Mercedes-Benz E 350 CGI BlueEfficiency
Sport Estate review
by John Fife (20 July 2010)
Once upon a time, middle England aspired to owning a Jaguar. That was the epitomy of style, class and poshness – until the bank robbers and post office blaggers favoured the motor as the ideal getaway road-smoker. Whether that tarnished the image in the eyes of the county set or not, but it was around then that ambitions started to breach bigger boundaries.
Acquisitive eyes were cast across the water to Europe-land where Mercedes-Benz was earning itself a reputation for building fine motor cars. At the time the French were still rattling across fields in 2CVs or floating around the countryside dreaming in DS19s, and BMW was still grappling with alloy cylinder heads which wanted to emulate bananas every time they overheated.
These were the golden days of Merc. The silence, the glide and the smell of leather – and then the rest caught up. Jaguar got rid of the swag and the jemmy, BMW produced the delightful 2002, and Audi suddenly got serious and ambitious about motor cars, while the French continued, well, just being French.
It therefore became harder deciding on a quality motor, but Merc fought back and, going by a recent experience, folks are once again being hard pushed to make a decision between going British or German for an aspirational quality car.
The "experience" came courtesy of a Mercedes-Benz E 350 CGI BlueEfficiency Sport Estate, the name almost as long as the price tag. At just over £41,500 that figure demands respect, but look around, what else can you get for the money - and then look back at what you've got. And there was more, nearly six grand's worth of extras! This was a serious motor.
The car was so new, it still had the Genuine Leather tags dangling from the seats and only 385 miles on the odometer. Now, being a kind and caring, mechanically sympathetic sort of soul, that meant I couldn't fully explore the Sport bit in the name tag, but I did manage to give it a gentle squeeze every now and again when it was properly warmed up.
If I had one complaint, it was the driver's seat. Yes, the electric controls with memory ensured it was infinitely adjustable and retained my preferred driving position every time I climbed aboard, but they don't half skimp on the cushions. I often drive for long stretches at a time, so the right amount of bum-cosseting is a prime requirement.
Apart from that, this was a motor in which to luxuriate. I had previously been warned that the 292bhp 3.5-litre V6 was thirsty, but it wasn't. I got nearly 350 miles out of exactly half a tank of fuel. And don't go thinking I was driving like I had shares in BP. Nope, I did a bit of motorway cruising as well as some cross country running including a moderately brisk run up the A65 from Skipton to Kendal where I used the Sport mode to get past slower vehicles. So I wasn't really driving with fuel prices in mind.
I was impressed with that. I was also impressed with the ride quality. Even with its 18" AMG alloys shod with 245/40 Continentals on the front and 265/35s on the rear, this was a comfy big motor. The 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox was a delight to use as well with a Sport mode in the full automatic setting plus a set of paddles behind the superbly grippable steering wheel.
I was content to let it waft along in auto until I caught a tractor or truck, then shifted it into Sport and either stick-shifted or paddled my way round the seven gears to get out and past and tuck in again.
Mind you, there were a few open bends "in certain parts" where the big motor was given its head. Phew, it don't half stick. And for its size, it's easy to place on the road and boy, does it carry speed through the bends. Also, when called upon, the vented discs shed speed like a wasp hitting a windscreen. In fact the braking effort was enhanced by M-B's Adaptive Brake System whereby if it thinks you're not pressing hard enough on the pedal it applies a bit more pressure for you. Either that or it was telling me not to corner quite so fast!
When I stopped at Tebay, I had to get out and walk round it. It's nearly the length and width of a Transit and yet you could thread it through a series of S bends as smoothly as a size 10 model in size 9 jeans. On that basis I opted out of the M74 going north and took the old A74 instead. That was nice too!
Another surprise. It weighs less than two tonnes. When I first clapped eyes on it, I thought, "Cheez, that's big," but at 1845kg it's lighter than it looks and this no doubt helps with that prodigious performance.
As for the extras, it was nearly £2200 for the Command multimedia system which included all the usual electronic plug-ins for phones, players and USBs and a large 7" screen to display all the functions and the satnav. Disappointment set in once again when the satnav didn't recognise my own seven-digit post code – it gave up at four, although it did offer a couple of seven-digit codes nearby, but I did expect better of it for that money!