IT'S a finely tuned art form creating an estate car with all its versatility and practicality possible that doesn't feel and handle like a bulky load lugger.
Mercedes-Benz has certainly produced a masterpiece with its latest E-Class estate model.
Despite being capable of transporting between 640 and 1,820 litres of kit (which is van-like capacities), the sixth generation E-Class estate also delivers all the driving dynamics associated with a very sophisticated and premium saloon car.
Factor in all the state-of-the-art on-board technology, along with impressive running costs and the E220d really is the complete package.
And it needs to be with so many quality competitors battling for buyers' signatures in a fiercely competitive sector.
The E220d certainly looks the business thanks to its sleek streamlining, LED high performance headlights with LED daytime running lights, chrome roof rails, lots of AMG bodystyling, 20-inch alloys, and a distinctive radiator grille that proudly carries the Mercedes star.
Move inside and the Mercedes oozes elegance and sophistication with a whole host of stand-out features.
The E-Class has a modern and clutter-free feel with a huge floating tablet-like display screen that spreads almost the width of the dashboard and can be configured to show various readouts.
Techno treats include electrically-adjustable seats that can be heated with memory settings, a panoramic sunroof with sliding front section, a 360-degree camera, sat nav, full connectivity with multi media devices with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth and a neat ambient lighting feature that has 64 different settings to get just the right cabin atmosphere.
Comfort levels are exceptionally high and anyone travelling in the back will have little reason to complain as there is ample leg, head and shoulder space and light floods into the car from the large windows and sunroof.
This car was priced at £42,710 although a number of optional extra bumped up the asking price to £50,770.
It was powered by a 2.0-litre 194bhp diesel engine mated to Mercedes' excellent nine-speed automatic transmission. The vehicle could sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 7.8 seconds, maxed out at 145mph and according to official figures, it could deliver a combined 57.7mpg with carbon emissions of 137g/km.
But it's the beautifully refined manner in which the car handles that cannot fail to impress. In traffic it moves in a very composed way and is deceptively agile for its size - after all, this is a car that measures just shy of five metres in length. Yet it is easy to park and has an excellent turning lock so there will be no five point turns behind the wheel of this Merc.
On faster roads and motorways, the E-Class estate is an absolute delight to drive.
The acceleration through the gears is super quick yet very controlled at the same time, and it's worth keeping a watchful eye on the speedo as this car reaches cruising speed very quickly indeed with little effort.
The road holding is ultra grippy and there is next-to-no engine, road surface or wind noise infiltrating the cabin. Bumpy surfaces are ironed out by the efficient suspension and the E-Class actually seems to glide across the Tarmac as it passes.
There are paddle shifts if you fancy taking a little more control and the Dynamic Select option allows you to choose from Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual driving modes. Dynamic+ certainly ups the ante when it comes to handling and performance. The screen settings can also be altered between Classic, Sport and Progressive to jazz up the styling even further.
Mercedes has packed the E-Class estate with a multitude of safety features and the car included the likes of a Drive Pilot which will steer, accelerate and brake the car keeping it between the lane markings, active brake assist, evasive steering assist which helps the driver in an emergency to avoid a collision with a car or pedestrian, plus a whole array of other safety aids.