Room For Seven, Luxurious Interior, Easy to Manage and Powerful to Drive
When my oldest daughter was two I had to face a reality: it was time to put her in preschool. She needed to be social, so I enrolled her in the preschool at the local church; three days a week she played with other toddlers and I got to know the preschool moms who, like me, trekked to school in oversized SUVs and easy to manage mini-vans. With one exception: a woman named Paola. She was an enigma; each morning she emerged in a crisp white shirt and neatly pressed slacks, her three perfectly Petit Patapon’ed children in tow, from her station wagon.
Station wagon? Ahhh… this was not just any station wagon. It was a demure, elegantly chic, understated in powdery beige, Mercedes-Benz station wagon.
A Chic Wagon? Really?
The wagon summed up her life in a single perfect image: she’d tamed the tedium of the suburbs and motherhood by spending her days ensconced in the perfection of a Mercedes-Benz wagon. Since then, every time I see a Mercedes-Benz wagon, I know that behind the wheel is a driver who, rather than give over her needs for fashion and function in a family car, found a car that could give her both. And, we get it; we love wagons. So we recently spent a week in the Mercedes-Benz E350 wagon, freshly redesigned for the 2014 model year. The redesign gives the wagon a bit more testosterone—the model we drove came with sport suspension, paddle shifters, a flared front bumper that has a more aggressive look and 18” AMG wheels (high performance wheels that you can see the brakes and inner workings through). And, its a bit more chic; its interior is like being in a Gucci handbag. One owned by Cate Blanchett.
A White Interior: Like A Daily Vacation to The Greek Islands
The first thing that we loved about this car was the luscious white leather interior. OK, white, yes, I know: we only had the car for a week and by the end the interior could use wiping down. But it’s worth buying the the annual membership to your local car wash: White leather is a mood changer, it makes your skin look younger and more glowing, and makes you feel as if you’re on vacation every time you get in the car. White leather interior means you live that life. And I want to live that life, even if I don’t, really.
Smart Touches For All Passengers, Even the Four Legged Ones
Then, there was the utility of the car. The wagon has a jump seat—a third row—that allows you to ferry two extra passengers in your chic wagon (though it is better suited to kids; while my teen daughters loved the novelty of the jump seat, it wasn’t roomy enough for them on a long drive).
The wagon we tested also came with two brilliant features that make traveling with a dog a breeze: window screens that pull up to cover the passenger windows, so with the windows open Eli could have all the fresh air in his face that he wanted, and a screen that partitioned the cargo space from the seats; it pulls up from the retractable luggage cover bar and hooks into the ceiling. Eli wasn’t so crazy for that feature, but then again, he never hitched a ride with the Romney family.
Why MB Drivers Love Their Cars
Two of my good friends drive Mercedes-Benzes: Polly has a wagon and Margo drives a sedan. One of Polly’s favorite features is the 4Matic: Mercedes Benz introduced this in the 1980’s, a bit ahead of the 4WD trend; it means the car is automatically in all time four wheel drive, great for slippery conditions (or just a fun curvy road). Cars without 4 wheel drive often aren’t an option where we live–the tundra of Connecticut–because of the need for traction in winter weather, but the 4Matic technology makes driving a sedan or wagon a possibility. Adding to the sweet experience is the E350 wagon’s low center of gravity: you don’t have to feel as if you’re driving the Matterhorn to have all that space in back; the car hugs the curves of the road, responds instantly to your commands, and lets you know who is in charge: you.
This low center of gravity is due in part to the fact that the wagon is low to the ground, just like a sedan. As Margo pointed out, if you need to carry cargo in a Thule car top carrier (that attaches to the car’s roof rails), you won’t need a ladder to manage it; the roof of the E350 wagon is just about mid-chest level on me (I’m 5’8”). And both friends agree: the best thing about the Mercedes-Benz is that when you hit the gas, you go. No hesitation, no jerky-jumpy response, no deep breath before the zoom, you just go. Merging onto the highway or cruising to school in rush hour traffic is easy.
Eco-Drive Lets The Engine Take a Break
But all that lead-footedness can be expensive, especially when gas is $4 a gallon. To combat this, Mercedes-Benz has taken on the challenge of engineering better efficiency; the E350 equipped the E350 with an Eco mode. Similar to a hybrid, the engine shuts off when you’ve idled; at a traffic light or sitting in the school pick up line, as long as your foot is firmly on the brake, the engine shuts off. I’m not sure if this helps all that much, since the engine ‘pops’ back on when you take your foot off the brake. The week we drove the car we averaged about 19MPG, the EPA rating estimate (the EPA estimates 26MPG highway).
But Here’s the Best Part
Here’s what makes a Mercedes-Benz, the wagon or any other model, so sweet: all the little touches. The toggle that controls everything on the display screen, the fact that the screen is toggle controlled and not touch screen (no fingerprints!!!), the gear shifter that is on the steering column rather than between the seats (freeing up space for cup holders, charge ports and a good old fashioned ash tray—yes, a throwback feature, but this is a European car, after all). The climate control ‘levers’ that move up or down to control temperature and fan (it’s so great to not have to look or fumble to adjust the fan while your’e driving; it’s right there, easily to reach and adjust). But probably the best part of the E350 is the incredible stereo. Outfitted with a Harman/Kardon surround sound system—a great radio and amazing speakers—and an interior designed to optimize the sound, this is the richest, most satisfying sound system I’ve ever heard. Driving around with my kids, belting out the words to Lorde’s Royals, even on the 18 millionth playing, makes us feel like maybe we are, even if just for a week, royals ourselves.
What We Loved
White leather interior
Heated front and rear seats
Heated steering wheel
Third row seating
Luggage cover that rises with the lift gate (so you can keep it on all the time and still easily access items in the cargo area)
Cargo area partition (great for pets in the cargo area)
Hands free phone and navigation
Power sun roof
Super easy phone sync and Bluetooth
Adaptive headlights (you never need to turn on brights, they adjust when it’s really dark!)
Adaptive cruise control Surround view/rear view camera Harman/Kardon surround sound stereo
What You Need To Know Small-ish third row
Third row is not automatic; it takes a bit of setting up
Third row only accessible from the lift gate
Third row passengers can easily open the door from the inside but not close it
Base price: $56,800; price of the model we drove: $72,450
Flared front bumper and low stance creates possibility of damaging bumper on curbs or parking stops
19MPG city/26MPG highway
Requires premium fuel
Disclosure: Mercedes-Benz provided the E350 Wagon for our review; opinions here are all our own.