If you don’t already have old money, you can’t get it. A freshly acquired fortune is, by definition, new money. Buy all the seventh homes, helicopters, and significant others you like, but those who bemoan estate taxes over braised ostrich hors d’oeuvres will still think you’re the weirdo. Money can’t buy pedigree, though it can buy a pedigreed Mercedes-Benz.
The E-class wagon’s lineage stretches back to the 1970s, and the redesigned, W213-generation model continues to represent the discerning option in the Mercedes lineup. In our crossover-crazed world, it’s contrarian sans irony, like a smoking jacket worn not in vogue but because the wearer has smoked Cubans since the Taft administration. Only a small cloister of Americans each year—said to be among Mercedes-Benz’s richest and most loyal customers here—opt for the E-class wagon instead of nouveau-riche G-wagens or predictable S-classes. That taste lends the station wagon its quiet confidence, its air of amply nourished bank accounts.
Not So Low-Key Looks
Mercedes-Benz’s stylists seem to have forgotten the E400’s under-the-radar mission, though. Their addition of more roof and glass to the stoic E-class sedan streamlines the profile into a tidy bustle graced by two wide, thin lamps seemingly pulled from Benz’s coupes. The quietly, meltingly lovely result is longer and lower than its predecessor and arguably prettier than Volvo’s V90 wagon.
It also can hold 35 cubic feet of chattels behind the second-row seats, 22 more cubes than fit in the E-class sedan’s trunk. We used that space—which expands to 57 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat—to move an apartment’s worth of boxed kitchen and living-room items. For carrying smaller passengers in a pinch, a rear-facing third-row seat deploys from the trunk floor.
With these changes and a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine replacing the old wagon’s 3.5-liter V-6, the E400 is 382 pounds heavier than the four-cylinder, all-wheel-drive E300. (The E400 wagon has 4MATIC all-wheel drive as standard.) Typically, such weight gain would earn a condemnation from us. Here, it adds a sense of classic Mercedes heft, a satisfying expression of solidity the daintier E300 nears but can’t quite equal.
Power that Suffices
The V-6 is the same engine that powers the AMG-badged E43 sedan that won our latest comparison test of mid-size sports sedans, albeit detuned to 329 horsepower from 396. It erases our complaints about the 241-hp E300’s pokiness, shaving 1.4 seconds from the sedan’s zero-to-60-mph time and providing strain-free passing power and a better soundtrack. For now, it is exclusive to the E wagon, coupe, and convertible; next year, Mercedes-Benz plans to add an E400 to the sedan range.
Unsurprisingly, the E400 wagon drives much like the ultra-smooth E-class sedan. With the must-have $1900 air springs and adjustable dampers, the Benz wafts down the road on a magic carpet of comfort and solitude. As if this needed enhancing, Mercedes offers a $1100 Acoustic Comfort package that quiets the wagon even further with thicker window glass and additional sound-attenuation throughout the cabin. In practice, it virtually eliminates the interior booming over road imperfections common to wagons and SUVs, in which the cargo hold is open to the cabin.
Stiffer suspension settings and sportier throttle and transmission calibrations are a flick of a center-console switch away, though none truly transform the comfort-driven experience. In the hardiest Sport+ driving mode, the nine-speed automatic transmission cracks off earnest downshifts and holds lower gears longer, but the suspension still allows the nose to gently bob up and down under hard braking or acceleration. In every driving mode, the steering is isolated and the brake pedal squishy.
That isn’t to say the E400 isn’t capable. Our test car was outfitted in Sport regalia, which replaces the no-cost Luxury trim level’s hood ornament and traditional grille with a three-pointed star embedded in a more aggressive grille; choosing the Sport model also nets you different wheels, bumpers, side skirts, and a slightly lowered suspension. Fitted with 18-inch summer tires, it recorded an impressive 0.87 g of grip on the skidpad and a sports-sedan-like 156-foot stop from 70 mph.
E as in Equipped
Leave the dynamism, as the Germans call it, to the upcoming Jaguar XF Sportbrake or the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. Or the 603-hp, trust-funds-gone-wild Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon. Set the E400 to its default Comfort mode and request one of eight different massages, including one that alternately jiggles each side of your rear end to enhance bloodflow on long drives. Crossing the country? Definitely go for the high intensity setting.
Those chairs are included with the $11,200 Premium 3 package, which is more expensive and better than Premium 1 or 2. It adds a self-parking system, a 360-degree camera, keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, ambient interior lighting, a Burmester audio system, adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, heated front seats, a cabin perfuming system, sunshades for each rear window, blind-spot monitoring, Mercedes’s semi-autonomous driving technologies, a head-up display, and even more.
Checking the Premium 3 box also is the only way to unlock the optional $850 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that matches the standard 12.3-inch central dashboard display. We suggest doing this, because the screen and its graphics are gorgeous, even if the menus are only superficially intuitive. Diving deeper into the system’s nooks and crannies takes more concentration, whether using the steering-wheel touchpads, the center-console rotary knob, the touchpad atop that knob, the dashboard buttons, or the system’s voice controls.
Other options on our test car included the $450 ventilation function for the front seats, $620 heated rear seats, the $600 Warmth and Comfort package (heated armrests and steering wheel), the $1090 panoramic sunroof, and $720 Piedmont Green metallic paint. The $4900 quilted Macchiato Beige and Saddle Brown nappa leather interior option and $1300 striped Magnolia wood trim are not only sumptuous, they endow the E400’s cabin with the relaxing ambience of a yacht. It is a divine environment.
Considering all of this, the Benz’s price could have six digits and we’d shrug and agree. Mercedes instead raises the curtain at a vaguely attainable $63,225. Our fully loaded example came to $88,405. If there’s a time or a place for suggesting that an expensive car’s price seems too low, it is here. Wealth impersonator and 1980s icon Ferris Bueller said it best (even if he was describing a Ferrari): “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 5-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $88,405 (base price: $63,225)
ENGINE TYPE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 183 cu in, 2996 cc
Power: 329 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 115.7 in
Length: 194.2 in
Width: 72.9 in Height: 58.1 in
Cargo volume: 35 cu ft
Curb weight: 4442 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 12.8 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 19.4 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 5.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.7 sec @ 103 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 129 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 156 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.87 g
EPA combined/city/highway: 21/19/25 mpg
C/D observed: 22 mpg
C/D observed 75-mph highway driving: 30 mpg
C/D observed highway range: 630 mi