|Grand Prix - Mercedes-Benz E500
The original battle wagon of Beverly Hills
soccer moms, the new E-Class estate is a wonder of
packaging, and it moves just as quickly as The New Moms'
pace of life. But, for those of us who just open up the
trunk and toss our stuff in, do high-tech cubbyholes and
space-age tie-downs justify the cost?
Look closely and you can see one
of the many reasons we were so smitten with the E500
Wagon. Stuffed within the roomy confines of its
luxurious cabin lay the entire logistical support for
our little shindig here. An 8-ft ladder, several coolers
of food, 20 grand worth of photo gear and whatever else
we picked up from the local market--the big Benz
swallowed it all. Funny thing, though. This battlewagon
was more than capable among this collection of dedicated
sport sedans, packing both the sinew and brawn to make
it a real contender.
Perhaps there's a reason the basic shape of
the Estate has remained essentially unchanged over the
last decade. Maybe it's because it's damn close to
perfect, a design that manages to be sexy and
utilitarian in the same strokes of the pen.
The E500 Wagon has been filled
with all of the best bits of Mercedes-Benz's vaunted
technology. The 5-liter V8 engine is an especially nice
lump of metal, churning out an impressive 302 bhp and
339 lb-ft of twist. Our test vehicle was equipped with
the 4Matic driveline, a rather pricey piece that few
folks will ever actually need.
Despite its 4,230-l. curb weight, the
Mercedes managed very respectable acceleration, and it
was blessed with the best high-speed stability of the
bunch. No doubt the Wagon's shape plays a part here,
punching a tiny 0.27 Cd hole in the air, but the lion's
share belongs to the Benz's inherently good suspension
dynamics: independent double wishbones up front and
independent five-arm multi-link out back, all modulated
with Mercedes' Airmatic suspension control
Our rig was equipped with the standard yet
stunning Stone Leather interior trimmed in walnut
burlwood. The seating included well-bolstered chairs up
front and two rows in back, capable of being divided in
a 60/40 split or fully flat for 1,950 cu ft of storage.
The cabin features lots of nifty storage trays, bins and
nets, certainly enough to keep the kids busy.
Mercedes charges $59,950 for an
E500 4Matic Wagon, a number that can escalate another
six or seven grand when it's fully kitted out (as ours
was at $66,760--destination and gas-guzzler charges
included). Big bucks? You bet. It is, however, the best
of its breed. Forget all that crap about soccer moms;
this car is for F1 dads, perfect for shuttling junior to
"Who knew such
performance was possible from a wagon? Extremely stable
at speed, even over terrible pavement."
"I settled in at half throttle; a
look at the speedometer gave me a shock: 100 mph! The
E500 is the most polished of the group."
"Powerwise it isn't flashy but is
more like the pounding of a judge's gavel. Every bit a
performance GT with a long tail."
"Brilliant cabin layout. I'd buy
this car just for the interior alone. Lots of cargo room
and various storage spaces make it far more useful than
"A sexy wagon? Absolutely. And
brains, too. This one has it all."
"Its awd, impeccable road manners
and highly useful interior make it the ideal all-season