2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon first drive

An icon since its introduction at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1977, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon enters the 2017 model year with a new model: the E400. Tons of new tech, a new engine option, and some of the best semi-autonomous driving features around make the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon the most desirable yet.

Driving Pilot, Mercedes’ latest name for a collection of technologies that combine to take most of the attention-demanding strain off of the driver in stop-and-go or highway driving, combines features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, and automatic lane changes to allow the car to brake, accelerate, and turn with the flow of traffic and the road, all with minimal driver input. During our drive time on the roads and Autobahn around Hamburg, Germany, we found the new E400 to handle even poorly marked roads and construction areas remarkably well–two areas that often trip up competitors’ systems. Of course, there are still road situations that the system can’t decipher (especially road markings faded to the point of near-invisibility), in which case it will deactivate with a small chime alerting the driver that they’re back in full control of the vehicle.

Unlike the E-Class sedan, which will offer only an E300 model below its AMG counterparts, the E-Class Wagon’s E400 trim means it gets the new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, rated in this tune at 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It also gets a new nine-speed paddle-shifted 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, which offers smooth, quick shifts whether in automatic or manual mode. Together, the new powertrain duo lend the E400 wagon a relaxed, effortless quality, accelerating into quick merges or up to Autobahn speeds with steady ease–a perfect complement to its smooth-riding longroof nature.

That suspension is also new, with multi-chambered air suspension dynamically adjusting and auto-leveling to ensure optimal ride quality over nearly any road surface. For a vehicle on low-profile tires, especially (18-inch units will be standard in the U.S. with 19- and 20-inch options likely available, though final details haven’t yet been announced for U.S. equipment and trims), the new E400 offers an impressive balance of quietness and poise over rough, bumpy stretches, while also controlling the motion of the wagon’s large body in corners.

The driver can control the behavior of the engine, transmission, and suspension through the drive select toggle mounted near the COMAND infotainment system’s touchpad/wheel controller. With Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes, the driver can select progressively more aggressive specifications for all systems, or using Individual mode, can tune in just the right level of transmission response, engine response, and steering weight. For most purposes in the E400 wagon, however, Comfort mode will be just about perfect, hitting a sweet spot of balancecd handling in the corners with plush ride quality.

Add to this armada of equipment the huge (optional) dual-12.3-inch display instrument panel/infotainment system and you’ll have one of the best-looking sets of displays available anywhere in the car world today, plus the latest version of Mercedes’ easy-to-use COMAND navigation and entertainment system. The gorgeous, highly functional displays are the crown jewels of an interior that feels solid, luxurious, yet not heavy-handed–and wonderfully free of the Teutonic somberness that often pervades the interiors of the German competition. The seats are comfortable for adults in all four positions, and let’s not forget the wagon’s distinguishing feature: that huge rear cargo area, which can even hold a mid-sized refrigerator with the 40:20:20 split-folding rear seats laid down.

The new 2017 E400 Wagon builds on 40 years of Mercedes wagon excellence, combining clean design cues with the brand’s inimitable feel for luxury, taking the spirit of the W123 and fleshing it out with the latest 21st-Century tech, all while hauling the kids, the groceries, and the weekend’s home improvement projects. What’s not to love about that?

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