Mercedes is no stranger to the luxury station wagon game, having introduced the genre to the world back in the 1970s. While SUVs and crossovers have increased in popularity, the wagon has remained a major player in the European E-Class range where it presently accounts for a third of that volume. Although Mercedes knows that won’t be the case in the U.S., it still believes there’s sufficient demand to keep it in the mix. Slated to arrive by early 2017, the latest take initially will be offered here in one model: the E400 4Matic. We recently headed to Germany for a first taste of this promising addition to the family on its home turf.  

As might be expected, the new E-Class Wagon leverages the design pedigree of the 2017 E-Class Sedan, which also has been made over and is now on sale in E300 4Matic form. From nose to B-pillar, the two vehicles are identical - visually, mechanically and technologically. While the Wagon’s extended, more upright roofline that resolves into a tastefully raked back glass makes it appear noticeably longer, the optics belie a mere 0.4 inch actual differential. Here too, M-B’s familiar Luxury and Sport trims impart individualized character to the grille/fascia treatments but both carry common twin-element LED taillamps linked by an integrated chrome accent strip.

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Inside, the new E-Class Wagon offers all of the charm, civility and coolness of the sedan. This parallel universe extends from its high-quality cabin appointments, multifunction steering wheel and a new driver assist -- Pre-Safe Sound that can help prevent hearing damage in the case of an accident -- to the availability of M-B’s dual 12.3-inch high-res display screens for the main instrument cluster and infotainment system. The new wagon also offers two Burmester premium audio systems, designo trim elements and a Driver Assistance Package that brings a host of new features highlighted by the Drive Pilot system that allows semi-autonomous operation.

Rear-facing third row

While the E400 4Matic Wagon also shares the Sedan’s extremely accommodating 40/20/40 flat-folding rear bench seat, all U.S.-spec models will team it with a child-scaled rear-facing 50/50 third-row that’s optional in other markets. A large, power activated hatch and relatively low liftover height eases access to the new Wagon’s larger cargo area, which can be expanded from 22.6 to 64.3 cu ft in Euro trim.

The new E400 4Matic Wagon also benefits from a selection of focused NVH tweaks. These include stiffening elements in the floor that keeps the shell structure on par with the Sedan as well as dedicated supplemental insulation in critical body areas, particularly under the rear seats and in the wheel arches. That extra noise attenuation quells the annoying big-box boominess found in some vehicles with large open passenger areas and makes the E-Class Wagon one of the quietest on the market.

Twin-turbo V6

Mercedes’ new estate variant matches its punchy 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that cranks out 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque with a sophisticated 9G Tronic 9-speed automatic. The powertrain delivers solid real-world performance in this versatile 4,497-pound hauler and is expected to yield some highly respectable EPA stats, as well. Thanks to its seamless 4Matic all-wheel drive, the E400 Wagon also boasts an added measure of confidence when the pavement gets slicker. The suspension comes in two forms. The basic arrangement nets conventional steel-springs up front just like the Sedan but includes a self-leveling rear air setup. The 4Matic Wagons we drove featured the available full Air Body Control suspension. Also found on the Sedan’s option list, it brings multi-mode dynamic damping that quite effectively fine-tunes the basic ride characteristics while keeping body roll in check.

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Although our time in the new 2017 E400 4Matic Wagon was somewhat limited, it nonetheless made a positive first impression. Buyers in the market for a luxury wagon that offers comfort, refinement and solid dynamic credentials would be wise to put this one on their must-drive list. The caveat here is pricing, a question that won’t be resolved until closer to the official on-sale date early next year. For the moment, those impressed by the E400 4Matic Wagon’s practicality but wishing for more a more intense variation will have to keep hoping the 369-horse Mercedes-AMG E43 version available in Europe ultimately makes it over here as well.

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