Station wagons might have seen themselves almost wiped out by minivans in North America, but over in Europe it was a completely different story. For one thing, the modern minivan was largely an invention of the Detroit auto industry, a bulky design which was not well suited to the narrow streets found in most European cities. Compounding matters was the fact that these larger, heavier vehicles were not exactly champions when it came to fuel economy, and given that prices for gasoline have traditionally been much higher on the other side of the Atlantic, this was another strike against the minivan.
By and large, European families stood by their wagons, and when examining the wide range of options available to them, it was easy to see why. Wagons from Sweden and Germany had avoided the bloating that was prevalent in the United States and instead followed the pattern of adding a layer of convenience and utility to an automaker's sport sedans. These fun to drive wagons had little in common with their American brethren, trading in big block V-8 engines for economical 4 and 6-cylinder units equipped with thrifty manual gearboxes.
Mercedes-Benz had a long history of building durable station wagons that were capable of standing up to the serious amounts of abuse typically inflicted upon them not only by the demands of transporting young children, but also the perils of turning the keys to the family car over to these youngsters once they had reached the legal driving age. Especially known for their diesel wagons, Mercedes-Benz made sure that every one of these vehicles was imbued with the same level of engineering as their sedans and coupes.
In North America, Mercedes-Benz matched their Teutonic competition by offering both an entry level and mid-size wagon version of their sedan lines. This article focuses on the 2 best used wagons available from Mercedes-Benz. This includes the C-Class, which is targeted at young families just beginning their journey through the Mercedes product lineup, and the E-Class, an upscale vehicle for the wealthy soccer mom. Both of these automobiles are more than worthy of the dignity and class associated with the three-pointed star, and each should be high on the list of any family interested in something other than a plane Jane minivan when it comes to transporting their children and all of the luggage, camping supplies and building materials that might enter into their lives.
2002 - 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon
When revamping their entry-level vehicles at the beginning of the new millennium, Mercedes-Benz were careful to impart their least expensive compact automobiles with a greater degree of sporty flair than they had previously enjoyed. Part of this was to offset the somewhat dowdy image that had dogged the previous C-Class, and part of it was to combat the increasingly quick vehicles emerging from both Audi and BMW. This included their C-Class wagon, a revised stalwart that abandoned much of its earlier boxiness to embrace the new C-Class look.
The 2002 - 2005 Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon offered buyers a number of different 6-cylinder engines, depending upon which year of vehicle was being investigated. Initially, the wagon was outfitted with a powerful 3.2-liter motor which produced 215 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. This was matched with a 5-speed automatic transmission and did a very good job of handling the wagon's extra weight. The following year a smaller 2.6-liter engine was also added to the equation, offering 168 horsepower and slightly better fuel economy in order to appeal to frugal luxury buyers. All-wheel drive also became an option across all editions of the wagon.
The wagon's cargo compartment is a generous 16 cubic feet, a number which expands to just under 49 cubic feet when the rear seat is folded down. When hauling passengers instead of cargo, the 2002 - 2006 Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon offers interior accommodations that are fairly standard for the entry-level luxury class. In comparison with the older C-Class, it is clear that an effort has been made to improve the overall look and feel of vehicle trim and controls, which have a much better heft and solidity. The dashboard design has also been improved.
The 2002 - 2006 Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagon will impress used wagon buyers with its competence and comfort, and it makes a decent compromise for families not interested in a minivan but who require extra interior cargo space.
2004 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon
For many years one of the most popular Mercedes-Benz wagons, the E-Class was once again given a family option one year following its 2003 re-design. The wait was worth it, as the 2004 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon is the most refined and feature-laden editions of the car to have ever graced North American shores. Not only does the vehicle impress from a practical standpoint, but it also benefits from windswept styling that does much to add an attractive sheen to a truly deserving automobile.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon has access to a range of powerful engines that make it the quickest wagon in the Mercedes stable. The base E320 uses the same 3.2-liter V-6 as the C-Class wagon but ups power to 221 ponies. However, performance enthusiasts would do well to investigate the E500, a vehicle which features a 302 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 under the hood. Both of these engines were upsized in 2006 in order to provide and additional 47 and 82 horsepower respectively. The ultimate in hot rod station wagons takes the form of either the E55 or E63 AMG editions of the vehicle, with the latter pumping out an incredible 507 horsepower from a 6.2-liter V-8 engine. These sophisticated grocery getters / quarter mile screamers hit the streets towards the end of the vehicle's lifecycle. All-wheel drive is available to each standard edition of the E-Class wagon, and either a 5 or 7-speed automatic transmission is called upon to handle gearshifts, depending upon the year of the vehicle.
The interior of the 2004 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is certainly a step above the C-Class, with an LCD navigation / vehicle management screen provided to help drivers access the extended features of the wagon. Excellent leather seats top off a well-designed passenger compartment that provides more than adequate space for all occupants, as well as a generous cargo area that comes in at just a hair under 25 cubic feet.
The 2004 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a triumph of German engineering, and as a used wagon it is difficult to beat in the mid-size segment.