Thiswagon can haul

The E250 CDI Es­tate is a seven-seater in a hurry, writes Craig Duff

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

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.

Value

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.

Tech­nol­ogy

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.

Styling

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.

Safety

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.

Driv­ing

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.

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