Some people have called my holiday spirit into question this week. Why? Because I elected not to put up a Christmas tree this year. Aside from the bother of buying myself a tree, and the lights, and the decorations; it's the untangling of said lights, the placing of decorations on the tree and the dropping of needles on the carpet that puts me off getting a Norwegian Spruce and then dressing it up with more baubles than a Christopher Biggins' panto costume. And (watch whilst I make a violent left turn here) it's not as if I have a fast estate car with which to haul that tree and its decorations home in.
With that in mind, what can we find in the PistonHeads classifieds which gives the car enthusiast a vehicle that can transport all their yuletide decorations home in the fastest possible time? Yes, I know Amazon has shown us the glories of home delivery; but damn it, this is the perfect excuse for buying a high-performance estate.
Mercedes seems to have quite the knack for building a commodious tree hauler. It's pretty good at V8's too. So, bring the two together and you have the recipe for something special. In 1998, after two years of Merc teasing the buying public with the 3.6-litre E36 AMG, and the 5.0-litre E50, the UK finally got the 354hp 5.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 it deserved. Mercedes even left the sixth and seventh seats in the boot for those in need of additional practicality. Those seats are reversed of course, which must give the occupants a fantastic view out the back whilst you do smokey burnouts.
But, it's not just vapourising the rear tyres that the E55 is useful for, it can also do corners, too, thanks to those wide tyres and a communicative chassis. The steering is a bit light and vague, though, giving you precious little knowledge of what the front wheels are up to. So you have to learn to trust the E55, and when you do, you'll find that this estate has surprising cornering grace. Ultimately, it is geared more to pounding down the motorway at huge speed whilst maintaining comfort, but it is still quite fun to drive.
Inside this particular example you get rather a lot of equipment, which, as a bonus, all seems to be working. There are heated seats for the cold winter mornings. A sunroof for when summer eventually returns. You have a five-speed auto to save you from clutch-foot when heading into town. There's even a delightfully period sat-nav system that is more of an entertainment piece than a navigation tool, thanks to its out of date mapping and low-res graphics.
For £6,500, this seems like it's worth a punt, especially if it is in the excellent condition the advert claims it to be in. Check that the gearbox is shifting properly as a leaking electronics plug can give you grief. The self-levelling suspension on estates can also leak, which is expensive to replace, leading some owners to elect to delete it and fit more conventional dampers instead.
Overall though, who doesn't like an estate with a V8 engine? With seven leather-lined perches, that makes it less than £930 a seat. You can remind the in-laws of that as you cart them around over Christmas. Then, you can fold those seats flat to dispose of your tree come the New Year. I can't have this car because I am not getting a tree this year. But you on the other hand, have the perfect excuse.
SPECIFICATION - MERCEDES E55 AMG ESTATE
Engine: 5,439cc, V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 354@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 391@3,000rpm
CO2: Plenty, in big clumps
First registered: 2000
Recorded mileage: 82,000
Price new: £62,845
Yours for: £6,500
See the original ad here.