There are cars, and then there are cars. And while many top luxury models share many characteristics with your everyday kid hauler, they’re generally not classified as family cars. But according to Mercedes-Benz, it doesn’t have to be that way. And to prove it, they’ve just released their latest E-class wagon. Now it’s as refined and luxurious as any car in the Mercedes lineup, but this one is ready for the whole family.
So, whether you’re headed to the kids’ soccer practice or off to the market, the 2004 Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon will get you there fast, in first class style.
The new E-wagon follows a complete redesign of the sedans last year. Like the 4-doors, the new 5-doors are available as a V-6 powered E320 and with a V-8 as the E500, in rear or with 4Matic all-wheel drive. This is the first time Mercedes has put a V-8 in its wagon. The bold face of this wagon, with its fresh-aggressive Benz styling sweeping over the hood, hides its power well as an otherwise demure wedge-shaped body moves aft. The lean and linear greenhouse rushes past the standard roof rails and down the rounded rear fascia with the optional power liftgate. This sleek two-box design rides on a slightly longer wheelbase than the previous E-wagon, supported by our E500’s 17-inch wheels and substantial 245/45-Series tires.
Technology added last year to the redesigned E500 sedan now makes its way to the new wagon as well. It’s the 4-link front and 5-link rear suspension mated with Airmatic Dual Control borrowed from the flagship S-Class. Airmatic automatically adjusts shock damping, air spring stiffness and ride height to create a sport and comfort suspension. The driver can also choose to further adjust the shock damping by selecting Comfort, Sport1 or Sport2. The most luxurious ride comes with the Comfort setting, and it seems less floaty than on the sedan. Still our drivers preferred the maximum control of the stiffer Sport2, which still delivered acceptable highway ride quality.
Power for the new E-Class wagons includes a 3.2-liter 221-horsepower V6 for the E320, or our E500’s up-sized 5.0-liter, 24-valve V8. Also borrowed from the S-Class, this beefy engine pumps out 302 horsepower and 339 pound-feet of torque. Suddenly the kid’s car pool sounds a little more fun!
Mated to a 5-speed automatic with driver-adaptive logic and TouchShift manual mode, we rapidly carted to 60 in only 5.8 seconds. That’s statistically the same as the rear-drive E500 sedan we tested last year despite the wagon’s 400 extra pounds. The E500’s drivetrain produces a big hit of power at first contact and jumps off the line. From there it delivers steady, smooth power and crisp shifts throughout the rev band. But boxier aerodynamics slowed the quarter mile time slightly to a still impressive 14.2 seconds at 99 miles-per-hour.
Slowing down further for our slalom, and in soft Comfort mode, the E500 was still quite manageable. Understeer is mild and the Electronic Stability Control system is not intrusive. Sport2 mode really flattens out corners as the E500 proved well-planted and amazingly secure. 4Matic performed well, balancing torque output around the chassis without robbing the driver of precise steering control. Pushed hard, the rear end gets a little light, but the E-wagon would need a serious fight before losing its composure.
Braking comes by way of the E500’s all-vented discs with ABS and Brake Assist. Stops from 60 averaged 125 feet. No complaints here, as stability, pedal feel, and ABS feedback are all very positive.
And for something positively posh, step inside. The interior of the E-Class wagon sets the stage for a true Mercedes marque. The E-wagon’s standard 10-way power front seats are sturdy and supportive. Our wagon had optional front seat heat, but seat ventilation and automatic bolstering are also available. On the E500, leather upholstery and wood trim are used throughout the airy 7-passenger cabin. Behind the tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped wheel, gauges appear clear and substantial The center stack features 4-zone climate controls and automatic controls for the available Harmon Kardon sound system, with a CD changer which hides neatly in the center console. For the most tech-savvy, a DVD COMMAND Navigation system is available along with Distronic adaptive cruise control.
The rear quarters feature plenty of room and add rear climate controls and flip-down armrest with storage. Release the split folding bench and reveal a unique and removable storage bin for small items. For added kiddie carrying, the 24.4 cubic foot cargo bay can be transformed with a hidden third row flip-up rear facing bench for two. With second and third row seats folded flat, cargo area springs to a spacious 68.9 cubic feet. Cargo cover and net are standard.
Protective features include front and rear side airbags, curtain air bags, and TeleAid assist, all standard. As for fuel efficiency, EPA ratings for the E-500 are 16 city and 24 highway. Our tester managed 19 miles-per-gallon on a mixed test loop.
And the price to drive the family in Benz wagon style? Well, the base price of an E320 is $51,270. Step up to the E500 and tack on a gas guzzler tax of $1,300 to get a base price of $61,970. With options, our E500 test wagon would run you $65,560.
Well, that puts it beyond our means. But for those who want to arrive in style, with their growing family in tow, or who have had it up to here with overweight luxury SUVs, the 2004 Mercedes Benz E-Class wagon is classy, convenient, and consistent with the brand. It is also the new benchmark in luxury haulers.
Engine: 5.0-Liter, 24-valve V8
Torque: 339 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 5.8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.2 Seconds @ 99 MPH
60-0 MPH: 125 Feet
EPA Mileage: 16 MPG City 24 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 19 MPG Mixed City/highway