The new Mercedes E Class is a bargain at just over forty grand!

The one good thing about a recession is that carmakers have had to drop their prices! Combine this fact with the greener cars most manufacturers are producing, and the result is a massive drop in the retail price of posh machinery like the E Class Merc.

So, with lower CO2, the latest E Class diesels benefit greatly from reduced VRT (and road tax rates), with some manual versions falling into band 'B'!

The new E Class is the eighth generation in the famous line of mid-sized saloons from the Stuttgart firm. There are hints of the very first E Class from 1953 found in the rear wheel arch line but generally the exterior of the car is modern, smart and depending on the specification chosen, sporty, conservative or youthful.

Inside the five-seat car is modern and fresh with superb build quality and materials. The only downside is the old-fashioned foot lever parking brake and hand release that Merc owners know well. Really, Mercedes should have taken the opportunity to step a little further forward and fit an electronic brake, as the new E Class is a safety and technological tour de force.

It features dozens of driver aids like Pre-Safe Brake, Distronic Plus, Attention Assist (should you get sleepy) Adaptive High Beam Assist (auto Headlight dipping), Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Speed Limit Assist etc. Should you go for the bog standard car you won't be shortchanged either, as the E Class is the safest car in its class. Pedestrian safety is catered for with a pop up bonnet that cushions an impact with the car. The E Class can even read speed limit signs and warn you of changes.

My test car is the Blue Efficiency CDi 220 (€43,600) in Avantgarde specification with a few other toys (€53,912). It features a 2.2 litre, twin turbo diesel engine that produces a massive 400nm of torque and 170bhp. It takes a mere 7 seconds to go 0-100km/h and all this happens through the rear wheels. Blue Efficiency is Mercedes' trademark for its greener models so my car came with low rolling resistant Pirelli tyres and while I'm sure they helped deliver great fuel economy, they sadly proved less than confidence inspiring in the wet.

Leaving aside the 400nm of pulling power, even my slightly educated right foot found it was all too easy to break traction on greasy Irish roads. Remember the snow last winter? I think a set of winter tyres might be in order from the options list. Otherwise, on the road the car proved comfortable and as swift as you'd want. I still prefer a BMW 5 Series for brisker driving, but the new E is truly a revelation compared to the old car.

Sadly, Mercedes' excellent E Class price is not all good news as owners of the last E Class now see the value of their cars 'second hand' drop a ridiculous amount.

Twelve million E Class have been built and if Mercedes has truly cracked the reliability issues that dogged the last few generations of the car, then it is happy days for the German firm.

The new and relatively affordable E Class is a shot in the arm for the mid-sector luxury car market and a very fine car too.

Michael Sheridan