What with sport-utilities, crossover vehicles and extended cab pickup trucks of all shapes and sizes, you've really got to be your own person to drive a station wagon these days.
What's more, to drive a station wagon with a base price of $56,475, you're either nuts or you're stylish and self assured. The latter is probably applicable when it comes to the Mercedes-Benz E350 Wagon.
And it's not that Mercedes-Benz lovers don't have any other people haulers to choose from. They have a choice of four different Mercedes-Benz utility vehicles that will soon grow to five when the new GLK goes on sale. So why purchase the E350 Wagon?
Well first, it's a car. To be specific, the E350 Wagon is based on the E-Class sedan. It rides like a car, has the instrumentation and interior of a car and it has the seating position of a car. The bottom line is that the E350 wagon is a sophisticated piece of machinery. It's not a hulking piece of technology.
The car had a 268 horsepower six cylinder engine that was mated to a five-speed transmission. The power train was geared for smooth quiet driving. Acceleration was respectable; handling was responsive but the E350 4matic Wagon was meant for cruising not darting in and out of traffic.
Its interior was sumptuous like you'd expect in a luxury car. Leather and burl wood abounded, and the wood clad steering wheel was a particularly nice touch. When it comes to utility vehicles, designers have to make their interiors utilitarian. But a wagon is different. It's unfettered by the expectations associated with a utility vehicle.
Standard features included the Mercedes-Benz COMAND cockpit management and data system, a premium surround sound system, a in dash six-disc CD changer, an auxiliary audio input jack in the glove compartment, electronic cruise control, and dual-zone climate controls with individual driver and front passenger controls.
Our test vehicle had the option premium II Package. It consisted of a DVD based navigation system, satellite radio, heated front seats, rear side window blinds, hands-free communications, Keyless Go, Bi-Xenon Headlamps with active curve illumination, headlamp washing system and cornering fog lamps.
The look was surprisingly sporty. Of course, there was the E-Class face. But the vehicle was equipped with 17-inch wheels, had an outstanding sienna black paint job with cashmere colored leather, and roof racks that where more aesthetic than functional.
The E350 can tote kids. Most folks who own one have them. And the vehicle can carry loads of cargo. It has 68.9 cubic feet of cargo space. And that's with second row seats deployed.
The E Wagon can be equipped with a rear facing third row seat. It must be the pressure of the times because Mercedes-Benz has other vehicles with third rows. Deploying the seat is a manually operation and its laborious enough that it's certainly not meant for everyday use.
But our E350 wagon did have 4matic which is Mercedes-Benz's version of all-wheel-drive. Thus, it could handle inclement weather. But power to all four wheels also meant that the E350 4matic Wagon was sure treaded and it handled well.
It struck us that the E350 was for drivers who had one or two kids and needed space for their stuff or for whatever else they happen to pick up. It was also for the driver who marched to the beat of a different drummer; one who could do without the hulk and the bulk of a utility vehicle.
And in that price range, as tested ours was priced at, $63,605, you won't see the E350 wagon in every driveway.