Seeing the Mercedes E350 Wagon parked in my driveway recently filled me with a sense of nostalgia. You see, for me, and many other children of the late ‘70s or early ‘80s and generations prior, station wagons and family road trips are concomitant, rousing memories of rolling around, unrestrained, in the “way back” of a faux-wood paneled Buick Roadmaster or Ford Country Squire, singing road trip songs and bickering with siblings who cross the imaginary line into your territory.
The debut of the minivan in 1983 as a more efficient family transport (with an appropriate complement of seatbelts) was more or less the death knell for the family wagon. Yet, it persists, often eschewing the term “station wagon” for euphemistic terms like “Sports Wagen” from Volkswagen or “Allroad” from Audi, or just leaving a descriptor out altogether, a la Subaru. Sure, minivans may be more practical for family transport, but they lack a cool factor and luxury nameplates are rightly loath to dip their toes into such shuddersome territory.
Thus, we have Mercedes’ E350 4MATIC Wagon, a family car hip enough for the discerning luxury buyer who prefers sedans but likes the cargo flexibility of an SUV – and is maybe a bit nostalgic for those childhood road trips. But that old Roadmaster has nothing on the E350, with its permanent all-wheel drive, a peppy 302-horsepower V-6, and the style and luxury you’d expect from Mercedes.
The E350 is a fun car to drive, with responsive handling, excellent road feel and spirited engine performance. Full-time all-wheel drive makes it appropriate and capable for road trips to snowier climates, and a luxurious cabin makes it comfortable for journeys of any duration. It also features an ECO start/stop system that automatically shuts off the engine when the car is idling, then automatically restarts when the driver lifts off the brake. I must admit, although this is a nice gas-saving feature, it’s not my favorite. I found the stalling and then shuddering to a start a little annoying and disconcerting. Others disagreed, but good news is, this feature can be easily shut off at the push of a button.
In a vast departure from the good old days when you had to rely on endless choruses of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall for entertainment, the E350 features a premium sound system with Bluetooth media interface, and optional packages that include the mbrace2 app suite and an outstanding harmon/kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system.
For those times when you’ve tired of the license plate game and Road Trip Bingo, an optional rear-seat entertainment system features dual seven-inch monitors behind each front head restraint that play separate DVDs or attach external devices such as game consoles.
As much fun as we had bouncing around in what was supposed to be the cargo area back in the day, there’s no doubt that safer is better. And the E350 features state-of-the-art safety features like collision prevention assist, advanced airbags, Attention Assist and adaptive brake technology. The optional Parking Assist Package even includes a surround view camera system for help in avoiding obstacles while parking and backing up.
The interior is classy as well as practical, with high-quality materials and available wood trim. Rear seats split and fold down for added cargo capacity, and, get this, rear-facing seats behind the second row pop up from the floor for impromptu seating for two. I’d stress that these seats are best for the occasional carpool or short jaunts, and definitely for those small in stature.
The Mercedes E350 starts at $58,600. With options that included the Driver Assistance Package ($2,800), Premium 1 Package with upgraded audio and heated seats ($3,370), the Parking Assist Package ($1,290) and more, the price of my test vehicle climbed to $70,215. A high-performance E63 AMG S 4MATIC Wagon starts at $102,370 and features a 577-horsepower V-8 engine. Fuel economy on the E350 is rated at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 21 combined.