Mercedes C200K Estate Long Termer - October 2008

As we pushed and prodded the last of our gear into the C200K's tightly packed luggage bay, I wondered whether the electronically controlled Easy-Pack tailgate would actually close on this lot. It didn't, but I soon worked out that a well-timed hip-and-shoulder helped the sensitive electronics be, well, less sensitive.

The occasion was the newly expanded Bulmer team's first away game together. It was also, in many ways, the C-Class Estate's first test as a nuclear family hauler, given that our previous travels hadn't included luggage. Sadly, as I looked down at the pile of bags still at my feet, I had to acknowledge the not-so-big Benz had failed its first big test.

Perhaps it was unrealistic of me to expect a wagon of comparatively modest dimensions to accommodate our family of four, luggage for a ski weekend away, and a bulky pram, but that's our life right now. As we loaded the excess kit into an accompanying Ford Territory, I wondered if I shouldn't have delved two letters farther into the alphabet when ordering our latest long-termer.

Reservations soon fade out on the highway, however, where the Estate displays the polished ride, handling and steering attributes that helped its sedan sibling to the Wheels COTY silverware earlier this year.

After months behind the comparatively numb tiller of the Mitsubishi Outlander, the C-Class steering provides the sort of weighting, precision and high-quality feedback that SUVs can only dream of. Ride quality on the optional 17-inch AMG alloys is also extremely good, and the 245/40R17 Pirelli P Zero Rosso are quiet and impressively grippy in wet and dry conditions.

Up front, the supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder is smooth and eager, although a full luggage bay and four occupants does knock a bit of the edge off its otherwise impressive urge. In such conditions the paddleshift controls for the five-speed auto are ideal, as the long-travel accelerator pedal tends to need a decent prod to deliver downshifts.

Finally, on the night run home, the optional bi-xenon headlights prove a safe, reassuring travel companion.

Date acquired: April 2008
Kilometres this month: 1259
Total kilometres: 4392
Av. fuel consumption: 11.5L/100km
Maintenance: Nil

After last month's 11.0L/100km average, our friends at Benz reckon we should be getting better economy. Trouble is, this month's average is 0.5L/100km worse. On a more positive note, our single out-of-town run returned a best-yet 8.0L/100km.

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