Mercedes-Benz boasts that the 2014 E350 4MATIC wagon tested here is “not like every wagon in its class. It is every wagon it its class.” And it’s true. Cadillac’s CTS wagon is being eulogized, and so, in the U.S. at least, the long-roof E-class has outlasted all its competitors. Its strength is derived from its strict adherence to Mercedes’ signature traits: understated luxury, dynamic competence, and bank-vault solidity. Sure, the rest of the refreshed 2014 E-class lineup shares those signatures, but as before, the wagon’s stoic stance against mainstream style and hordes of SUVs, SAVs, and crossovers lends it a practically unmatched sense of classicism.
Now, as Then, the Connoisseur’s Selection
Living happily in the brown-tinted shadow of the 1970s-era W123, Benz wagons have always exuded a sort of timelessness. The 2014 E350 remasters this well-played formula, mixing retro chrome roof rails with futuristic LED-accented headlights and Benz’s latest styling language. Buyers can pick between equally priced Luxury and Sport design themes. Our test vehicle wore the latter, which replaces the Luxury model’s old-school grille design (and hood ornament!) and soft suspension with a lowered-but-still-not-sporty suspension, body addenda, and a modern star-in-grille design.
Opening any of the E350’s five doors reveals a sumptuous cabin befitting its nearly $60,000 base price. Matte-finished brown ash wood trim, glitters of brightwork, and beige leather seats ($1620) with rolled inserts drip with old-money aura, and a power-opening hatch grants entry to a capacious cargo hold that hides a neat rear-facing third-row bench. Our test car was fancified further by the $1090 panoramic sunroof, $970 parking assist, $250 heated steering wheel, $500 18-inch AMG wheels, $3370 Premium package (navigation, Harman/Kardon audio system, heated front seats, and rear-side window shades), $1500 Lighting package (adaptive, full-LED headlights), and Lane Tracking package (blind-spot monitoring and lane-change assistance).
Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ down the River
Under way, the E350 is admirably nonconformist, even if, as in the E350 sedan, that’s precisely because it doesn’t set your pulse racing. (That’s the twin-turbo V-8–powered E63 AMG wagon’s job.) The wagon wafts above the pretense of those luxury cars for which Nürburgring lap times matter most, with a soothingly compliant suspension and some body roll in corners. Everything, from the brake pedal to the steering, operates with an expensive, damped feel, and the structure is granitelike. That the E350 can ooze from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, cling to our skidpad for 0.87 g, and halt from 70 mph in an impressive 167 feet are secondary capabilities baked in more for the occasional emergency maneuver than enthusiastic driving.
Although popular in Europe, the wagon body style is losing ground to crossovers and SUVs among U.S. buyers, so five-door E350s sell here in predictably small numbers. But Mercedes’ people tell us owners are fiercely loyal, and we can see why—the car harks back to a simpler, more cosseting definition of luxury. Squint at it or take it for a drive, and you can trace its lineage through three generations of E-class, and back to the W124 and W123 models that came before those. It’s really not much different from last year’s E350 wagon, which amplifies the sense of tradition about the car that we adore. We can’t say that about any crossover.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED: $70,670 (base price: $59,525)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 213 cu in, 3498 cc
Power: 302 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 113.2 in
Length: 192.7 in
Width: 73.0 in Height: 58.9 in
Curb weight: 4401 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 15.8 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 24.1 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.6 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.8 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 132 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 167 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
EPA city/highway driving: 19/26 mpg
C/D observed: 20 mpg