Last Chance To Buy: Mercedes-Benz E-Class

When's it going?

The E-Class is having a midsummer facelift. In the meantime, if you don't think the current one is too ugly, maybe you should consider parking it on your drive.

What's good about it?

The E-Class a few years ago was quite a disappointing package, but it came good in the end. Large, impressive and very sophisticated, as an executive car it sets the standard that everyone else has to follow. Safe, solid and spacious, it oozes quality.

Certainly, the E-Class is up against stiff competition in the executive sector of the market, but it manages to be one of the most appealing. First, it has great presence, the styling reminiscent of the top-of-the-range S-Class. Indeed, the E can almost match the S for gadgetry and equipment. Much of the technology is focused on making the car's handling more sporty, but also on ensuring a very smooth ride - bumps in the road hardly upset progress.

Inside, there's lots of room, although taller rear-seat passengers might find their heads too close to the roof. The boot is massive. The driver has a clear dashboard layout, and the quality of the materials in the interior is first class. A diesel engine is the sensible option, but there are lots of petrol choices too, especially for those who want higher performance.

What's bad about it?

This is another Merc that can break down. Fifteen years ago, it would have been unthinkable to identify any Mercedes as having marginal reliability, but in recent times some models haven't lived up to the old reputation. The over-complicated electronics and the sometimes average level of customer service have meant that there have been some frustrated owners. So, if you do buy one, make sure you have the manufacturer warranty and pay for a good subsequent warranty to cover breakdowns. Usually those won't be catastrophic engine explosions, but computer chip-related issues.

How much?

In the past, Mercedes discounts were marginal - but not any more. GR8 Car Deals (0845 466 888) could secure a basic E200K Classic that cost £27,025 at the dealer, compared to £23,127 on the road, via that broker. Also, had an E220CDi Avantgarde at £30,838, saving a useful £2,057 on one of the most popular models in the range.

Any snags?

Reliability issues, of course, plus three recalls since 2002 relating to brakes and one that suggests that the engine might suddenly revert to limp-home mode. Check that the recalls have been carried out.

Fact file

Launched: 2002

Engine sizes: 1.8-litre, 2.2 CDi, 2.6 V6, 2.7CDI, 3.2 V6, 3.2 V6 CDI, 3.5 V6, 5.0 V8, 5.4 V8

Performance: E220CDi; top speed 134mph, 0-60mph 10.1 seconds

Economy: 44.8mpg

Safety: NCAP, five stars