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What - Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
Where - Hertfordshire, UK
Date - January 2010
Price - £29,857-£73,855
Available - Now
Key rivals - Audi A6 Avant, BMW 5 Series Touring, Skoda Superb Estate
Vast, practical estate version brings all the appeal of the new E-Class in even more useful packaging
We like - Ride comfort, cabin ergonomics and practicality, space, safety technology, smooth new petrol engines, steering feel, old-school appeal
We don't like - You'll need a big parking space, thirsty petrol engine, no seven-speed auto for the four-cylinder engines, many of the choice features will cost you extra
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
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As loyal and faithful as the dog likely as not to be found in its capacious boot, the Mercedes E-Class Estate may have been out-glammed by SUVs and crossovers but maintains a loyal following. And now there's a new one.
And while rivals trade practicality for supposed sporting cred and other superficial qualities the E-Class wagon remains resolutely conservative and true to the cause. This is a traditional, roomy family estate car and all the better for it.
The E-Class on which it is based has impressed in all its various forms so far and the Estate is no exception. The styling is perhaps a tad heavy handed on first impressions but mellows as you become used to it, distinctive rear wheelarch flares breaking up the square-cut profile.
It's a big, imposing car and every inch a Mercedes. But somehow the estate version lacks the aggression of the saloon and coupe and manages to be as close to classless as it's possible to be with an expensive luxury car.
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Priced from £29,785 through to £73,855 the performance varies as widely as the price. And though the flagship 525hp E63 AMG wagon is all very amusing the core of buyers will probably be more interested in the diesels and new four-cylinder turbo engines.
The latter are all-new so we leapt at the chance to drive the E200 CGI. The cheapest car in the range, this new 1.8-litre direct-injection turbo engine replaces the previous supercharged Kompressor engines.
Likely to be a mainstay of both the E- and future C-Classes it's offered in 183hp 200 CGI and 204hp 250 CGI forms, with 199lb ft and 229lb ft of torque respectively, the 200 CGI up 15 lb ft over the Kompressor.
That torque comes in at a diesel-like 1,800rpm too and feels strong as a result, though not as potent as the twin-turbo 220 and 250 CDI diesels. It's more refined though and, at 8.7 seconds 0-62mph, plenty quick enough for a family car.
Ride and handling
Depending on your choice of engine (and, by extension, budget) there are various suspension options on the E-Class Estate. All models get air-sprung self-levelling rear suspension though, keeping the car on the straight and level no matter how much kit you've got in the boot.
Four-cylinder cars get standard steel springs up front, V6s offering optional Airmatic suspension all round. This system is standard on the V8 E500, the E63 getting its own bespoke set-up. All have generally slightly stiffer settings than the saloon.
On standard suspension and 16-inch wheels the entry level E200 CGI rides with a beautifully judged authority and comfort. There's a crisp edge to the ride but it's never harsh and, though comfort-oriented, body control is sublime.
Feel from the unfashionably large steering wheel - a classic Benz feature - is accurate, beautifully fluid and well-weighted too, the E-Class settling into a comfortable, relaxing lope even on tight, twisty backroads.
Up front the E-Class Estate is much like the rest of the range, which is to say hard edged and quite severe in design but superb ergonomically and sturdily constructed. It's a comfy place to spend time.
So what about the new model's load carrying credentials? Well, even with the seats up there's a simply vast 695 litres of boot space, extendable to just shy of 2,000 litres with the seats flattened - a simple, one-touch procedure.
As such it's bigger inside even than the new Skoda Superb Estate, an obvious cut-price challenger in the premium estate market but one that has to yield to the E-Class's five-generations of experience in this field.
Various Easy-Pack 'load management' options meanwhile help stop your stuff rattling around that cavernous space out back, a rear bench seat also on the options list for seven-seater ability. An annoyingly slow Easy-Pack power tailgate is standard.
Economy and safety
You could fill this whole page detailing the E-Class's safety features but the award winning anti-drowsiness system Attention Assist deserves special merit, as does the pedestrian protecting pop-up bonnet. Further safety tech is available on the exhaustive options sheet.
The new four-cylinder petrol engines are right up there in terms of efficiency technology but sadly not as impressive in terms of economy. In our hands the E200 CGI could only get near its official 35.8mpg with a feather-like touch on the throttle.
MSN Cars verdict
Mature, sensible and unpretentious the E-Class Estate is, nonetheless, far from boring. There's something incredibly pleasing about its solidity, its comfort and user friendliness. Welcome proof, in other words, that there's life in the family estate yet.
|Need to know|
|Engine - petrol||1.8-litre four-cyl (two versions), 3.5-litre V6|
5.5-litre V8, 6.2-litre V8
|Engine - diesel||2.2-litre 4-cyl (two versions), 3.0-litre V6|
|Torque (lb ft)||199-465|
|Top speed (mph)||127-155 (limited)|
|Rating||Mercedes-Benz E200 CGi SE Estate|
|Ride and handling||*****|
|MSN Cars verdict||*****|
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