Mercedes gave the E-Class range a thorough update in late 2020, with refreshed looks, new engines and uprated infotainment.
As before, the E-Class is available in both saloon and estate bodystyles, and we’ve been driving one of the estates, the E400 d 4Matic AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus.
The E400 d is the most powerful diesel in the range, with a whopping 330hp and 516lb ft of torque. Sensibly, Mercedes equips every E400 d with its 4Matic four-wheel-drive system, to put all power to the road cleanly.
Prices for the E-Class Estate start from $42,100, but you’ll need to find £62,705 for this top-spec diesel version. Only the high-performance AMG versions cost more.
What are we looking for?
For this kind of money, the E-Class Estate is up against luxury SUVs, as well as other premium estate cars. Will it be able to justify its substantial price tag?
It’s hard to find significant fault with the big Merc’s towing ability. For an estate car, it’s extremely heavy, with a kerbweight of just over two tonnes. That gives an 85% match figure of 1713kg, making the E-Class a viable alternative to a large SUV for the owners of more sizeable caravans.
The legal towing limit is 2100kg according to Merc’s specification, although our test model’s weight plate showed a 2200kg difference between the gross vehicle and gross train weights. Either way, this is considerably lower than the towing limits of most £60,000 SUVs, but still well above the weight of most luxury tourers.
We matched the E400 d to a Swift Fairway Platinum 580 with a MiRO of 1437kg. The Mercedes-Benz pulled it with ease.
The 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel is superb, and ideally suited to the demands of towing. With 516lb ft of torque from just 1200rpm, it pulls strongly right from the bottom of the rev range. The engine is well served by the nine-speed automatic gearbox, which changes gear smoothly and promptly.
Even when towing, there’s rarely any need to use more than half throttle, such are the engine’s reserves. It sits happily in eighth or ninth gear cruising on the motorway, and comfortably maintains speed on hilly roads.
If you need to stop on a slope, you’ll have no trouble starting again. The electronic parking brake holds both car and caravan still and releases smoothly, and the engine quickly and quietly gets the outfit moving again. Our test took place on dry roads, but it’s good to know that power goes to all four wheels for secure starting in wet weather.
Stability is another E-Class strength. You can sometimes feel some slight movements when overtaking a big HGV, but otherwise, the E-Class is rock solid.
We would have no hesitation in towing a heavier caravan than the Swift. It really does run the best big SUVs close when it comes to secure and stable towing.
Arrive at your campsite, and the Mercedes is easy to manoeuvre, with a smooth, gentle response to the throttle and light controls. A rear-view camera provides a clear view behind, and will be especially useful should you need to hitch up on your own.
The towbar deploys at the push of a button on the tailgate. The electric socket is on the side of the towbar, with plenty of clearance from the bumper.
Judged as a tow car, is the E-Class in the same league as the best SUVs? We’d say yes. It’s heavy enough to make a sensible tug for most vans, and has the performance and stability to make towing seem effortless.
The E-Class also impresses in everyday driving. For a car with 20-inch alloy wheels, it rides remarkably well. Really sharp bumps are felt with a thump, but otherwise, the suspension is compliant. It’s at its best on A-roads and motorways, where it combines comfort and control.
The Mercedes handles well, too, with accurate steering and reassuring grip. It’s not as involving as a BMW 5 Series Touring, but it’s far from cumbersome, despite its size and weight.
The Dynamic Select system lets the driver choose different settings for the suspension, engine and transmission. Choose Sport or Sport+ and the car feels sharper, although Comfort mode will suit it better unless you’re really getting a move on.
As when towing, the engine is the star. Mercedes claims a 0-62mph time of just 5.3 seconds, which puts this practical estate in the same league as many pure sports cars.
You could argue such performance is overkill on our crowded roads, but there’s something very enjoyable about driving with so much punch in reserve. The diesel’s refinement is almost as impressive as its performance, with little to disturb the peace in the cabin. There’s some road noise, but otherwise the E-Class is hushed and quiet.
Around town you are conscious of the big Merc’s size. At just shy of five metres long, it demands a big parking space. Active Parking Assist is standard on this model, and it helps to identify large enough spaces and then steers the car for you.
A 360-degree camera system makes life easier if you’d rather park for yourself.
Quick yet relaxing to drive, the E-Class really is very easy to live with.
Space and practicality
The E400 d is one of the roomiest and most practical estate cars you can buy.
Luggage space is extremely generous, with a 640-litre capacity with the back seats in place. That’s 54 litres more than the Audi A6 Avant provides, and beats the BMW 5 Series Touring’s boot size by 80 litres.
There are four load-securing eyes, and more hidden storage underneath the floor.
If extra space is needed, the rear bench splits 40/20/40 rather than the more usual 60/40. This means you can carry a long load and accommodate two rear-seat passengers in comfort.
The back seats fold flat at the push of a button to leave a huge 1820-litre space. Again, this is more room than rivals from Audi and BMW can offer.
People are every bit as well catered for in the E-Class as their luggage. Legroom in the front of the car is exceptional, so drivers well over six feet tall can get comfortable.
The panoramic sunroof does steal some headroom, but unless the driver is very tall and likes to sit with the seat set high, this shouldn’t be a problem.
The steering wheel is slightly offset to the left, but not so much as to make the driving position awkward.
As part of the E-Class’s mid-life make-over, Mercedes has upgraded the infotainment system. There are two screens, one of which takes the place of conventional dials. Both are huge, at 12.3 inches, with crisp and clear graphics.
We found the touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel a little fiddly at first, but became used to them over time. The ‘Hey Mercedes’ function lets you use voice control if preferred.
There’s a classy finish to the dashboard, and no fewer than 64 colours for the interior ambient lighting.
Those in the back get plenty of room to stretch out, although as in the front, there’s some compromise on headroom for the sake of the glass roof.
As well as air vents between the front seats and in the door pillars, those in the back also have temperature and fan controls of their own.
Buying and owning
At well over £60,000, this is a costly car. The closest equivalent in the BMW 5 Series Touring range is nearly £6000 less. It’s also relatively expensive to run, although not obscenely so for a car of this size and performance.
The official combined economy is 38.7-40.9mpg. Thanks to the engine’s strength, fuel economy doesn’t worsen very much when pulling a caravan, we saw an impressive 28.2mpg while we were towing.
Emissions of 192g/km make this an expensive choice for company car drivers, because it sits within the top 37% benefit-in-kind tax band.
On the plus side, the E-Class is very well equipped, including a wide range of safety kit and high-tech driver aids.
How much will it cost on finance?
We found a Personal Contract Hire deal from Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions. After an up=front payment of £7992.18, there would be 36 monthly payments of £888.02.
The deal allows for 10,000 miles per year, after which, penalty charges would apply. Maintenance is not included.
It may be very expensive, but the E400 d is one of the best estate cars that we’ve ever tested. It proves emphatically that a big SUV isn’t your only choice of tow car if you own a heavy tourer.
Reassuring stability is the hallmark of the best tow cars, and the E-Class is very stable. But that’s not what leaves the most lasting impression. The powerful, refined engine has to be the E400 d’s stand-out feature. It makes towing effortless.
Our test was in dry weather, but being four-wheel drive adds further to the Merc’s credentials as an SUV alternative. Wet Tarmac or grass shouldn’t be a problem.
The E-Class Estate is often considered the ultimate estate car, and it’s easy to see why. Very few cars have as much room for luggage as the Mercedes It’s not just about space. Features such as the 40/20/40 split rear seats make the E-Class practical as well as large.
There’s plenty of space for people as well as bags, in a cabin that’s as roomy as it is luxurious, as you’d expect from a vehicle included in our best tow car round-up.
In everyday driving, it’s fair to say that there are more involving alternatives to the E-Class. Keen drivers will almost certainly prefer the BMW 5 Series Touring for its sharper handling. But the Mercedes counters its rival’s agility with a comfortable ride, and a quiet cabin at speed.
It’s hard to ignore the high running costs – alongside the price, they hold it back from a five-star score. But the Merc makes a pacy, stable and practical tow car.
With 85% of the Merc’s kerbweight at 1713kg, you can safely tow a Bailey Unicorn Black Pamplona.
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With 516lb ft of torque from just 1200rpm, it pulls strongly right from the bottom of the rev range
|Engine Size||2925 cc|
|85% KW||1713 kg|
|Towball Limit||84 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||2100 kg|
|Torque||516 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||38.7 mpg|
|Towing MPG||28.2 mpg|