At the risk of sounding a bit Captain Kirk, this used car review is all about space. When you want vast quantities of room, plus comfort, luxury and quality, one car stands boot and shoulders above the rest – the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate.
The E-Class has just what tow car drivers need the most – massive luggage space. At 1950 litres, this estate’s boot simply dwarfs those of tis main rivals.
In comparison, the Audi A6 Avant can muster just 1680 litres, the BMW 5 Series a piffling 1670 litres.
If that’s not enough of a selling point, the Mercedes has another 112 litres in a compartment hidden underneath the boot floor. Basically, there’s enough room inside here for you to run a small enterprise from your Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate!
However, don’t go thinking that the E-Class is a one-trick pony, because it’s also very good in a number of other areas that will definitely appeal to those who regularly use their car to tow.
Need to go a long way in comfort? Check. Need to consume as little fuel as possible? Check. Need to look as though you’ve ‘arrived’ when you reach your chosen destination? Check.
Better still, these days, the big Mercedes is now of an age that means this capacious carry-all is affordable for more people.
The E-Class is huge inside, with a luggage area that’s big enough to host a quick game of five-a-side if the weather turns inclement! It allows you to carry loads of your holiday gear in the car, instead of having to spread it around your caravan in the interests of balance.
There were seven engines available from the estate’s launch, three diesel and four petrol, although Mercedes tweaked and honed the range throughout the car’s life – in short, the later the model you buy, the more efficient it’s likely to be.
There truly is an E-Class for everyone, from the thrifty but slow E200 all the way up to the wickedly rapid E500 with its whispering V8 – although we’d counsel against buying this version, because the first stretch of your ankle will result in all of your carefully packed stuff ending up in a heap at the rear of your caravan.
The best option for tow car drivers is probably the E220 CDI, which offers the ideal blend of muscle and frugality.
Even with the boot fully loaded, your process is going to be perfectly acceptable, and your fuel economy figure is likely to start with a five.
This engine was available with a manual gearbox or a seven-speed automatic, and we’d choose the auto every time (as most buyers did when purchasing new).
It changes up and down smoothly, and always manages to be in the right gear at the right time. The manual is clunky and the clutch action can make smooth gear changes tricky. Manuals are rare, and not worth the hassle of searching them out.
All models of the E-Class come with an excellent amount of standard equipment – even base SE versions are fitted with alloy wheels, air conditioning, parking sensors and Artico trim.
Air suspension also features at the rear, which allows the vehicle to maintain a constant height, no matter how heavy the load you’re carrying.
Moving up the range brings you bigger alloys, dual-zone climate control, sat nav and higher-quality trims.
However, we think you’d be wiser to steer clear of Sport models, because these have a stiffer ride quality that actually feels at odds with the comfort-orientated ethos of the car.
The fact that the E-Class is a comparatively expensive executive machine tends to mean they are very well looked after. However, there are still a few minor concerns to keep an eye out for.
For a start, you should always check the air suspension, and make sure that this is performing as it should, because they have been known to fail and a fix could prove financially painful.
The E-Class is quite heavy, so the brakes can take a pounding – ensure there are no vibrations on the test drive.
Recalls have been relatively few. Early models suffered some problems with the fuel injector, which should have been replaced long ago. Some vehicles were recalled because their front seats were found to have been improperly secured.
A faulty seal in the engine compartment was the cause of another recall, because it could fall off and land on a hot exhaust.
The electronic engine control unit also resulted in a recall, because it could cause the car to lose power.
Then the car was recalled because the rear seat-frame could cut the wire for the fuel pump. Finally, check the automatic gearbox works as it should, because the column-mounted selector has been known to fail.
The E-Class is a complex machine, so it’s well worth taking along a friend who will know one end of a spanner from the other when you are viewing a prospective purchase. Better still, have a full examination carried out by a professional.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate is pretty much all you could ever want for towing. The engines are strong, the cabin has more than enough space for five people and the boot is large enough for all of their luggage. Plus their neighbours’.
Go for as late a model as your budget allows and you’ll have a spacious, efficient vehicle that will cope with anything you can throw at it. Try not to be swayed by the glitz of large alloy wheels, because they will spoil the ride – unlike the boot, small is definitely the way to go here.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate // Need to know
How much? £4000-£25,000
The lowest-priced E-Class Estates are available for around the £4000 mark. But whether you’d really want one at the price is a different matter, because they’ll rarely have stopped moving, and will display the commensurate scars.
E-Classes can shrug off big mileages, but still… Best to up the budget to £11,000 or so, for a five- or six-year-old car with a five-figure mileage.
However, if you’re lucky enough to have £19,000 to spend, you’ll be in a position to net a high-spec, late-model version with less than 50,000 on the clock.
What will it tow?
- Kerbweight 2020kg
- Towing limit 1900kg
- Noseweight limit 85kg
- 85% match 1580kg
How much is a towball?
- Witter flange towbar £160.47
- Witter detachable towbar £259.10
- Fitting extra (from www.pfjones.co.uk)
What about servicing?
- Interim service £106.50
- Full service £154.80
- (Example prices supplied by Servicing Stop, 0344 225 3303)
Top tug: TE 220 CDI Avantgarde
Barge pole: E500 Sport
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The cabin has more than enough space to accommodate five people in comfort