Two words — “Mercedes wagon” — when combined, sound like the epitome of boringness. But by golly, this new one comes with some pleasant surprises.
Photos by Azfar Hashim
You know you have reached the end of your gloriously fun motoring life when you have to settle for a wagon. You just know that from the day you take delivery of it, life will just revolve around family runs, grocery shopping and… well… that is pretty much it.
It is practical — sure. Roomy enough for your family and stuff — true. Drop dead gorgeous — subjective. Has street cred — err? Handles like a dream — huh?
But then there’s the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. Now if the thought ‘boring as hell’ pops into your head, then perhaps you might want to stop reading this review. Goodbye.
But if somehow it still interests you, then read on.
The thing is, this new W212 E-Class wagon from Mercedes-Benz is the answer to all you businessmen looking for (a) not a sedan, (b) something more unique than an MPV (easier to spot in the office car park, you see), (c) earth friendly (a thirsty SUV might cause the accountant some headache come claims). Or all of the above…
So let’s begin with the E250 Estate’s exterior. In this Avantgarde trim, it does get some goodies like 18-inch alloys (wrapped in 245/40 R-18 front and 265/35 R-18 rear Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubbers), a highly detailed front bumper and grill, a pair of sleek headlamp (although the jury is still undecided about those odd LED daytime running light), dual exhaust pipes to make the otherwise plain looking rear much more purposeful, a large sunroof and last but not least, roof rails for you to mount any sort of racks. You have to love the tail lamps: thanks to the extensive use of LED, they’re bloody bright at night. Bad news for tailgaters, I say.
In terms of interior, the E250 Estate would surely impress with its impressive build quality; in fact there’s nothing to fault here - even shut lines are almost missing from the naked eye - on top of how every controls are user-friendly. Speaking of controls, praises must be given for how solid each buttons are; nothing slacking although some parts seem carried over from the previous generation (eg. wiper and signal stalks) E-Class. The driving position remains comfortable, with the steering wheel nicely sized and oh-so-lovely when in contact with your palms; you wonder what sort of bovine leather was used as it feels as similar to what you would expect from, say, a Bentley. Adding a simple touch of class is the analogue clock taking centre stage.
If you are used to the pre-facelift model, you might not find any sort of differences when you look at the rear seats. Which means you still get good amount of head and legroom, comfortable seats and most importantly, a pair of air-con vents — something to appreciate considering our Sahara-like temperature at times.
Then there’s the boot space, which is the centre of attention for this German wagon. With a total volume of 695-litres, it provides a useful 155-litres more than its sedan counterpart. Fold down the rear bench away and it triples to a cavernous 1,950-litres; that should be useful enough for any sort of task you can think of. What’s interesting here though is the fact that in comparison with the other German offerings, the E250 Estate has the biggest boot space; the 5 Series Touring only offers 560-litres (rear seat up) and 1,670-litres (rear seat folded), while the A6 Avant slightly generous than the Bavarian candidate with 565-litres and 1,680-litres.
Unlike the other two, the E250 Estate offers something never seen in this day and age: additional rear facing seats. Obviously for kids, it can still accommodate pint-sized family members, surprisingly. Hmm…Come to think of it, it’s also excellent to place misbehaving children back there. You know, like getting them to face the wall/’quiet corner’ as a ‘time out’ (fellow parents should know this well).
Power comes courtesy of a new 4-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (codename M274), replacing the 1.8-litre one from the previous model. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (7G-tronic) paired to it helps push out some 211 bhp and 350 Nm of torque, and the ability to clock the 0-100 km/h time in 7.8 seconds; not exactly earth-shattering figures, but is more than adequate for our roads. And this new combination is highly welcomed, as it feels rather lively and willing to be stretched when push comes to shove in daily traffic. You will never have any trouble cruising in the fastest lane of the expressway, and if you’re compelled to drive slightly enthusiastically, there’s the pair of paddle-shifters to utilise and swap gears manually; you see, the transmission’s behaviour, when left to run on it’s own, may not be as responsive as the 5 Series or A6.
However, it does have one similarity with the 520i/528i Touring: how the petrol engine clatters like a diesel’s when idling. Very apparent when you’re standing outside the car.
The E250 Estate might not be as sharp as the 5 Series or A6, but looking at the average Mercedes audience, it is still up to the task when taking sweeping corners slightly faster. Body movements are well controlled and you don’t get any unsettling sensation from the rear suspension while doing quick lane changes.
The electric power steering feels more alert this time around, and there’s hardly any fault; even the weight is proper, and this is especially useful if you take long drives up North regularly. The brakes on the other hand are responsive but at the same time do not feel overservoed like the BMW’s.
In conclusion, the Mercedes-Benz E250 Estate is the sort of wagon that will surely do its job well (oh, it's not as boring as you might have predicted, too). Uniquely, it doesn’t possess the sporty trait of either the BMW or Audi, which should be the most appealing factor for its target audience: (a) brand-loyal drivers and (b) those who want a highly useful car with a badge.
Honestly though, I still need some getting use to those pair of headlamps…