ONCE THE Mercedes E-class was the king of estate cars, a veritable removal van in disguise that could carry everything that an antiques dealer could throw at it or boasted enough boot space for a family summer holiday away with the dog and as – as the old joke goes – the mother-in-law.
But the days of making the E-class estate more practical than a kitchen larder would appear to be over. The new, 2017 model has had a makeover that places style over substance, with rakish lines that mean there’s less boot space than before.
Still, it’s very much a spacious family car, rather than a poky supermini. There’s 670 litres of cargo capacity (down by 25 litres compared with the last model) and that grows to 1,820 litres (a substantial 130-litre reduction) when the back seats are folded at the touch of a button.
It’s a trend that has been seen with the new Volvo V90. And despite shrinking somewhat, in a contest with an Audi A6 Avant and BMW 5-series Touring, the new E-class estate’s boot still breezes it. Later this year it will play its trump card: a third row of rear-facing seats that comes to the rescue when stragglers need picking up on the school run.
All models come with self-levelling rear suspension. This helps keep the car on an even keel when the boot is weighed down with large dogs or small children, and neat touches such as a powered luggage cover and integrated restraining net to divide the cabin from the boot remain an E-class estate signature.
Electrically retractable tow bars, the ability to carry four bikes of up to 100kg on a tow-bar mounted rack and an ESP (Electronic Stability Programme)-based trailer stability system mean that Jeremy Clarkson is likely to be held up by plenty of E-class estates towing caravans. Not that you’ll find evidence of such practical pursuits in Mercedes’ video below, of course.
Inside, the cabin takes a leap forward over the last model. It has the look of a boutique bar in a five-star hotel, which may make drivers feel good when the car’s showroom fresh, but is likely to leave them wincing as the family tramples all over it.
A host of driver aids also mean that when mum or dad want to take a brief break from driving, this estate car will take over. The E-class uses active steering and a host of cameras, radar sensors and lasers to steer the luxury saloon at motorway speeds. Although the driver will need to rest their hands on the steering wheel, the car will steer itself through bends, execute a lane-change (Tesla was the first to this feat) and maintain a safe distance from other traffic. It can also adjust the speed according to changes in the speed limit changes, assuming the driver has failed to react to signs.
And just as many cars feature the ability to apply the brakes or increase braking power, should a driver fail to slow sufficiently in the face of an obstacle, Mercedes says the 2016 E-class can apply more steering in an attempt to help the car avoid a potential accident – such as when a pedestrian steps into the road.
Showing that Mercedes understands how families use their estate car, the German company is offering the option of an iPad holder, attached to the back of the front seats, which tilts and turns to give all back seat passengers a better view of the screen. There’s also a bespoke child seat option, developed with Britax Romer, which is suitable for children between four and 12 years old.
When the E-class estate goes on sale in Britain in October, it will be priced from around £37,000. Initially, the range will feature two diesel engines (a 2-litre four-cylinder with 191bhp or a 3.5-litre V6 with 255bhp) and a sporty AMG version with a 396bhp 3-litre V6 petrol. The most frugal diesel, the E220d, is said to return 67mpg and emit 109g/km of CO2. Other engines will join the line up in time.