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Despite this E-Class nearing the end of its time in the showroom sun, it's a very pleasant looking car — one of the better efforts from the era of smooth Mercedes-Benz models with four round headlights. And it looks pretty schmick too, especially when fitted with our review car's 18-inch alloy wheels and lowered suspension.
Being a four-door sedan about the size of a Falcon or Commodore, the E-Class has ample room for five fully fledged adults. The seats are comfortable, especially on long journeys, and have enough grip for all but the most enthusiastic of driving. And while the interior design hasn't aged quite as well as the exterior, it's still a very pleasant place to be with acres of quality plastics, chrome trim and faux wood that should appeal to this Mercedes' target market.
While there's also a massive boot, which includes the traditional fold-out hazard sign, it's letdown by the hinge design that impinges on boot space, while fold down seats are only available on the wagon.
With a new E-Class waiting to debut soon, the Sport Edition we tested is akin to a run-out special — it costs less than a standard E280 CDI Elegance yet has more equipment. There's the aforementioned 18-inch alloy wheels and lowered sports suspension, as well as fog lights, "man-made leather" seats, entertainment system incorporating DVD-based GPS and a DVD player, cruise control cum speed limiter, electric seats with presets, and climate control air-conditioning. While rear headrests that drop down at the touch of a button and a remotely controlled rear windshield blind are not only neat features to have but are a hit with all new passengers.
Our car was fitted with the optional multifunction display in the centre of the instrument pack. Buttons on the rather bulbous and ungainly-looking steering wheel allow you to flick through the trip computer, operate the sound system and view sat nav instructions without taking your eyes too far off the road, although dedicated audio system controls would have been greatly appreciated.
Speaking of the sound system, it's a pleasant sounding system with a nice balance between bass and treble. Unfortunately it's letdown by some fiddly controls — for instance, you can switch between CD and radio with a single button press but to switch between AM and FM you're forced to dive into the menu system. There are further demerit points for the single-slot only CD player and the lack of MP3 playback options. Additionally, phone connectivity is not done via Bluetooth but via an optional cradle.