Mercedes-Benz has always been clever with its marketing, and its current slogan, "The best or nothing," glorifies the legacy of the brand — while ignoring a few obvious stinkers in their lineup. Still, there are plenty of Benzes left that aren’t built to compete with Camry buyers — and, in my opinion, the best car that Mercedes makes today is the E-Class wagon. Unfortunately, you have to be very committed to living the wagon life to buy one.
My Mercedes estate history goes back to the beginning, as the first Benz wagon I bought was a 1980 300 TD. Even though it was pretty rough, I was pretty impressed at the quality of car I managed to purchase for $800, and I slowly fixed it up myself before moving on to a 1995 E 320 wagon, a 2004 E 500 wagon and many others. So when my wife became pregnant, the need to sell her 2-seater Mercedes SLK 55 AMG was obvious, and I decided to go shopping for the newest-generation E-Class wagon.
Sadly, there aren’t many of them available, new or used — and used wagons aren’t depreciating nearly as quick as the sedans. The 2017 E 400 I eventually bought four months ago for $50,000 was the cheapest certified pre-owned wagon that I could find. Meanwhile, the exact same sedan models were plentiful for less than $40,000. For what I paid for my wagon, I could have purchased an E 43 AMG sedan or a GLC 43 AMG — but instead, I paid more for something without the coveted AMG badge. In my opinion, though, those three letters don’t mean what they used to.
AMG cars used to be built in their own facilities, with their engines hand built by one person. But that’s not always the case nowadays. Under the hood of my wagon is the exact same engine that you would get in an E 43, with the exception of slightly different turbos and a tune. In the E 400, the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 puts out 329 horsepower, but a cheap aftermarket tune would instantly amp things up to more than 400 hp — which is slightly more than an E 43 AMG.
I don’t dare tune mine, though, as that would probably void the warranty. Given the experience with the E 63 wagon that I had last year — which was broken more than it was fixed — and the fact that this is my wife’s car, I didn’t want to take the chance. She doesn’t get the same enjoyment I have when I’m driving one of my hoopties and documenting all the drama that happens. This E 400 is new enough that we don’t have to worry too much, and the warranty will last until my unborn child is out of diapers.
Despite being newer, though, I think that the E-Class wagon is the most faithful to the legacy of Mercedes-Benz. The interior quality is excellent, with large wood paneling and rounded air vents that resemble the dashboards of my favorite classic models. It also still has the rear-facing third-row seat, which I’m surprised still exists, given the safety concerns. The seating surfaces look just like leather but are actually vinyl MB-Tex — something Mercedes has been perfecting for four decades and is nearly indestructible. The car is also optioned without an active suspension and many of the glitzy technologies that will no doubt cause headaches as these cars age — but even without a lot of these options, it still offers a fantastic luxury experience. It’s not built to feel too sporty or to sacrifice quality to achieve a price point, nor does it feel detached and cumbersome like its SUV siblings.
Luxury with practicality is the main reason I think the E-Class is the best car Mercedes makes. The S-Class is too expensive and complicated, and SUVs, while nice enough, just don’t give the same feeling of Mercedes from decades past. Because it has plenty of cargo capacity and all-wheel drive, the E-Class wagon still gives plenty of utility. Like many, my wife wanted an SUV, but she appreciated the best Mercedes has to offer once she started driving it. Find a Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon for sale