HOW much would you pay for a wagon?
It's an interesting question given the massive shift toward sports utility vehicles. Families seeking space are hunting the high-riding genre like never before, often leaving the wagon out in the cold.
Mercedes-Benz has injected additional interest into the premium wagon segment with a new entry-level diesel version of the large E-Class range – and it undercuts the previous cheapest E-Class estate to the tune of $32,000.
At just over $100,000 it still carries a hefty sticker price, but the German marque is quick to point out that it is packed with the latest safety gizmos to protect the family's most precious assets.
And it's an estate with the blues. Armed with what Mercedes calls BlueEfficiency, the oil-burner is as frugal as they come in terms of fuel consumption.
When you first step into the Mercedes-Benz realm, it takes some time for the attributes to shine.
Those not used to the three-pointed star cabin may be initially underwhelmed. While the fit and finish is immaculate, some find it difficult to fathom the price-tag.
Yet, get on the road and it's a wonderful driving experience.
From the parking sensors and cruise control function through to the automatic up-and-down windows on all four doors and great windscreen wipers (which leave no streaks), it makes getting behind the wheel an enjoyable experience.
The leather seats are comfortable, and while the two seats stored in the boot can handle kids without too many issues, some may find the rearward facing configuration causes nausea.
Both front seats have electronic adjustment, which have height and backrest angle adjustment, while the steering wheel can be changed for rake and reach.
The dual zone climate control is simple to use, along with the multifunction steering wheel and all instruments, which are well laid out and within easy reach of the driver. Sitting on 18-inch low-profile alloys we found the ride firm. Some noise does permeate into the cabin, but for the most part it's a refined and quiet ride.
On the road
For a 2.1-litre four-cylinder, this is one powerful little powerplant.
The sprint time of 0-100kmh in just over eight seconds is testimony to its abilities.
Acceleration can be slow at take off, but once into the torque sweet spot, there is ample power under your right foot.
Despite the E-Class size, it feels nimble and the wagon can change direction with ease. The rear-wheel drive promotes wonderful confidence behind the wheel.
The E250 Estate comes standard with adaptive damping and self-levelling rear suspension which works well and helps iron out the bumps.
What do you get?
Available in a single Avantgarde specification, the E250 CDI Estate comes with some pretty nifty standard gear.
Some of the best features include an electric rear tailgate with programmable opening angle, a load compartment cover and cargo retaining net, a fold-down bench seat with three-point seatbelts, leather trim, parking sensors, rear-door sunblinds, a UCI Media interface featuring iPod integration and bi-Xenon headlights with Intelligent Light System and Adaptive High Beam Assist.
As you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, there is a heap of safety gear, stability control along with all the associated technology such as anti-lock brakes and skid control, as well as a suit of airbags and parking sensors with guidance assist.
There are a couple of other German rivals, including the BMW 520d Touring ($92,800) and Audi A6 Allroad TDI Wagon ($106,900).
Seven seats provide excellent flexibilities for large families, or families who like sleepovers.
The two rear seats which fold into the floor have no anchorage points yet are the domain of children, and they even have their own cup holders. When deployed it does erase the rear storage space. The automatic opening rear door is brilliant, and the back seats fold in a 60-40 configuration with a pull of a lever.
The official fuel consumption average is just over six litres for every 100km, and even though our test proved slightly more thirsty at around seven it's still ultra frugal for a wagon of the E-Class size.
One onlooker thought the big Benz looks like a hearse. Most others found it to be sleek.
With Avantgarde trim, five-spoke alloys and matching colour rear vision mirrors, the executive wagon reeks of regal austerity.
Despite the Australian obsession with SUVs, wagons still make so much sense for families.
They're easier to drive around the metropolitan area and it's also far cheaper to replace the rubber.
While it has seven seats, it's not van-like in terms of head and legroom. Not that many of the seven-seater SUVs are any better.
So, would you pay $100k for a wagon?
If you have the family and the coin, it probably makes more sense than a Claytons off-roader with no intentions of hitting dirt.
Model: Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI Avantgarde Estate.
Detail: Five-door seven-seat rear wheel drive wagon.
Engine: 2.1-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel generating peak power of 150kW @ 4200rpm and peak torque of 500Nm @ 1600-1800rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.3 litres/100km
Emissions: 165g/km CO2.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.1 seconds; top speed 210kmh.
Bottom line: $105,500.
For more motoring check out Drive.com.au.