Days where you’d get a half-dozen kids, along with mom, dad and grandma, into a huge American station wagon are long gone. Replaced first by the ‘80s minivan, the ‘90s SUV and the ‘00s crossovers, big wagons fell out of favor and haven’t recovered. And not because they’ve lost any utility in the meantime. No, a station wagon is one of the most efficient forms of transport, with 80 percent of a minivan’s capability without the stigma. Or less of a stigma, anyway.
1. The E-Class wagon is offered exclusively with a 268-hp 3.5L V6 with MB’s 4MATIC AWD system.
2. A rear-facing third row allows seating for seven, if the last two are kids.
3. Pricing for the E-350 4MATIC Wagon starts at $56,200.
Despite its recent focus on SUVs and crossovers, Mercedes-Benz has always had at least one wagon in its North American portfolio over the years. Even models from 30 years ago are incredibly popular, with fastidious owners who spend whatever’s needed to keep them on the road. The company is hoping that its latest-generation of big wagon will be as popular in 2041.
The current E-Class already offers a wide range of body styles – sedan, coupe, convertible – and powertrains – V6, V8, turbo-diesel – but why not add another to the mix?
Mercedes-Benz gave the Wagon some good bones to build on. The latest E-Class is easily the class-leader in the segment, with the right mix of technology, response and solidity that were the company’s hallmarks for so many years. From the B-pillar forward, the Wagon is completely identical to the sedan. Same great athletic looks, same mechanicals underneath.
EXPANSIVE CARGO AREA, SEATING FOR SEVEN
It’s at the back where the important changes have been made. First, the body itself is an inch longer than the sedan, with a relatively upright rear hatch. The resulting cargo area holds 20.5 cu. ft., and a huge 68.9 cu. ft. with the rear seats folded flat. Mercedes-Benz made sure to include all manner of tie-downs, rails and nets to keep your belongings from flying around.
What’s even more impressive is that should you need to haul seven people in style, as long as two of your passengers are children, you can flip up a rear-facing third row, which otherwise hides in the floor. It’s not the most spacious seating, but will do in a pinch. Just a few whiffs of Vista Cruiser, but without the sticky vinyl seats and wallowy ride.
PURE LUXURY, BUT TECHNOLOGY NEEDS WORK
In fact, the ‘Benz is far removed from those ‘70s wagons. The cabin is luxurious, well built and modern. Everything not covered in leather, wood or aluminum is squishy to the touch.
Like most modern Mercedes, the all-black center stack does make it difficult to differentiate one control from another. Serious seat time is required to memorize where everything is. Plus, the standard dial-operated Command system still needs some tweaking to equal those from Audi and BMW since it isn’t as intuitive to use.
The seats deserve some notice here for being comfortable and supportive. Even more so if a customer opts for the dynamic driver seat. Not only does it inflate the side-bolsters to keep you upright when driving spiritedly, but it also massages your sore back on command.
Other niceties include a six-disc CD/DVD changer, dual-zone climate control and a rear-view camera, while a full-length moon-roof, leather seats, harmon-kardon audio system, Bluetooth, hard-drive based navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system with two screens embedded in the front headrests are all optional.
ONLY ONE MODEL AVAILABLE
The five-door wagon is big and solid, but only comes in one flavor in North America. Translating E350 4MATIC Wagon into English gives us an all-wheel-drive E-Class wagon powered by a 3.5-liter V6. In this case, it produces 268-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, uses a seven-speed automatic transmission, and puts power to all four wheels through MB’s permanent all-wheel-drive system. The 0-60 mph test passes in seven seconds flat, and the car returns a middling16-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway.
We should note that Mercedes is soon likely to offer the car with a more potent, direct-injection version of the same engine, which should deliver just north of 300-hp and get just as, if not better, fuel economy.
One popular option carried through from the C-Class sedan is the option of starting either with a traditional luxury-oriented body and interior, or opting for a no-charge Sport package, which toughens up the body, uses different 17-inch wheels, and does away with most of the interior’s wood trim.
Unlike older ‘Benzes, the current E is a wonderful and rewarding car to drive, even in the most basic, pedestrian specs. You’ll have more fun than in any of the company’s similarly sized sport-utes or crossovers.
While the E350 Wagon starts at $56,200, don’t expect many to leave the dealership at that level. Like all Mercedes-Benz products, the list of optional convenience and luxury packages is long and pricey. All in, you’d be looking at $17,440 worth of extras, and wouldn’t get much change from $75k. But, most will be equipped somewhere between the two, which should strike a nice balance.
Don’t expect to spot many E350 Wagons in the wild, though. The allure of ‘command seating’ and the illusion of all-condition security means the aging ML SUV will likely sell ten times as many. It also doesn’t hurt that the ML is $10,000 lower to start. But for those ‘in the know’, they’ll find much more satisfaction and value in their more modest-looking five-door.