The Inside

Save a few minor flubs, the E-Class cabin is well-executed, highlighted by an intuitive Comand infotainment system, library-quiet noise levels, and a superb, optional Harman Kardon stereo. For a soup-to-nuts overview of the redesigned interior, see our reviews of the 2010 E-Class sedan and coupe. I'll focus on what sets the wagon apart: namely, cargo room. There's 20.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which represents a healthy increase over the sedan's 15.9-cubic-foot trunk. Fold the seats down, and the E350 wagon offers a maximum 57.4 cubic feet.

Though those numbers are better than the sedan's Ч and BMW's Gran Turismo Ч they lose out to similarly priced crossovers. The A6 Avant, which is the E350 wagon's most direct competitor, offers 11 percent greater maximum cargo volume and 65 percent more room behind the second row.

If not for roominess, the E350 wagon does appeal when it comes to a few utilitarian needs. The standard cargo cover includes a net that unfurls up to the ceiling, neatly dividing the cargo area from the first two rows. The 60/40-split second row springs down via handles in the cargo area or at the C-pillars. If the front seats are too far back to allow the seats and their head restraints to fold down, they automatically motor forward until there's enough clearance. (You'll have to power them back to their original position yourself.)

Like before, a rear-facing third row is standard; it can accommodate children up to about 4 feet tall, Mercedes says. Complete with head restraints, cupholders and three-point seat belts, the seat folds down to create a flat load floor Ч though it takes both hands and a few steps to do so, unlike the easy-drop forward-facing third rows in most minivans. One oversight: The E350 wagon's side curtain airbags extend only to the second row.

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