19 June 1998

BIG ESTATE GETS THE

WIND IN ITS SAILS

A TURBO at last – the much needed gust of wind for the big E-class Mercs 3-litre diesel engine brings with it a sense of real purpose for the German makers flagship load lugger. But much more than a puff of air, the engines all new too, with 24 valves to replace the snail-like performer of old.

However, Mercs claim for worlds fastest production diesel estate takes a bit of swallowing – until you get behind the wheel that is. With 177hp and a massively flat torque curve between 1600 and 3600rpm, theres just no need to row this motor along. On the downside, theres a hefty serving of turbo lag before the motor draws a sharp intake of breath and lurches forward.

Performance is astounding for a 1.75t diesel-powered car – and it does it all without fuss. Like other Mercs before it, the E300TD goes about its business in a quiet, refined way providing effortless pull up to and far beyond the legal limit.

And in estate car guise, the E300TD maintains a smooth but firm ride, dripping build quality every inch of the way.

The rear-facing child seats in the load bay are a sensible – but pricey – option for large families. And when not required, they fold down flat to become an integral part of the boot floor.

Negatives? Well, few really. Though seat back adjustment on the insides of the two front seats collides awkwardly with the dustbin-sized centre armrest-cum-console and short of borrowing the hands of an elf, electric adjustment has to be the answer. Oh, and theres still lack of adjustment on the steering column.

The verdict: If youve got the dough, this has to be the most refined and capable load-lugging oil burner currently available. Though its dimensions mean youll have to reserve two parking spaces at the golf club.

The dog in the back of the LR pick-up looks on in envy as the Mercedes E300 crouches purposefully in agricultural setting. Hell need £35,000

to buy it though, which is more than a few tins of Pedigree Chum…