May 23, 2013 8:30 AM | By Jeremy Sinek for MSN Autos

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon first drive

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

“Get” wagons? Got money? Here’s how you can help save a species
Barcelona, Spain -- Say what you will about the rehab process that has transformed truck-ulent SUVs into politer, car-like crossovers: they are still not cars. Not that most North Americans care either way. Traditional station wagons would likely be extinct on this continent were it not that Europeans still build and buy them in large numbers, and toss us a few scraps to satisfy the few here who do still “get” wagons.

Not only is the choice limited, but the pricing of most wagons ensures a high degree of exclusivity. With the notable exception of Volkswagen’s seminal Golf Wagon, the handful of true, traditional station-wagon cars still available in North America (and no, jacked-up SUV-wannabes like the Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70 don’t count) come in the shape of luxury cars.  If you’re looking to buy one, it won’t take you long to draw up a short-list:  BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes E-Class. That’s it. 

Our subject here is the Mercedes, which, like its sedan sibling, has undergone a mid-cycle do-over for model-year 2014. The basic shape that first appeared in 2009 has not changed, but you won’t easily miss the 2014’s bold new face with its slatted grille, stylised “four-eye” headlamps, and standard AMG appearance package (deeply sculpted front and rear aprons, plus side skirts).

The other area of intense innovation involves electronic driving aids – a veritable onslaught of warning and intervention systems that bring us another step closer to the self-driving car. Uniquely to the wagon E350, these will include Active Parking Assist as standard. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Who’s driving this thing anyway?

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon interior (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Over and above already-familiar electronic co-pilots -- attention assist, active lane-keeping and blind-spot assist, and the original Distronic cruise control that automatically keeps a safe following distance in variable-speed traffic – new wrinkles include: enhanced lane-keeping that now works on dotted lane markings, and also reacts to oncoming traffic; steer-assist that actually pro-actively  keeps the car tracking within the lane markings; BAS Plus with Cross Traffic Assist that detects cross traffic and pedestrians both when moving forward and when backing up; and Pre-Safe Brake, which can detect a pedestrian in the car’s path and automatically brake to avoid or mitigate a collision.

Other new features for 2014 include standard Comand navigation, and Eco stop-/start that should significantly improve fuel economy in city driving.

As before, the Wagon will come for now only with a 3.5-litre, 302-hp V6 it shares with the E 350 sedan, mated to a seven-speed automatic and 4Matic all-wheel drive. Early next year M-B’s excellent new 3.0-litre, 330-hp bi-turbo V6 is expected to replace the present naturally-aspirated 3.5.

At an early preview of the 2014 Es in Espana, I got wheel time in a couple of wagons, but they were propelled by four-cylinder gas and diesel engines that won’t be available here (though the new 2.1-litre turbo-diesel will be available on the sedan this fall).

(Continued): Fast freight
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