Mercedes have long been the default choice for those in the market for a premium estate car and for good reason, too. Mercedes’ estate cars have traditionally bestrode the line between dynamism and gravitas with great merit, but now that fuel economy and emissions occupy a not insignificant corner in the conscience of prospective buyers, how does the unassuming E250 BlueEfficiency acquit itself in a real world situation?
To find an answer we took one to this year’s Paris Motor Show. It’s a 580-mile round trip from London, and outward-bound KV61 SOE would be laden with just under 500kg of magazines destined for the Porte de Versailles, venue of the biennial Paris show. 500kg is 87% of the E-Class’s loading limit, and a considerable payload. Include three adults, each with personal luggage, and gross weight was nudging 2.8 tons – the same as the recently superseded Range Rover. The E250 is a nigh-on £40,000 Mercedes estate, however, and as such this task should surely be a doddle. Estate cars in this supercilious sector live or die by their capacity for convenience and panache.
Self-leveling rear air suspension is standard on the E-Class estate and with half a ton sitting above the rear axel it was immediately put to work. Once activated the car feels axially sound (perhaps a placebo), and it also prevents the car from resembling a sinking ship; something that would surely undermine the inspiration design director Gorden Wagener took from the 1953 ‘Ponton’ – as buoyant a looking machine as you’re ever likely to see.
Driving from an already congested London to the transportation fiasco that is modern Paris via long stretches of open motorway was perhaps the ideal scenario in which to test the E-Class. The car itself is vast, with the largest load capacity in its class. It’s also surprisingly easy to wield in situations where space is at a premium (no more so than in one of Paris’s many subterranean car parks). The stop/start function that’s part of the BlueEfficiency technology is, as the name suggests, efficient - not overly sensitive but very quick to react to the driver’s podiatric inputs – and the steering is light but not unnervingly so.
Once on the autoroute from Dover, the E-Class came into it’s own. On these expansive roads you don’t need the noticeably tauter chassis that BMW are so adept at providing, neither do you want the tank-like cosseting you perpetually experience in the cockpit of an Audi. What you do want is a car that feels malleable on the road and a cabin that’s light and calming. These rival brands build cars that are more than fit for purpose, but this sort of driving environment has belonged to Mercedes since the days of the aforementioned W128. Intuitive switchgear means that your eyes are where they should be and the optional Harman Kardon surround sound system will keep your ears occupied, too. It’s excellent and after stepping into a car equipped with the standard system the difference is all too obvious.
Perhaps the most convenient aspect of the car was its optional 80-litre fuel tank (the standard part is 59 litres), which allows for enormous distances between fuelling. Outward-bound and fully laden, the E250 returned 38.2mpg. That figure seems modest but given the extra weight it’s impressive. On the return journey, and with just its human cargo, the car averaged 54mpg at motorway speeds, giving it a theoretical range of over 970 miles. That figure seems ridiculous, but the extra urban economy figure of 54mpg is ours and not Mercedes’, so there’s no trickery. To put it into some context, it’s enough to drive between London and Leeds five times before pulling up at the forecourt. Emissions are respectable at 139g/km CO2.
We arrived in Paris with over half a tank remaining and our energy levels similarly undepleted. The supple 2.1-litre diesel under the bonnet generates just over 200bhp, which provides enough shove for most and quietly goes about its business of providing no small amount of torque. Bereft of excess weight, the E250 is an unexpectedly agile car to drive and, although it cannot mimic the dynamics of an F10 520d, allows for an entertaining driving experience provided the driver isn’t too committed.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the newly released CLS Shooting Brake will steal sales from the E-Class, and to a small extent it will. The E-Class, however, is ultimately the better tool in terms of practicality and there are few if any compromises associated with ownership – something of paramount importance.
‘Indigolite Blue’ is an unexpectedly appropriate colour for a car such as the E250. It’s reserved whilst highlighting the stiff bone line and the implied rear haunches that are hallmarks of the most recent E-Class’s aesthetic. These estates are hardly unusual and rarely warrant a second glance (AMG variants notwithstanding), but sitting in the early morning within a cobbled mews, the E-Class revealed just how well resolved this design is. The team who worked on this car tried to emphasize the horizontal lines of the rear that, in conjunction with the tapered nose, help endow the E-Class with a scything physique that looks equally good when either stationary or in motion. This is invariably easier said than done with cars of a practical nature.
The interior design, whilst tried and tested, is starting to show its age. This is particularly true when compared to rivals from Munich, Ingolstadt and, most recently, Coventry. That’s not to say that build quality isn’t stratospherically high – this new generation of Mercedes cars bear more resemblance to the firm’s bulletproof creations from the 1990’s that anything in the last decade – but the sooner styling cues from the cars like the new A-Class are integrated the better. Even so, the trapezoidal instrument and LCD casings are neat, the setting is spacious (in sharp contrast to the BMW 5 Series), and ergonomically the cabin is faultless. The analogue clock set into instrument panel, a glorious waste of space, perhaps best illustrates the E-Class’s personality.
Although now three years old, the E250 BlueEfficiency is hard to criticize. The fragmented front graphic won’t please everyone, but there’s no denying that it’s an attractive if slightly chintzy design. Inside is where Mercedes’ maturity is apparent. The infotainment system, for example, makes do with a dated looking interface but at the same time never misses a beat, and the centre stack is a little uncomfortable in its rigidity. The same cannot be said for the ride quality and ease of use, both of which are exceptional. The car’s green credentials are strong for such a large car, and away from the contrived NEDC assessment, the E250 offers low emissions and real world economy. It seemed the perfect tool for the job at hand and, although we can’t say definitively until we drive an Audi A6 Avant to Detroit in January, the Mercedes E250 will take some beating.
Engine: 2143cc diesel Power: 204bhp @ 4200 Torque: 368lb ft @ 1600 0-60mph: 7.8s Top Speed: 144mph Weight: 1845kg Economy: 53.3mpg CO2 emissions: 139g/km Price as tested: £44,610
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