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The most practical full-sized Executive estate you can buy is now even better. Jonathan Crouch checks out the improved version of the 'W213'-series Mercedes E-Class Estate
The Mercedes E-Class Estate has always been a very classy way to carry rather a lot. These days though, it's cleverer and more efficient than ever. A focus on downsized engines will be a big draw, there's a frugal base diesel, a plug-in hybrid and fire-breathing Mercedes-AMG models add some excitement. Overall, the whole range just feels slicker and more desirable than ever. It's all very impressive, particularly as you can carry up to 1,820-litres.
It used to be that if you wanted a large, plush practical estate, you bought a big Volvo. For some years now though, that role has been only fully filled by the Mercedes E-Class Estate. Rivals trade space for a bit of style but this car continues to prioritise practicality, with 670-litres of room on offer even before you start folding seats. This tenth generation E-Class Estate of course enjoys all the advantages developed for its saloon counterpart, a car offering efficient engines, astonishing technology and luxurious comfort. This updated model gets a smarter look and quite a bit of extra technology to keep it current in the face of fresh or updated rivals introduced since the original launch. There are also cutting-edge driver assistance features that even allow owners to take a step closer to fully autonomous driving.
Electrification is the theme with this revised 'W213'-series E-Class model. The base E200 model with 197hp now gets mild hybrid tech, while the conventional base diesel, the four cylinder 194hp E220d variant, can also be had in E300 de EQ Power plug-in hybrid form. There's also a 3.0-litre six cylinder 4MATIC E400d diesel variant for the few that will want it. There are two Mercedes-AMG sporting versions too, both petrol-powered with 4MATIC+ 4WD; we tried the straight-six E 53 variant, which also gets mild hybrid tech and puts out 435hp. While at the top of the range, there's the wild V8 E 63, with 612hp. Even on mainstream E-Class Estate models, handling should be sharper than you might expect, though there isn't quite the balance you'd get with rival BMW 5 Series Touring, Jaguar XF Sportbrake or Audi A6 Avant models. With this Mercedes though, there's the advantage that all models get standard rear air suspension and level control - great not only for poorer surfaces but also for the kind of heavier loads that would trouble this car's direct premium rivals. Selective damping's standard too, controlled via the various provided 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes - 'Comfort', 'ECO', 'Sport' and 'Sport+'. An additional 'Individual' option allows drivers to configure their vehicle to suit their own preferences.
As facelift restyles go, the one applied to this updated 'W213'-series E-Class estate is quite a significant. The front end features softer, re-shaped headlamps with full-LED beams and the grille's been revised too, as has the front bumper. Inside, the main change with this revised W213-series model, apart from this revised steering wheel, is the adoption of the brand's so-called 'Widescreen Cockpit' dash design, which sees two 12.3-inch displays, one for the instrument cluster and one for the central MBUX infotainment screen, blended beneath a shared glass cover. In the rear, passenger space is generous. If the front passengers have their seats at the lowest setting, you might find room for your feet slightly limited, but otherwise the rear foot wells are big and broad. The boot gets automatic operation for the tailgate, which rises to reveal a 640-litre space, easily the largest in the segment. It's a square, usefully-shaped area too, with 1,100mm of width between the wheel arches. Which is why this E-Class Estate is just about the only car you could choose that can accommodate a Europallet - though you might think twice about inflicting such a thing onto the immaculate carpets fitted here. There's no longer the option of having a third row seat bench fitted back here though. This revised model's second row rear bench seat gains additional cargo-related functionality, making it possible to position the backrest at an approximately 10-degree steeper angle. This creates an additional 30-litres of cargo volume, while continuing to enable full use to be made of five seats. In addition, 40:20:40-split for the rear backrest, long items like skis can be slid in between two rear-seated passengers. To release the backrests, there are electric switches located in the load compartment and to the right and left next to the backrests. Use these and up to 1,820-litres of fresh air can be freed up. No segment rival can get anywhere close to that figure.
Expect to allow a premium of £2,000 over the saloon model, which, at the time of this test in Summer 2021 meant pricing starting from just under £42,000 for E-Class Estate ownership. Most models will be sold in the £45,000-£55,000 bracket: overall, that's pretty competitive against rivals like the Audi A6 Avant and the BMW 5 Series Touring. You'll obviously pay quite a lot more for a sporting Mercedes-AMG variant. The E 53 4MATIC+ six cylinder model was priced from around £67,500 at the time of this test, with the top V8-powered E 63 4MATIC+ up at around £100,000. Trim-wise, things kick off with either 'Sport' trim for the base E200 or E220d petrol or diesel models; or 'AMG Line Edition', if you want the E300 de EQ Power plug-in hybrid model. From there, your trim choices rise through 'AMG Line' to 'AMG Line Premium' and 'AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus'; you'll need the top two spec options if you want the six cylinder E400d 4MATIC model. The E 53 derivative comes in either 'Premium' or 'Night Edition Premium Plus' forms. The top E 63 comes only as a 'Night Edition Premium Plus' model.
For a car that performs as broad a remit as the E-Class Estate, encompassing everything from German domestic market taxi fleets to family transport, company cars and all points in between, there's a pressing requirement for the car to turn in some great efficiency measures. To that end, Mercedes has worked hard to improve running costs this time round, which are aided by the increased emphasis on electrification across the range. Let's look at the WLTP-rated figures. The E200 petrol with its latest EQ Power mild hybrid tech manages up to 37.2mpg on the combined cycle and 174g/km of CO2. And the diesels? Well the efficient 2.0-litre biturbo diesel engine in the volume E220d model manages up to 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and up to 148g/km of CO2. If you go for the six cylinder E400d 4MATIC diesel, the estate version of that variant manages up to 40.9mpg and up to 181g/km - not bad for a 4WD high performance diesel full-sized executive model. The E300 de EQ Power plug-in hybrid version of course, is in a different league when it comes to efficiency figures, officially managing up to 217.3mpg on the combined cycle and 35g/km of CO2 if you take into account its all-electric driving range - up to 33 miles. You'll need deep pockets to run the petrol Mercedes-AMG models of course. The E 53 manages up to 29.4mpg and up to 216g/km of CO2. For the V8 E 63, the figures are up to 22.8mpg and up to 282g/km.
Before this 'W213'-series E-Class Estate model appeared, the Mercedes of executive station wagons was perceived as a practical but slightly over-sensible choice in this sector. These days though, it's a much smarter choice - in more ways than one. Today, it feels like a car that's pricey but which offers a compelling value proposition. It drives with genuine polish, yet is capable of stepping from cruiser to carouser without breaking a sweat. Operating the car is relatively easy and you rarely feel as if this Mercedes is imposing its will on you, unlike certain rivals we could mention. The abiding impression is that this is a very carefully considered vehicle, developed by a company steeped in a proud engineering tradition. If you want to carry properly hefty loads in a car of this kind, yet want to do so with more than a modicum of style, this is one to place right up there with its premium rivals. It's better by design.