Thiswagon can haul
The E250 CDI Estate is a seven-seater in a hurry, writes Craig Duff
AWAGON that massages your ego with style and performance, yet minimises your environmental footprint is a winner in any language.
When that language is German, you’re in for something special.
Enter the Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI Estate, a 2.1-litre turbodiesel that justifies its six-figure cost with an engine that hits hard in every area except the fuel bowser.
Toss in the fact it’s a seven-seater, and you have a high-performance people-mover.
THE simple fact is you pay a premium for anything with an Audi, BMW or Mercedes badge.
Status symbols are undoubtedly part of it — the world can see you’re doing well — but under the sheetmetal are safety and engineering technologies that won’t filter down to Japanese or South Korean models for years.
The E250 CDI is a classic example of this ‘‘you get what you pay for’’ approach.
The wagon costs $105,500 plus onroads — and I’d buy one tomorrow if I had the cash and needed to haul seven people.
Its only competition comes from the SUV sector and they don’t rate on looks or handling.
THE turbodiesel engine is from Mercedes’ BlueEfficiency range and it’s a pearler.
It cranks out 150kW and 500Nm, yet uses only 6.3 litres/100km.
It uses a host of small but smart improvements to do that, from an on- demand alternator to cut load on the engine to a grille shutter that smooths out the airflow when the engine doesn’t need cooling.
Self-levelling rear suspension automatically compensates for whatever load is in the back— and with a classleading 1950 litres of space, it can be a fair load — and the suspension’s adaptive damping improves the ride no matter who or what is on board.
There’s also a parking guidance system that recommends when and to what degree to turn the wheel when parallel parking. That’s handy, given the estate is nudging 5m in length.
WAGONS have always been the practical cousins of their sedan counterparts, but the E-Class estates are good-looking transport in their own right.
The windows taper towards the rear to help disguise the boxy shape and the tailgate is arched so it doesn’t look square from behind.
It’s still a relatively conservative design, but why tinker with what works.
It’s the same inside, where returning customers will be reassured by the familiar layout.
New owners will need a few days to familiarise themselves with the myriad buttons and on-screen menus that help control everything from the airconditioning to the satnav system.
THE Benz is at its best when comparing safety systems.
Bi-xenon headlights and daytime running lights ensure the E-Class stands out night or day.
The airbags extend to the windows in the second row of seats, and the Pre-Safe occupant protection system that does everything from pretensioning the seatbelts to closing the windows when i t detects an imminentcrash.
The ABS braking system has a dry- ing function to maintain stopping power in the wet, a hill-start assist and brakeforce distribution, and is linked to the electronic stability and traction control.
Hit the anchors hard and the brake lights flash to provide extra warning to following cars.
It sounds simple, but definitely grabs the attention of anyone travelling behind the wagon.
Sensors monitor driver behaviour and advise — via an illuminated coffee cup in the display panel— when a break is needed.
If a crash does occur, the headrests push forward to reduce the risk of whiplash and the steering wheel and pedals are designed to collapse to give the driver extra room.
The rearwards-facing third-row seats have enough headroom and legroom to even toss a couple of adults in for cross-town commutes and they’re nearly as comfortable as the second-row seats.
HIT the start button and head out of town and the big wagon feels small.
It more than holds its own in the city where the blindspot assist and lane departure warning systems give extra reassurance, but it is out on the open road where the 500Nm can be put to best use.
With that much torque, the fivespeed auto box isn’t the handicap it might be on paper — remind E350 owners about the fuel use if they start bragging about their seven-speed transmission.
Acceleration from 60km/h up is jaw-droppingly quick for this type of car and it’s only under full throttle that the diesel makes itself heard.
The rest of the time is a fairly serene, but not uninvolved drive, irrespective of the speed.
And even hooking in only pushes the fuel consumption into the low 7-litre range.
The leather-upholstered seats cosset both front occupants without deadening seat-of-the-pants ( or skirt) feedback.
The adaptive dampers switch from plush to performance as the weight loads up to keep the car flat and poised, even through hairpin turns.
And unless you’re doing something wrong, the six passengers won’t notice a thing.
And that’s not bad for a peoplemover, no matter the price.
Goodlooker: The Mercedes Benz E250 CDI Estate.