by Brad Leach - 13/05/11
Mercedes-Benz can use the new E 250 CDI Estate to make a serious counterclaim to family buyers who rush to buy luxury SUVs.
Magnificently styled, luxurious, great to drive, spacious and practical, the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI Estate also delivers fuel economy around one-third less than comparable SUVs.
A dual Mercedes-Benz garage with a 250 CDI Estate for weekday school and shopping trips plus an ML Class for weekend adventures would seem just about ideal for family luxury car buyers.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class dominates its market segment, accounting for over 49 per cent of sales last year, compared to 33 per cent for the BMW 5 Series.
Throughout the world, the E-Class has scooped awards and written yet another successful chapter in the history of Mercedes-Benz. In Germany, ‘Benz E-Class Estates and BMW 5 Series Tourings are frequently the cars - loaded with families - which rocket past on the Autobahns…high performance Estates bring the best of the German superbrands for family buyers.
As a result, in Europe, estate versions of the German mid-sizers are enormous sellers – no wonder ‘Benz takes things seriously and in the E-Class provides a massive 1950-litres of cargo space and a seven-seat option. It’s an alluring proposition for those who like high performance luxury vehicles but need wagon practicality.
Car Showroom’s E 250 CDI Estate test vehicle looked magnificent and was loaded with luxury extras – the Avantgarde specification and optional Designo pack brought items like beautiful leather and wood inside plus Bi-Xenon headlights and glorious 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels outside.
When the latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate lineup was launched last year, ‘Benz surprised by lopping the price by 2.4 per cent to $138,100, despite adding some $8,400 in extra features. However there was only one powerplant – the excellent 200kW/350Nm petrol V6 – and not surprisingly, the first shipment was sold out even before launch.
Now Mercedes has added a diesel model – the E 250 CDI – and stickered it at $105,500 so it does double duty as the only diesel model and the entry level for the E-Class Estate range.
In the massive Mercedes-Benz engine squad, this version of the 2.1-litre turbo-diesel 250 CDI powerplant keeps good company as it’s exclusive to the E-Class – as well as the Estate, it’s available in the Coupe and Cabrio.
With 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the 250 CDI is – as you’d expect – a glorious engine. BMW’s 520d gets a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel but lags the ‘Benz with 135kW/380Nm.
Drive is to the rear wheels via the ‘Benz five-speed automatic transmission with a steering column-mounted finger-touch lever which electronically clicks into the desired gear. Notwithstanding its weight of 1845kgs (the second-heaviest of the entire E-Class range), the E 250 CDI accelerates from zero to 100km/h in just 7.8 seconds - that’s half a second faster than the BMW’s 520d Touring, despite its eight-speed transmission, and nearly a whole second faster than the entry-level Mercedes-Benz E 200 CDI sedan.
Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 6.3l/100kms.
Mercedes says the E-Class Estate is the segment leader for interior space – and that counts a lot for families.
Practicality and convenience also score big points with families and the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI delivers with the standard EASY-PACK tailgate for automatic operation and the ‘Quickfold’ system which enables the rear seats to fold flat at the pull of a cable – no need to remove or fold the rear head-restraints.
The dashboard is the usual ‘Benz blend of luxury and style with beautiful chrome-trimmed gauges and a rake/reach adjustment for the four-spoke Nappa leather steering wheel combining with multiple electronic adjustments of the drivers’ seat to provide a superb driving position.
Front seat occupants also enjoy the Mercedes multi-contour seats with inflatable air cushions for individual adjustment.
Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI estate scores the COMAND APS navigation and audio system with a seven-inch screen. Audio has a 6GB music register plus in-dash six CD/DVD storage and Bluetooth connectivity with its own keypad for dialing.
Rear seat legroom is impressive and the seat split-folds 1/3:2/3 for load carrying versatility.
The Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI we tested was fitted with a few selections from Benz’ ‘Designo’ options – you can choose from multiple timbers, leathers, roof linings and more.
Of course safety is a given with Mercedes-Benz and the E 250 CDI Estate comes standard with nine airbags and the latest high-tech aides like ATTENTION ASSIST, DISTRONIC PLUS, Blind Spot Assist and PRE-SAFE brakes.
Designers at Mercedes-Benz do elegant very well and the E-Class Estate is a perfect example. Starting with the magnificent E-Class sedan is a sound beginning, but the blending of the wagon rear with its sloping roof, sophisticated C-pillar and D-pillar curves plus the clever use of gloss black creates a look that oozes class.
We’ve been fans of the current E-Class front end since launch and thankfully this remains unchanged for the estates. The Bi-Xenon headlights and lower L-shaped LED daytime running lights even look good when parked and clearly give the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI Estate real on-road presence when driving.
Similarly the 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels are works of art.
At the rear, strong horizontal lines and the complex, two-piece LED tail-lights highlight the width of the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI Estate – the largest wagon in the segment, according to ‘Benz.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate runs a three-link McPherson strut from suspension, a multi-link rear and DIRECT CONTROL active dampers with self-leveling at the rear to ensure a flat ride even with heavy load in the rear.
As a result, ride and handling for this almost-two-tonne Estate is – predictably for ‘Benz – refined and comfortable but sufficiently firm and precise in the twisty stuff to impress driving enthusiasts.
Over our high-speed mountain roads loop, the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI was handy despite a hint of throttle lag, especially when accelerating from low-speed hairpins – using the steering wheel paddle shifters for manual gear changes helped.
Around town, the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI was a handy performer with good acceleration for freeway merging.
A special mention for ‘Blind Spot Assist’, Mercedes’ monitoring system which gives you a red light in the exterior mirrors when it’s unsafe to change lanes. Like any wagon, when fully loaded with people and luggage, all-round visibility of the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI does get restricted – but ‘Blind Spot Assist’ provides brilliant assistance for the driver to confidently merge/change lanes.
Where baffled why ‘Benz sticks with the foot-operated parking brake in place of today’s electric push-button designs. We know that’s a minor quibble but against the ultra-modern technology everywhere else in the E 250 CDI Estate…well it just seems out of place.
For the Car Showroom team – hey, we’re family guys! – the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate has been a firm favourite. Now with the E 250 CDI, Benz has lowered the entry to this classy wagon lineup ($105,500 for the E 250 CDI versus $138,100 for the E 350) and brought diesel fuel economy with it.
Combine the looks, the luxury, and the technology with everyday family practicality and this is the luxury wagon benchmark.
Naturally it’s the BMW 5-Series with the 520d priced around $13,000 under the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CDI but BM’s 2.0-litre diesel is 15kW/120Nm shy of Benz’ 2.1-litre with 150kW/500Nm.
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