New M-B 2005 E500 Wagon – it’s tradition at its best

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

In recent times we’ve written about a host of new-breed station wagons from the compact models under 20 grand such as the Mazda3 and the Ford Focus to the near-luxury and luxury mid-sized vehicles typified by the Volvo V70, the Lexus IS300 Sport Cross and the BMW 3-Series.

They all offer a measure of practicality. Some exhibit traits of a sports sedan. Others are sleek head-turning machines.

But no wagon quite reaches the exalted status of the Mercedes E-Class and in particular the E500 wagon. It is the personification of what a modern station wagon can be if money is no object.

If shopping for a wagon, the E500 is surely everything a person would dream of owning from its awesome performance, athletic demeanor, luxury appointments, impeccable build quality and graceful styling. Money can, indeed, buy wonderful things including wonderful automobiles.

The 2005 E500 is arguably the best wagon in the world. It comes with standard all-wheel drive and with the performance of a muscle car. It has the cargo room of a mid-sized sport utility vehicle. And it even features a pair of rear-facing seats that fold out of the floor to accommodate a couple of children.

It is loaded with standard equipment including automatic dual control air suspension, four-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power adjustable front seats, nine-speaker audio system with CD changer, leather seating, burl walnut trim, electric adjustable tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and express up and down power windows.

And the wagon is loaded with safety equipment, something people have put high on their priority list these days.

In the Mercedes safety includes head protection curtains with rollover sensor, side airbags front and rear, Electro-hydraulic Braking System with brake assist, and Electronic Stability Program.

One of the reasons people give for buying the big sport utilities is the security of all-wheel drive, especially in winter conditions. The E500 is not about to let them down. Standard equipment includes an all-wheel drive system called 4Matic.

Power distribution is rear-biased with 4Matic. In other words, in normal driving 60 percent of the power is distributed to the rear wheels for better handling.
There is one big downside (only if you’re poor) to this wonderful wagon. Base price is $62,500, including a $1,300 gas-guzzler tax. If you’re willing to sacrifice some horsepower you will be able to save enough to perhaps make the E-Class affordable.
The E320 wagon begins at about $50,000.

The biggest difference in the two vehicles is the engine. The E320 comes with a surprisingly responsive 3.2-liter V-6 generating 215 horsepower. But the real kick comes in the E500 with a 5.0-liter 302 horsepower V-8 that generates 339 pound-feet of torque.

Mercedes says the E500 can climb from 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds. That’s sports car territory, and it feels like it when the pedal is depressed. This massive power is smooth and quiet inside the vault-like E-Class. Absolute luxury performance at its best fed through a slick shifting 5-speed automatic transmission.

Handling is also exemplary. This is one wagon that can be directed through the back road twists and turns at speeds more befitting a sports car. Yet the ride remains smooth as glass. When it’s time to pull the wagon down, brake feel is excellent.

Getting started takes perhaps a little practice. It takes some pressure on the throttle to get the car in motion, but once this is learned the Mercedes is well controlled and completely devoid of those jackrabbit starts that plague some vehicles.

Not only is the E-Class the top attraction in the wagon-segment, it’s the best looking as well. And if you are going to plunk down 60 big ones and then some, you want, and you deserve style both inside and out.

The profile is sleek with its swept-back roof and slightly hiked up tail and the Mercedes E-Class elliptical headlights fit neatly into the package.

There’s no letdown inside with wonderful-feeling leather, chrome accents and burl-walnut trim. The dashboard is attractive and impeccably set out. We still quibble, however, with the somewhat difficult-to-use COMMAND system in the Mercedes although we have driven enough Mercedes products to have a working familiarity.
Storage space is abundant for a mid-sized wagon. There is 24 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row seat, and 69 cubic feet with the second-row folded down.
A power tailgate can be added as a $510 option.

Extras on our test car included the power tailgate, heated front seats, an entertainment package that includes a Harmon/Kardon sound system and 6-disc changer, and a sunroof package. That brought the bottom line to $66,110. (It’s only money!).

For satellite radio lovers – and you can count us in that crowd, Mercedes can add the Sirius system to any of their 2005 products. It’s worth the small price of admission.

We loved the E500 as an upscale cargo carrier for the groceries, a couple of large packages from the building supply store and for a couple dozen empty boxes to be used for packing some items to be moved.

Perhaps best of all, we discovered that the E500 is very accommodating for several sets of golf clubs. And it makes one heck of a statement in the country club parking lot.