If you're of a certain age, part of your childhood was spent riding around in the back of a station wagon. That all changed in 1984 when Chrysler brought out their first Minivan, but most of us who came of age earlier did our time in wagons.
A station wagon today is a far cry from the Vista Cruisers and Country Squire wagons you might recall from childhood. Today's station wagons, or "long roof" cars, offer the handling and performance of a sedan with the enhanced cargo capacity and utility of a crossover SUV. There's a small but dedicated fan club for wagons, and I have to admit that I'm a charter member.
There are a few automakers that have stubbornly stuck with wagons even when they haven't been popular. Volvo springs to mind, but Mercedes-Benz has also kept wagons in their product portfolio. The latest is an E-Class vehicle called the E450 4MATIC All-Terrain.
Let me unpack that name a little bit. The E-Class is Mercedes' midsize passenger car. Generally speaking, it's pretty luxurious, and the wagon offers all the features you can find in the sedan or coupe. The 4MATIC refers to Mercedes' all-wheel-drive system, and the All-Terrain part of the name indicates that the car has a slightly raised ride height and some extra paint protection where rocks and such may be kicked up. So, this is a light gravel road or winter sports kind of vehicle.
The E450 comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system. That means there's an electric motor that adds a little power to the engine when needed, usually when accelerating from a stop. You don't have to do anything to use the hybrid; in fact, you'll probably never think about it. The engine delivers 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, passed through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The net effect is that the E450 is fast, powerful, and enjoyable to drive. As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, it's a very civilized and refined driving experience.
Inside, the E450 All-Terrain provides the same level of luxury and technology you would expect from any executive-class Mercedes. Leather upholstery and heated front seats come standard, with cooling ventilation and a programmable massage function available as options. For an extra $1,670, you can have the most comfortable seats on the market, and they'll massage away your stress as you drive. There's also an optional air fragrance and ionization function for $350, to complete the spa experience.
Mercedes-Benz is a technology leader, so the E450 is incredibly high-tech. There's a very wide 12.3-inch center display, and another 12.3-inch screen for the driver's information center (what we used to call the gauges). It's all programmable now, with navigation information, trip computer, and so on. Mercedes places both screens in one continuous band of glass that stretches from the driver's side to the passenger side of the center console.
There's a touchpad point-and-click interface on the console, but you can usually ignore that. In the modern era, you simply tell the car what you want. The Mercedes-Benz User eXperience (MBUX) allows you to say, "Hey Mercedes, turn on the hot massage for the driver's seat" or "Hey Mercedes, change the radio station to NPR." The voice recognition system is really good, and the car adapts itself to your needs. In a week of driving, I never used the touchpad interface for anything.
Safety is also a priority with Mercedes-Benz. There are far too many safety features to list here, but suffice to say that if you have a favorite safety or convenience driver assist feature, it's here. Whether that's blind spot monitoring, overhead camera view, or speed-matching adaptive cruise control, the E450 has it, along with a lot of features no other brand offers. If you buy the optional driver assistance package for another $1,950, one of the many features you get is speed limit assistance, where you can set the E450 up so it will not let you exceed the posted limit. The bottom line on safety technology is that this Mercedes is among the safest cars on the road today.
As I mentioned, the E450 offers a lovely driving experience. It's smooth, controlled, predictable, and quiet inside. Engine power is always there when you want it, but it's never jumpy. You don't have to be careful with your accelerator foot. Similarly, the brakes are easy to use well, and visibility is excellent in all directions.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain has a base price of $68,400, and that gets you a very well-equipped car. The one we tested had all the options, which pushed the price to $83,270. However, buying the car with just the standard features would be almost as nice. You wouldn't get the massage seats, but you're still in one of the top luxury cars available today. The only way to figure out which options you really want is to go experience them for yourself at the Mercedes dealer.
2022 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain
Base price: $68,400
Price as tested: $83,270
Type: Midsize station wagon
Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with mild hybrid (362 hp, 369 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 21/28
Overall length: 194.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,530 pounds
Final assembly: Sindelfingen, Germany
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