Drive: Mercedes-Benz's E450 is not your father's station wagon

Remember the 2013 movie “The Way, Way Back?” It featured a true dinosaur of a car: a 1970 Buick Estate Wagon. Nobody makes big station wagons anymore, right? Wrong.

Mercedes-Benz makes one — again. And it's something special.

Unlike the Buick, the Mercedes-Benz E450 is fairly fuel-efficient, handles with sporty aplomb, and looks — no kidding — sensational. It's the nicest-looking car we've driven in several years. With a long, sculpted hood and low-slung body behind the steeply raked A-pillars, it's the sexiest wagon we've seen and driven since the Dodge Magnum, which lasted just five years through 2008.

The E450 is not Mercedes-Benz's first foray into the wagon market, but it has a chance to be one of the most successful, thanks to its great looks and exceptional performance. The new model is somewhat reminiscent of German automaker's R-class, which tried — and didn't quite succeed — at blending the best qualities of a minivan, station wagon and SUV in the last decade.

The E450 is capable of mild off-road action but may simply be too pretty to subject to that kind of abuse. And its ground clearance is fewer than 6 inches.

The model we tested was a 2021 E450 AWD All-Terrain, with a base price of $67,600 and a sticker price of $87,380 - one more disincentive for off-road travel. The paint job was a glorious Cardinal Red, which reminded us of the Orient Red color popular in Mercedes models during the 1980s. With a bench second-row seat and rear-facing third row, the E450 is capable of accommodating seven passengers. (Also available is an E450 AMG, priced at $81,885 and boasting 603 horsepower.)

Our test car was no slouch, featuring a 362-horsepower turbocharged inline-6 engine, 9-speed shiftable automatic transmission, a hybrid system called EQ Boost, and all-wheel drive. One might expect a car with those attributes to max out at about 22 mpg, but the E450 is rated at 22 mpg city (28 highway) using premium unleaded gasoline.

The E450 drives as well as it looks. Wind noise is nearly eliminated by a combination of sound-deadening glass and a meticulous fit and finish. The car corners crisply, and the suspension and steering system deliver plenty of road feel. Engine response is as quick as it is quiet, and the high quality of interior reminds drivers and passengers that this is a true luxury car, inside and out.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic All-Terrain

Price: $87,380

Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6 with EQ boost, 362 horsepower, 369 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 5.8 in.

Weight: 4,343 lb.

Suspension: double-wishbone front, multi-link rear, Air Body Control

Wheels: 19-in. alloy

Tires: P245/45R19 all-terrain

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 35 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 64 cu. ft.

Maximum towing capacity: 4,630 lb.

Fuel capacity: 21.1 gal.

Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

While the car's delicious lines suggest it's all about form, the E450 does pretty well on the functional side. It's easy to get into and out of, and comfortable throughout. It also swallows 64 cubic feet of cargo with the second- and third-row seats lowered.

For techies, the E450 has all the safety tech anyone can ask for, plus voice and smartphone communication capability. It even lets its owner know, via smartphone, when the car has been bumped while parked.

In partially completed crash testing, the E450 earned a five-star rating in side-impact protection, and remarkably, five stars for rollover avoidance.

Steven Macoy ( is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.