The station wagon or estate car as they are known in Europe has been in production as far back as the 1920s. Early automobile manufacturers recognized the need for an enclosed utilitarian vehicle and the station wagon was born. Over the years it has taken many forms and shared a lot of fond family memories with those that have owned them. But over time and with the popularization of the SUV here in the United States the wagon had become a rarity. Though, European auto brands continued to produce them, and even in high-performance versions. They just haven’t been produced in great numbers due to poor sales. Yet, after testing the 2014 E350 4MATIC Wagon we can only wonder why?
All the bells and whistles would be an understatement when describing this German sled. The first of these features that caught my attention was Surround View Camera System and the parking assistance system which Mercedes-Benz calls PARKTRONIC. It’s absolutely amazing since you are able to see 360 degrees around the vehicle or a real time “satellite view.” Another impressive safety feature is ATTENTION ASSIST which alerts the driver through vibrations as well as a dashboard notification to focus their concentration on the road. COLLISION PREVENTION and ADAPTIVE BRAKE were also installed on this model. All these features work together, almost overlapping in coverage, to offer the owner a vehicle that seems to drive itself but bolsters the human driving experience. Heard of Active Lane Keeping Assist? For example, if you drift out of your lane without signaling the steering wheel will vibrate. If you drift towards the shoulder of the road the car brakes gently and guides itself back to the center of the lane simultaneously vibrating the steering wheel to alert you of the course correction. How about this? If you let go of the steering wheel the E350 4MATIC Wagon will make slight corrections to maintain its safe course in the center of the lane and after about 10-20 seconds will sound an audible alarm as well as vibrate and show visual instrument panel indications instructing the driver to put their hands back on the wheel. All these features instill the owner with a very complete and competent safety system, while also making for a brilliantly enhanced ownership experience.
The E-Class is renowned as a luxury performance sedan and the E350 Wagon still lives up to that reputation. Throttle response, handling and braking were all as to be expected from a refined European performance sedan. At times I forgot my 350 was a wagon because it handled very similar to the E350 sedan. The 3.5-liter V6 with Direct Injection provides 302-horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque and the 7-speed automatic transmission with Eco Start/Stop keeps fuel consumption at a combined 21 city/hwy mpg. Escorting my 10-year-old son to practice and back was effortless and comforting. As he eloquently stated, “now this is a ride for Fit Fathers!” I agree, especially with 18” AMG performance rims and 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive.
The Silk Beige leather and Brown Satin Ash wood trim interior was luxurious, adorned appropriately and ergonomic. I found the COMAND multi-media system simple to operate navigation, musical controls and apps but not as user friendly as competitors such as BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI. As well, the power tilt and sliding, panoramic sunroof carried light into the cabin and highlighted the chrome-framed controls.
One notable difference of course between the sedan and wagon is the quantity of cargo space and amount of goods that can be hauled in style. The added plot in the wagon came in handy and offered a very classic feature, folding rear-facing third row seating. Station wagons historically were known for this feature and the E350 Wagon upholds that tradition with refined leather seating that neatly and easily folds away. With enough seating for seven, the wagon was a blessing when my kids’ teammates needed a ride home from soccer practice. It’s also equipped with a power liftgate that makes loading and unloading very simple, as does the feature when you fold down the rear seats and the front seats automatically move forward to allow proper clearance for the rear seats to fold down. Minor intuition from Mercedes-Benz certainly makes a world of difference when you are in work or active lifestyle mode and trying to get the job done.
Overall the E350 Wagon impressed and attracted attention from the public. I fielded a cadre of questions and caught many checking out my parked Cardinal Red Benz after walking away. It’s definitely a head turner which is more than I expected. However, the price point does seem a bit high at $73,275 as tested ($58,600 MSRP). Other than that it was a magnificent experience. Time to hit the trails!