We review and road test the Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Avantgarde Estate. Is it still the pick of the load-lugging premium Estates?
To be absolutely precise, what we have for a week of playing – to review and road test – is the Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Avantgarde Estate.
Which thankfully isn’t plastered out in chrome lettering across the back of Mercedes’ newest E Class Estate. Just a simple E350 on one side of the tailgate and CDI on the other. And a small ‘BlueEFFICIENCY’ badge at the base of the front wings. After all, this is 2010 and ‘Eco’ sells cars. Even if it’s German ‘Blue Eco’ instead of the rest of the world’s ‘Green-Eco’.
We love an Estate car. No, not us (although we do), but us as a nation. The Brits. We may never have to move Auntie Joan’s fridge-freezer up the road and we may never buy a turn of the century wardrobe at the Antiques Fair. But we like to know that if we want to we can play Mr Shifter.
We like something we can shove the family and the dogs in; a home for the endless paraphernalia we deem necessary to accompany us on all but the shortest of journeys. We like to be prepared for a family seaside trip – even though its probably more a thought than a fact – and if we run a nice Estate car we know we can pile in the kids and the dogs and the buckets and the spades and the sunbeds and Granny and…
Which is why we buy a lot of Estate cars. The default used to be the Volvo Estate; beloved of the chattering classes and Antique Dealers (there may be a big crossover in those two demographics). But then Volvo Estates got swoopy and less commodious.
So we fell in love with the Mercedes E Class Estate.
And this new 2010 Mercedes Estate will carry on our love affair. It has the right posh badge and swallows more than anything else you can think of. More than the A6 Avant or the 5 Series Estate or the Volvo V70. 695 litres with the seats up and 1950 with the seats down.
No, we can’t visualise that either. But it’s a lot. Enough for a substantial wardrobe. Enough for this 6’3″ writer to lie down with arms almost outstretched. And high enough to crawl along the load space on all-fours. Enough for…anything you want.
And it comes very well-equipped too, for its £38k. It gets 7G-Tronic and air suspension; Climate and auto everything; leather and power tailgate. And a plethora of acronyms like ABS, BAS, DPF, ESP and ASR to go with its endless safety systems.
As if that wasn’t enough, out test car came laden with what seemed like everything from Mercedes options list. We get full COMAND, Comfort Seats, Driving Assistance Package, Distronic, Dynamic Seats, DAB, Harmon Kardon, AirMATIC suspension… and on, and on. Nearly £18k of extras. Which makes this E350 CDI a delightful place to be. But then it ought to be at over £58k.
So the E350 Estate is well-equipped as standard and can be bestowed with a plethora of goodies from the options list to make it a very luxurious place to be. It can swallow your family and their granny and their stuff and looks as good as most estates can, despite its sometimes jarring lines.
But what’s it like to drive? Does it feel like a box with an engine, or are there some decent dynamics in there?
Let’s start with the engine. It’s not a 3.5 litre as you might expect, but a 3.0 litre. But it’s a 3.0 litre diesel that has 261bhp and manages to scoot to 62mph in 6.7 seconds. Which for something akin in size to a medium-sized removal lorry is none too shoddy.
We’ve got the optional AirMATIC suspension on our car which comes with a choice of Comfort and Sport and adaptive dampers. So we don’t know how well the standard suspension performs, but the AirMATIC suspension performs very well.
It absorbs the roads – even our battle-scarred B-Roads – with surprising aplomb. As long as you’ve dialled in the comfort setting. But you won’t be able to hustle as well if you do. Well, you will, but it will feel a bit unwieldy. The steering is still communicative, though. It just all feels a bit soggy.
However, dial in the Sport setting and things do perk up. The whole car seems to get sharper and there is certainly much less floating than you feel in Comfort. But somehow the harsher ride and sharper feel isn’t really worth the effort.
It would be different if this was the E63 Estate or even the E500. But this is the top-end diesel; it’ll be bought for its comfort and quietness, it’s load-lugging and quality. Not its B-Road prowess.
Yes, especially in Sport, you can chuck this big Benz around, but you don’t really want to. It’s much nicer to make smooth, yet still brisk, progress in Comfort mode. You’re beautifully insulated from the outside world in a quiet and comfortable place with enough inputs from the car to satisfy.
And that’s why you’d buy a diesel-engined E-Class. And this E350 CDI Estate does everything it says on the tin. Except perhaps return the economy you’d reasonably expect if you read the E350 CDI spec sheet, which says you should average 44.1mpg. We got 28.8mpg.
Now 28.8mpg isn’t terrible for a road test. We were doubtless a lot more boisterous with our E Class Estate than most owners would be with theirs.We’re sure that in the real world you could get approaching 40mpg if you did as we ended up doing – floating around in comfort mode, insulated from the big bad world.
But you can do the E Class Estate on a much smaller budget. You could grab the E220 CDI from a bit over £30k and get much of what our E350 CDI Estate offers but still return 45mpg, however you drive. Mind you, you could go to the other extreme and grab an E63 AMG Estate, in which case – with all the temptation on offer – you’d be hard pushed to best 20mpg.
And that choice and the innate ability, once-more terrific build quality and sensible levels of feedback make the E Class Estate the default, classy load-lugging choice. The new A6 Avant is yet to come, and 5 Series Touring – although more driver-focused – is far less commodious. And Jaguar still hasn’t managed to produce an XF Estate.
Which makes the Mercedes E Class Estate the Daddy. And this E350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Avantgarde Estate very possibly the pick of the bunch.
Especially with all its toys.
Mercedes E350 CDI BlueEfficiency Avantagarde Estate Quick Specs
- Engine: 2987cc Diesel– 161bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 6.7 seconds / Top Speed 155mph
- Economy: 44.1 mpg – Official / 28.8 mpg – Test
- Emissions: 170g/km
- Price: £38,320 / Price as Tested £56,100
Full Mercedes E350 CDI BlueEfficiency Avantagarde Estate specification, data and price
Mercedes E350 CDI BlueEfficiency Avantagarde Estate Photo Gallery
(28 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)