What was wrong with the station wagon that it fell out of favor? Why did everyone have to use the SUV or MPV so badly? The urge for beauty couldn’t have been the motive. While many MPVs were really big, seven-seat train compartments, they were also a plague on the eye with those saggy Dachshund bodies. Nor should manufacturers purely for the sake of space crossovers building, suvs and related that wrongly beat the station wagon in popularity. Most suvs seem bigger because of their high build, but except for the largest ones, they are anything but.
Or was the ‘station‘ sometimes not multifunctional enough? Another misunderstanding. They drive better than those fake off-road vehicles and in Dutch traffic they are much more manageable with their more civilized proportions.
Hoera! In the German magazine Autobild I found a comparison test of nine station wagons and nine suvs of the same brands. In seven of the nine cases, the station wagon often won a double victory on the criteria of space and handling characteristics. That old combo wasn’t so crazy after all.
But the indestructible formula has been compromised. Honorable donkeys were supplanted by the lifestyle combination, where space was sacrificed to sporty lines. Audi started the trend with the Avant models, stations that battled their Ikea stigma with their slanted rear windows and proud engines. The disadvantage of being able to transport fewer Billy building kits was offset by the fact that family fathers felt like real men again in their Avants.
The business runs on ego. That’s why everyone, from BMW to Volvo, has been drawing that line ever since. Only the Skoda Superb Combi and the VW Passat Variant remained true to the classic station standards with load volumes of 1,950 and 1,780 liters.
The E-class Estate from Mercedes is now option three. The luggage compartment is an impressive 640 liters, with the rear seats folded down, a transport capacity of 1,820 liters is created. Significantly more than its main competitors, the Audi A6 Avant and the new BMW 5-series Touring. The E meets my criterion that a combi counts if I can lie in it with my toes outstretched without touching the tailgate. Mercedes has a long tradition of large, solid estates that put function above beauty. For an additional fee, they can even be converted into MPV-like seven-seaters. A folding child’s bench could always be ordered in the trunk with the backrest against the direction of travel, so that the offspring had an unobstructed view to the rear. Thank God: still for sale for 1,500 euros. So sweet.
This is Mercedes’ most rational transporter; a company car with all the qualities of a passenger car. Never before has a combi version of the E-class drove so well as BMW. Much more than its predecessors, which are mainly geared to comfort, the pleasantly almost heavy steering car can compete with the Avant club. The term ‘base model’ sounds too thin for the E200 I drove, which with its two-liter four-cylinder turbo and 184 hp already reaches 230 kilometers per hour. The engine is incredibly quiet and smooth with a consumption of 1 to 13, with some effort even 1 to 16.
Sobriety is a thing of the past at Mercedes-Benz. He’s almost too fancy for me. The Estate always has a nine-speed automatic transmission, always electric windows, always air conditioning. Behind the scenes, an army of security systems continuously watches over the body. A virtual traffic assistant makes a comically proactive impression. “End of a traffic jam ahead”, says a computer woman’s voice when I see traffic coming back on the A6. But ma’am, I’m not blind! And who are you anyway?
The E Estate elegantly breathes new life into its somewhat orphaned genre. Maybe it’s too glossy. The strength of older Mercedes combinations was their chic simplicity. They united the highest build quality and comfort with an almost socialist asceticism. I would jump for joy if Mercedes released a classic version that combined its modern safety features with the noble abstinence of the time; analog clocks, retro upholstery fabrics with the so-called karo check and the atmospheric uni colors of the past. I would buy it. By far the best station on the market.