There’s something reassuringly constant about the E-Class. This is Mercedes’ heartland model, a car that you know will always be there and always offer the same considered blend of conservatism, advanced technology, good taste and fine manners. The E-Class and its predecessors have always come as a saloon, quite often as a coupe and, since 1978, as an estate. So mere months after the arrival of the seventh-generation E-Class saloon, we now have the Estate, its arrival no surprise given that one in three E-Classes is sold in this form in Europe.
The E-Class Estate formula remains as it ever was, with a boxy rear body providing a tailgate and a long, flat load floor. This time, though, the rear has more of a coupe silhouette, despite which the seats-up load capacity rises from 600 to 640 litres, or 670 litres when you use the facility to position the backrests slightly closer to vertical. Self-levelling rear suspension is standard (the E350 gets air springs all round), the optional tow hook is now electrically powered and height adjustable, the rear seats can be electrically released via boot-mounted buttons and the parcel shelf rises when the electric tailgate opens.
Waggling your foot beneath the back bumper to raise the tailgate only works if you order the option, but it now functions with the tow hook. Later this year a foldaway third row of seats for kids will be available. The estate is available with all the engine options offered with the saloon, the most popular of which is predicted to be the 2.0-litre diesel 220d.
Its 77sec 0-62mph time, 6l.4mpg combined and 120g/km of CO2 are all substantial improvements over the outgoing 220d engine. Much effort has been expended not only on making this engine quieter but also making the E-Class Estate’s cavernous cabin structure less of a noise-generating boom box.
A strengthened engine bay, floor reinforcement struts and extensive sealing – including the door handles – are the results. If you’re noise-obsessed, you can also order an acoustic pack, featuring sound-suppressing glass that makes the mighty, optional Burmester stereo sound that bit more impressive. As you’d hope, then, it’s quiet, and the diesel engine is noticeably more muted than it was in E-Class saloons sampled recently. E-Class engineering chief Michael Kelz says there have been engine management recalibrations since, and they now produce a soundtrack worthy of all the innovation this engine carries.
The engine works very effectively with Mercedes’ nine-speed automatic gearbox, a refined shifter of ratios and a significant contributor to its economy. It needs to be good because the old 2.1 diesel was pleasing for its ability to do 50mpg-plus everywhere, despite its coarse manners.
You’ll need to play with the toggle on the centre console to extract performance that feels like 77sec to 62mph is possible, but this isn’t a hardship and provides something of a dual character. It’s not a sports estate, but body control is impressive when pushed hard. On optional air springs it’s supple, too, producing a ride to complement the near-silence that you ride in. The new, curvier tail also gives a curvier upper tailgate opening, which might make furniture loading more of a challenge, but you’re more likely to notice the boot’s considerable length and intrusion-free flanks.
Seats down – they split 40/20/40 – the E-Class provides 1820 litres and a flat deck, although this has been achieved by raising the boot floor, and you’ll need a luggage net to stop small items skittering off the deck’s front end and into the rear passenger footwells.
But unless you’re trying a van-free house move, this car is likely to provide all the load capacity you’ll ever need. That said, rear seat occupants may beg to differ. Despite the claimed gains in leg and head room, space for your feet is limited if those up front sink their seats low, and the cushion could provide more support, its shape presumably compromised by the desire for a flat-folding backrest. As you’d hope of this hardy perennial
Merc, the E-Class Estate does exactly the job you’d expect, but with more efficiency, quietness and pace, plus a little more dynamic verve. Its cabin can look fabulously sumptuous if you tick the right option boxes, and it’s very well made.
The estate comes with all the features of the saloon, including the optional (and hard to resist) 12.3in configurable dashboard display and a phalanx of semi-autonomous driver aids that mostly enhance the driving experience, add a layer of interest and strengthen the safety defences. Small packaging flaws apart, the E220d Estate is a mightily impressive tool, and a highly civilised, intriguingly advanced one besides.