Merc a class act, but...
The Mercedes E Class 2013 E 250 CDI saloon looks sleek, thanks to the design of the long bonnet.

So, this is how the other half drive.

I'm in a Mercedes E-Class, the E 250 CDI diesel saloon to be precise, and I have to admit it's a pretty smooth German machine.

One that's out of my league in the real world, with a list price of $98,900 which grows higher when you include on-road costs. But at first glance, it seems to be worth it.

The 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission will take you smoothly to 100km/h in just 7.5 seconds and the cornering is fantastic.

Its default setting is Eco and it's got a combined fuel economy of a meagre 4.9L/100km. Amazing for an executive beast with a 2.2-litre engine.

Hit the Sport button, though, and the whole thing tenses up, ready to roar.

For a car that is 4.879m long, it still looks incredibly sleek and feels amazingly nimble, thanks in part to the way the long bonnet has been designed so you hardly see it from your driving position.

The leather seats are incredibly supportive, while there's an array of touch-screen technology that controls the likes of the sat-nav, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity.

And the voice-activated controls even managed to understand my Scottish mumbles, which doesn't happen very often in real life, never mind on a computer. It made programming an address into that sat-nav a cinch.

There's also a reversing camera and Active Park Assist, blind-spot warnings, automatic headlights, start-stop engine technology, Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround-sound speakers and clever seat adjustment buttons that are shaped like, well, a seat.

Add to that a boot that has 540 litres of space, enough for two sets of golf clubs (at an angle), and the E 250 ticks a lot of boxes for high-flying businessmen.

However, not everything's brilliant.

Start up this Merc and the seatbelts immediately tighten, which always leads to a feeling that you're getting strangled.

Then the handbrake is needlessly fussy. You push a lever on the floor, beside the brake, to lock; but pull a handle, underneath the lights controls, to release.

Then once you are on the road, there's the dual-zone air-con. It's icy while the Mercedes is moving but started pumping warm air out when the stop-start engine kicked in at traffic lights. On a 36C day, it made life pretty unbearable, especially with the leather seats.

And not forgetting all that technology...

Most of it is great but most of it can now be found on cars with a drastically lower price tag and the stuff that isn't is, frankly, annoying.

One of these is Mercedes' adaptive cruise control system, dubbed Distronic Plus. When activated, it keeps a certain safe distance between you and the car in front, and can even automatically slow down and stop when you approach lights.

All good, but it's controlled by one of four sticks on the steering column and when I nudged it by accident going round a corner, the car suddenly started crawling along at 30km/h.

Not good with a jazzed-up ute up my backside.

And another of those sticks, where you'd normally find an indicator or the wiper controls, is an American-style Park/Drive/ Neutral lever. I lost count of the times I went to indicate right but hit this and stuck the Merc in neutral. Again, cue more sweat, even though the air-con was working this time.

So the E 250 is lovely but is not without its faults.

VERDICT
You really are in the lap of luxury in the E 250 and it would surely appeal to executive types. But for the price, it shouldn't have so many little niggles.

MERCEDES E-CLASS
Model: E 250 CDI
Price: $98,900
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs: 150kW/500Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Thirst: 4.9L/100km

COMPETITORS
BMW 5 SERIES
Model: 520d
Price: $82,400
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Outputs: 135kW/380Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: 4.7L/100km

AUDI A6
Model: 3.0 TDI quattro
Price: $108,400
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Outputs: 180kW/500Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.0L/100km

JAGUAR XF
Model: 3.0D Luxury
Price: $93,900
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Outputs: 177kW/500Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Thirst: 6.0L/100km

The West Australian

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