PAINTINGS that talk, staircases that abruptly swivel around and a tree that tries to beat your brains out are fine in a Harry Potter film, but not something you would welcome as part of everyday life.

Inanimate objects really ought to know their place and stay there. A driver’s seat falls firmly into my perception of an inanimate object, but it’s not a view shared by Mercedes-Benz.

And because I rarely read the instructions before I use anything, I didn’t realise that idly pushing a couple of the buttons in the strip on the left-hand side of the driver’s seat would transform it into a living thing.

The E-Class Estate, I discovered, was fitted with a £1,090 comfort-conscious extra, the so-called ‘active multicontour front seat’ package.

Active it certainly is. One button generated a throbbing top-to-bottom back massage and another unleashed the ‘dynamics control’ function, where the sides of the seat squeeze you, and I mean squeeze you, under hard cornering.

If you are pushing the boat out, then why not shell out another £700 on another seat treat, delivering both heating or ventilation for both front seats. The technology packed into such an apparently simple item as a seat, gives a clue to just how advanced are the innovations which bristle from every inch of the traditionally-styled E-Class Estate.

And most of the devices in the nine airbag-equipped car are designed to make life safer.

From drowsiness detection to automatic emergency braking when an accident is imminent, and from headlights that automatically raise and lower themselves to give the best possible light spread, to an ‘active’ bonnet that pops up to give better protection for pedestrians, the elegant E-Class is a 21st-century powerhouse of driving safety.

Add in air suspension with self-levelling at the rear and an optional third row of seats, and the smooth riding, fifth generation E-Class delivers a complex clout to the opposition.

The E-Class Estate is the largest estate car in the premium segment, and one special feature is the option of opening the standard-fit tailgate automatically by using the ignition key or pressing the handle if the car needs to be loaded from behind.

A neat quickfold system enables the rear seat backrests to be folded down by a cable pull from the carpeted load compartment to create a level loading surface. It is now also much easier to use the combined luggage compartment cover and retaining net, which is fitted as standard.

To mark it out from other models in the range the Avantgarde test model has a chromed grille and a front bumper, which looks wider thanks to a large lower air intake featuring a black painted grille with diamond-shaped perforations and LED daytime driving lights. New LED tail lights make the Estate unmistakable even at night.

However you look at it, the E-Class Estate is literally sensational.

Auto facts Mercedes-Benz E 220 CDI Blue EFFICIENCY Avantgarde Estate

  • Price: £34,390 (£53,485 as tested)
  • Insurance group: 33 (1-50)
  • Fuel consumption (Combined): 46.3mpg
  • Top speed: 134mph
  • Length: 489.5cm/192.7in
  • Width: 185.4cm/73in
  • Luggage capacity: 21 cu ft
  • Fuel tank capacity: 12.9 gallons/59 litres
  • CO2 emissions: 162g/km
  • Warranty: 3 years/unlimited mileage