Mercedes has plugged every four-wheel drive niche imaginable, but that doesn't mean the team at Stuttgart has forgotten about traditional families who just want a plain old wagon. The E-Class Estate has space for the family and all their kit, but unlike many SUVs, it doesn't try to be something it's not. And we're perfectly okay with that.
We're going to start at the back, because that's where the good news is hiding on the E-Class Estate. There's 670 liters (23.7 cu.ft) of luggage space with the rear seats in place, and a whopping 1,820 liters (64.3 cu.ft) when all three are folded. What's more, the three rear seats fold independently, making it easier to carry long items and passengers at the same time.
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An electric tailgate is standard on all models, although you pay more for hands-free boot opening. You'll also pay more to kit out the load bay with the full gamut of load rails, fasteners and luggage holders.
If there's not enough room in the boot for whatever you're trying to carry, the Estate is capable of towing up to 2,100 kg (4,630 lb), thanks to a power-retractable coupling. The car comes standard with ESP trailer stabilization, too, cutting down on the risk of a snaking freeway tank slapper in all but the windiest conditions, where the optional trailer crosswind assistance system might come in handy.
Mercedes will be offering up seven different engines at launch. If you're keen on diesel power, the entry level four-cylinder E200d puts out 110 kW (150 hp) of power and 360 Nm (266 lb.ft) of torque, or 33 kW (44 hp) and 40 Nm (30 lb.ft) less than the E220d with which it shares its engine and 4.2 l/100km (67 UK mpg) combined fuel figure.
We're more interested in the E350d, which punches out 190 kW (258 hp) of power, and a chubby 620 Nm (457 lb.ft) of torque from a 3.0-liter V6. Fuel use doesn't suffer too much, either, with a combined consumption figure of 5.4 l/100 km (52 mpg).
On the petrol side of the fence, the range kicks off with the 2.0-liter E200, making 135 kW (184 hp) of power and 300 Nm (221 lb.ft) of torque. Those outputs are down by 20 kW (27 hp) and 50 Nm (37 lb.ft) on the E250 which shares the same four-cylinder engine, although both seem a bit undernourished sitting alongside the E400 4MATIC, which makes 245 kW (333 hp) and 480 Nm (354 lb.ft) from its 3.5-liter V6.
If you've got a real need for speed, or a burning desire to scare the family dog on an autobahn run there's the E43 AMG, with the same 295 kW (401 hp) and 520 Nm (384 lb.ft) as the sedan version launched earlier this year.
One of the biggest drawcards for the new E-Class was its sumptuous interior, and that remains the case in the wagon. Tick the right option boxes, and the driver is faced with dual-display setup found in the S-Class. You also get the sweeping dashboard design and aircraft-inspired air-vents that debuted on Mercedes' flagship, making the E-Class cabin look more special than any middle-manager's family car really has any right to.
It should also be nice and quiet inside, thanks to extra insulation on the bulkhead, sidewalls and main floor of the car, as well as special sound absorbers mounted in the wheelarches and under the rear seats. If that's not enough, there is also an extra acoustic comfort package available, which adds extra sound insulation and a special acoustic coating for the windscreen and window glass.
Of course, sometimes the most annoying noises come from the back seat, so Mercedes will also sell you an iPad mount to keep pestering kids quiet on long road trips.
From the outside, the E-Class joins the Volvo V90 in trying to avoid the boxy shape that usually comes with practical, wagon motoring. That means the rear roofline gently slopes downward, working in tandem with the tapering glasshouse to make that wagon butt look a bit less blocky and a bit more bootylicious.
Pricing information hasn't been released for the E-Class Estate, but expect to pay a small premium over the US$50K cost of the equivalent sedan when it launches.
Source: Mercedes BenzView gallery - 40 images