The Mercedes E-Class estate has been around for more than 50 years; the current model is the sixth version of this venerable car. For decades, no one could get near the perfect blend of space, style, comfort, practicality and prestige. Then the BMW 5-Series Touring got seriously good, as did Audi’s A6 Avant. And now there’s the best-looking one of the lot: the Volvo V90. But hot on the heels of this trio the SUV circuit arrived in town, and ever since estate sales have plunged in accordance with the all-consuming rise in SUV purchases.
Although global markets don’t yet point this way, we predict the slow but steady resurgence of the estate at the expense of the SUV, as people realise you can often fit more in the boot, and you get undoubtedly better handling.
Meanwhile, has the E-Class estate still got that special blend that puts it at the top of the tree? There’s a huge array of engines, diesel and petrol, and the AMG-spiced straight-six, which we’ve tested, or the mighty V8 E63 AMG range-topper.
It’s all about space with this car. Large door bins, a massive glovebox, dashboard pockets and space under the centre armrest accommodate daily paraphernalia, while there’s leg room for four six-foot adults and a boot for everything else. Only the Volvo V90 feels bigger.
Press the button for the electric tailgate and you’ll see there’s enough room for four two-week suitcases and space for a small one under the false floor. Big dogs and their crates are easily accommodated, as is a month’s worth of grocery shopping. All that and it still looks svelte.
It doesn’t matter how many times we drive Mercs, we can’t get used to the steering-wheel-mounted gear lever, but maybe that’s just us. Niggles aside, Mercedes’ infotainment system is still great and hasn’t aged, unlike some of its competitors’. Specify the Command Online navigation system which gives you a large screen and great digital cockpit graphics; wireless phone charging and 360-degree parking cameras are great additions, too, as is the mood lighting which creeps right round the cabin (you can adjust to any colour of the spectrum, or a mixture of several, via the display – it’s amazing what a spot of yellow will do on a gloomy day for the spirits).
The E53, with its AMG-enhanced straight-six engine, may just be the pick of the bunch. The 2.0-litre engines feel too pedestrian, while the V8 is fantastic if you can afford the price tag and fuel costs but feels like an extravagance not justified by everyday driving. That bi-turbo V6, on the other hand, develops 435 horsepower and 520Nm (385lb ft) of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox and the 4MATIC four-wheel drive. The result is an unobtrusively powerful drive, with purring acceleration and a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds to get you out of trouble.
Our car also came with AMG’s Ride Control suspension, which continues the plush ride that has made Mercedes so popular for long-distance travel through the years.
This is a car for the head, rather than the heart, but there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, the sense of smug satisfaction you get from knowing you’ve made absolutely the right choice of car for your family is unrivalled. According to research by Auto Trader, the vast majority of people make their car choice out of a sense of exhaustion at the end of the purchasing journey, and aren’t at all convinced they’ve bought the car they really wanted. There will be no such worries with this Mercdes E-Class estate: we can’t think of a box you might have on your list that wouldn’t be ticked by this car.