Latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that Mercedes-Benz’s corporate sales are up 26% year-on-year to 23,158 units – making it the 11th best-selling manufacturer in fleet.
It’s a sign of the changing nature of the fleet market, with drivers demanding more luxury products instead of accepting a traditional volume car. And the new E280 CDI is poised to help build on that sales growth.
The E280 CDI uses a detuned version of the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine as found in the E320 CDI, offering 190bhp and 325lb-ft of torque. It comes with the seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox as standard.
Replacing the five-cylinder E270 CDI, the improvement in refinement is palpable in all aspects. It’s quieter than the E270, although there’s still a fair bit of noise from the engine when you start up and gets quite coarse when you floor the accelerator, but at cruising speeds it is up with best in terms of refinement.
And cruising is where the E280 really excels. Motorway speeds are accomplished at around 3,000rpm, which means relaxed progress can be made and miles can be eaten up easily.
And with claimed fuel economy of 37.2mpg there’s at least a 400-mile range on a tank of diesel.
The Mercedes-Benz also scores highly for its build quality and equipment levels. The E-class has a solid, high quality interior which feels as though it will stand the test of time. It’s also well equipped, with climate control, electric part-leather front seats and metallic paint as standard.
In comparison, the BMW 5-series comes with air-conditioning instead of climate control, while the Audi A6 Avant’s front seats are manually adjustable. Metallic paint is an optional extra on both cars.
And the E-class also trumps them on carrying capacity. In estate guise the E280 has a massive amount of luggage space, with 650 litres with the rear seats in place, rising to 1,910 litres with the rear seats folded flat. The Audi can muster 565/1,660 litres while the BMW offers 500/1,650.
And with Mercedes-Benz’s current corporate offering (until December 31), the E280 is even more attractive. Any drivers opting for a diesel E-class can upgrade from entry-level Classic to high-spec Elegance or Avantgarde trim for free. So choosing an E280 CDI Classic will give you the car tested here for a saving of £2,600.
Anyone wanting a big, capacious, stylish and well-equipped estate in this price range should take a closer look at the E280. And with the corporate saving on offer, it’s even more attractive.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £36,382
CO2 emissions (g/km): 191
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 25%
Graduated VED rate: £170
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 37.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £13,875/38%
Depreciation (37.51 pence per mile x 60,000): £22,506
Maintenance (4.41 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,646
Fuel (10.95 pence per mile x 60,000): £6,570
Wholelife cost (52.87 pence per mile x 60,000): £31,722
Typical contract hire rate: £702
Rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
OUR three German models are all priced around the £36,000-mark, but there are differences in what you get. The Audi is in top-specification S-Line trim and comes with four-wheel drive, while the BMW is in range-topping M-Sport guise. The Mercedes is one off the top of the range, but does have more kit than the other two. The Volvo’s price reflects the fact that it is not quite the same prestige offering as the rest.
THE Volvo is the only car of our group which has set service intervals, meaning the V70 will need servicing every 18,000 miles. By comparison, the Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all have variable servicing limits. Our long-term Audi A6 told us it needed attention just sort of 20,000 miles. And the reason the German cars have higher servicing bills is the fact that consumables such as oil cost a lot more to replace as they’re designed to last much longer than conventional oils.
THE Mercedes-Benz is the most economical car here, returning a claimed 37.2mpg on the combined cycle. This translates to a fuel bill of £6,570 over three years/ 60,000 miles. The BMW 525d returns 35.3mpg for a fuel bill of £7,296 – a saving for the E-class of £726. The Volvo and Audi are less fuel efficient, although both cars are four-wheel drive and the extra hardware and weight blunts their chances of winning here. The V70 returns an average of 34mpg, compared with the A6 Avant’s 33.2mpg.
THE Volvo’s price helps it to secure an easy depreciation costs victory, despite it having the lowest residual value prediction. CAP estimates it will retain 33% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, which reflects the V70’s position as being not quite the desirable premium offering of the German marques. CAP estimates the Audi will retain 37% of its cost new, one percentage point behind the Mercedes-Benz. The BMW leads the way with a 41% RV.
WITH such a low front-end price, it’s no surprise that the Volvo V70 proves to be the cheapest car to run over three years/60,000 miles. Of the three German prestige brands, the BMW leads the way thanks to having a best-in-class residual value and also being among the most fuel efficient. It will cost a fleet just over £31,000 to run – £600 less than the Mercedes-Benz and nearly £2,000 less than the Audi A6.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
WITH a much lower front-end price than its rivals, the Volvo is the route to lower company car tax bills in this comparison. Despite having high CO2 emissions, the V70 will cost a 40% taxpayer £282 a month in benefit-in-kind tax. The Mercedes-Benz is the next cheapest, thanks to its low emissions which off-set its higher price new. The E280 CDI will cost the same taxpayer £303 a month. The BMW will cost £345 a month, while the Audi will set a driver back £40 more.
THe Volvo will be much cheaper to run, but the V70 can’t rival the rest for quality, driving enjoyment and that elusive badge appeal. Of the rest, we’d go for the E-class. It’s more powerful than the BMW, is well equipped and offers low company car tax bills. Although the BMW is cheaper to run, we’d be tempted by the extra load space in the E280, and the free fleet upgrade.