Ride & Handling

In its V-8 E550 guise, the E-Class offers unrivaled ride quality, the sort that even its $60,000 peers can't match. Absent the sedan's available Airmatic adaptive air suspension, the E350 wagon gets ordinary suspension tuning in Luxury models and firmer tuning in Sport ones. Our Sport tester had a set of optional 18-inch wheels and low-profile P245/40R18 tires, and the sum of it all exposed plenty of bumps. The suspension cushioned highway imperfections well enough, but around town it responded both noisily and harshly to potholes and other crevices. For a car of this league, I expect better.

There's little payoff on the handling front. Short of perhaps the high-performance E63 AMG, the E-Class isn't much of a driver's car, and the E350 wagon handles little better than Mercedes' more top-heavy crossovers. Body roll is ever present, and in sweeping curves the wagon plows as much as the nose-heavy C-Class. The steering, while easy-mannered in parking lots, feels vague and sloppy on curvy roads. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, with larger, cross-drilled front discs on Sport models. Nonetheless, the pedal imparts mushy, inconsistent response, and there's a lot of forward suspension dive under hard braking. All forgivable sins, mind you, if the E350 rode better.

The Luxury model's suspension tuning, or perhaps just the standard 17-inch wheels with thicker P245/45R17 tires, might provide just that. But Mercedes spokesman Rob Moran said the differences in suspension tuning between Luxury and Sport models are relatively minor, especially compared with the E550's Airmatic setup. It's sure to be a moot point for many, as the vast majority of available E350 wagons in Cars.com's national inventory are Sport models, meaning an E350 Luxury could be a hard find. If you do get a chance to test a Sport and Luxury back-to-back, shoot me an email with your thoughts using the link at the bottom of this review.

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