Modest Power

Throw in the upsized dimensions and standard all-wheel drive, and the E350 wagon is, well, portly. Its considerable 4,213-pound curb weight is greater than the V-8 E550 4Matic sedan's. The wagon's sole drivetrain Ч a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 Ч is up to the task of moving this barge, but it never feels sprightly. Power is strong enough around town, but the engine needs to rev high to muster up interstate passing power. With two occupants and some 500 pounds of cargo, the E350 didn't feel outmatched at low speeds, but it required the drivetrain's full reserves to merge onto the highway.

The standard seven-speed automatic upshifts smoothly and kicks down to a lower gear soon enough to accelerate lightly out of a corner. If you need immediate power, though Ч passing slow traffic, for example Ч it can stumble clumsily through two- or three-gear downshifts. There's a Sport mode that holds lower gears longer, but it does little to clean up the shifts.

Overall gas mileage is a disappointing 19 mpg Ч a figure the supercharged Audi A6 3.0T Avant (wagon) and turbocharged BMW 535i Gran Turismo (wagon-like) beat by 2 or 3 mpg. What's more, both competitors are much quicker.

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