It wasn’t so long ago that station wagons and families went hand-in-hand. You old-timers out there will remember these long, awkward but very practical vehicles that could accommodate lots of passengers and, more importantly, the excess baggage that comes with having several children. You’ll undoubtedly remember the models that came with two small seats in the rear floor that let you sit face-to-face or backwards—with your knees practically touching your forehead.
In time, the station wagon was supplanted by the minivan, the trendy new vehicle that ruled the suburbs for several decades. But alas, the minivan suffered the same fate as the station wagon with buyers turning to a new, more fashionable type of vehicle: the SUV. These had less of a stigma attached to them and offered a few additional advantages.
- Also: Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain: the Jacked-up Wagon
- Also: The Next Mercedes-AMG E 63 will have a Drift Mode
Mercedes-Benz is still a believer
However, don’t count out the wagon just yet. Certain manufacturers still believe in it, including Mercedes-Benz. Starting in early 2017, it will sell a new-generation wagon version of its E-Class, which joins the newly updated sedan.
This wagon’s engine selection is more limited than in the sedan. There’s no base E 300 version equipped with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine; the wagon is taking a more upscale position, as wagon enthusiasts prefer higher-end versions with their higher family income.
As a result, the E 400 Wagon serves as the entry-level trim, with a twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 engine developing 329 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine is paired with the only available gearbox, a nine-speed automatic. In an effort to level the playing field with SUVs, it comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel drive— and it’s a wise decision, too. Without AWD, it would be at a distinct disadvantage.
A wagon that turns heads?
If you want to turn heads while driving your wagon, opt for the AMG version. Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that an AMG is in the works, but have not confirmed the mechanical details. We know that it won’t be the AMG E 43—which isn’t a true AMG thoroughbred, anyway—nor will it be the AMG 65, no matter how badly you want to have a station wagon with a V12 engine. So, it looks like it will be the Mercedes-AMG E 63, which boasts a twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 generating no less than 469 horsepower. This figure would climb to an astronomical 503 horsepower if you opt for the “S” version. Dropping the kids off at school, they’ll be delighted to hear the deep sound of the engine, which will make up for the car’s more classic, less sporty look.
Style-wise, the E 400 Wagon will have everything the sedan has, but in a slightly bigger package, of course. It will be 10 mm longer and 7 mm higher, but the most significant increase will be in the cargo capacity, where there’s 100 litres more space than in the sedan. It increases to 1820 litres if you lower the rear seatbacks. Versatility is the real advantage of this type of car.
For some, its most charming quality is its long, low roofline that stretches all the way back, completely changing the vehicle’s proportions. It has been infused with a healthy dose of dynamism, mainly because of its nice choice of rims. Mounted on 19-inch AMG wheels, the car is simply magnificent.
Identical to the sedan
On board, there is little difference compared to the sedan. The only time you notice the difference is when you look in the rearview mirror. Like the four-door sedan, a great deal of inspiration was drawn from the new S-Class in the cabin design. There are the four air vents housed in the centre of the dashboard, but also the COMAND system that joins the digital instrumentation, creating the impression that the entire dashboard is a large screen.
Of course, there are numerous possibilities to customize. There’s nothing negative to say about the choice of materials or attention to detail—this is one of Mercedes’ strengths after all. Ambient lighting that includes a series of LED strips with changing colours makes the feeling of quality and sumptuousness ubiquitous. It all adds a majestic touch to the passenger compartment at night.
More comfortable than sporty
On the road, the wagon’s extra 100 kg compared to the sedan is barely noticeable. Even though it isn’t offered in Canada, the four-cylinder proved sufficient in the E 300 we test drove in Germany, but it has a long way to go to do the vehicle justice. We reckon that clients would opt for the E 400’s six-cylinder engine anyway, which has a little more vigour and flexibility. The nine-speed automatic transmission is a marvel, squeezing the most out of the available horsepower and never hesitating.
The real advantage of this type of car compared to an SUV is the reduced height, which gives the impression of a more dynamic ride. Its lower centre of gravity gives the vehicle more poise and a better feeling of control. For many, it has the advantages of an SUV, without any of the disadvantages.
Although equipped with all-wheel drive, some will say that its lower ground clearance penalizes it off-road compared to SUVs. But who really takes their SUVs for a day of frolicking in the mud? Less than 1% of the population, that’s who.
What we really like about the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon is the comfort it delivers on the road. Sure, it isn’t as dynamic as the C-Class, but that’s probably not what you’re looking for if you’re shopping for this car. On the road, it gobbles up kilometres thanks to its air suspension that inhibits all the blacktop’s faults and becomes firmer if you’re after more sportiness. Whether you’re seated in front or in back, the seats are ultra-comfortable and all passengers enjoy ample room. This is where the car’s increased dimensions (wheelbase and length) are most beneficial.
It goes without saying that the car has all of the manufacturer’s latest technology, including Intelligent Drive that automatically keeps the car in the middle of the lane by controlling the steering—even when cornering.
The prices haven’t been made public yet, but we know that the E 400 sedan goes for $69,400 and that you’ll have to pay more for the Wagon. SUVs are all the rage, but wagons can still hold their own. It’s too bad that they’re so underappreciated. Then again, there are very few affordable models out there.