which also had two pull-up seats under the rear-loading area. I had many a good night in the late 1970s and early 1980s ferrying a mix of six family and friends to soirees.

The sixth-generation E- Class Estate is much more sculpted than its boxy predecessors. A few litres of space have been lost for a lower, more CLS, roofline. Yet carrying capacity is still massive, beating its premium rivals, but losing out to the Skoda Superb and, surprisingly, the Peugeot 308 SW.

It's an absolute knock-out cabin with linear colour lighting. Lovely furnishings, wood fascia and total comfort - it stays just on the elegant side without going full-out pimp.

My colleague Andrew English in the Daily Telegraph talked about "soft, saddle-stitched leathers… amazing seats with backs shaped like a woman's torso, and the creamy ripple of the switches and effortless swish of the dials… nothing says Mercedes-Benz quite like this".

He encourages spending on the options for the different "wow" effect. That would include getting the panoramic glass sunroof "which gives the impression you are taking tea at The Savoy orangery". He would perhaps know more about that than I do.

Yet by loading up the spec, the whole car gets very pricey and the initial cost of the big-selling E220d Avantgarde Automatic version at €55,700 can very quickly increase by €20,000.

Mercedes-Benz says this model is "the most intelligent estate they have ever built". Driver Assistance Systems include such standard fitments as Active Brake Assist, for emergency braking; Attention Assist, to alert the driver to inattentiveness or drowsiness; and Crosswind Assist, which lessens the effects of strong crosswinds.

An optional Driver Assistance package offers a further suite of safety features that makes the E-Class have almost autonomous driving - it will overtake for you, stay within white lines, raise or lower speeds to stay with other vehicles.

The car can even be parked remotely. The cost may be heavy but it will come down as it trickles into other models. Handling is comfortable and quiet. OK, it doesn't excite but rather effortlessly glides you along.

At the moment, the engines are limited in choice with the main emphasis on diesels, especially the 220d. Despite their low CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, they are not the way forward. However, the new two-litre all-aluminium unit is quiet, powerful and has rather impressive engineering. All cars have the nine-speed auto box which spoils you for anything else.

Estate cars have never been big over here and importers fall over themselves to call their estates something like 'sportwagon' or SW.

Yet Mercedes-Benz sales manager in Ireland Ciaran Allen regards this latest E-Class Estate as the one that will ''turn convention on its head''.

''Combining legendary E-Class luxury, comfort and prestige with the versatile and practical features that estate car owners will recognise, we are confident the new E-Class Estate will appeal to many who may be considering estate car ownership for the first time,'' Allen said.

And, as I said, it does make a really plausible alternative to the SUVs, especially when four-wheel drive models arrive.

I rather like the Mercedes advertising phrase that "one day you promised yourself you would be driving a Mercedes, that day is now". If you have the money, through hard saving, an insurance policy, inheritance or your work position, it would be hard to do better.

But the rub of the 'Mercs and perks' idea could be turned back on the company itself. A Merc might be attainable, but all those extras rarely are, unless someone else is paying for them.

The E-Class Estate took up a lot of space in our garage next to our soon-to-be five years old Hyundai i10. Yet it always parked effortlessly thanks to all the cameras and sensors.

I wanted feedback from my partner about the E-Class Estate. She is renowned for positive critical judgments about me, especially what I wear, drink and eat. But on this occasion she just said: "Hmm lovely, but I might like a slightly smaller version." I'll take it as a compliment and share it with Mercedes.

The Mercedes-Benz started off the holiday season well for me. I was impressed, my son was impressed.

For the Christmas week, it was replaced by the Kia Optima SW, half the price but almost the same space. I'll report on that next.

Sunday Independent

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