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Clark Griswold would be (metallic pea) green with envy.

host of new high-tech features. The novel Attention Assist system, which detects driver fatigue, is standard, as is a backup camera. New options include adaptive high beams, lane-departure warning, blindspot warning, and a night-vision system.

The 3.5-liter V-6 returns, again paired with a seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. (For now at least, an E6.3 AMG version is not available.) The E350's 268 hp is less than you'll find in the Cadillac CTS wagon or the Audi A6 Avant. Acceleration is adequate, if not superlively. The well-mannered seven-speed automatic has a sport mode that changes the shift logic (and throttle mapping), but it's barely discernable. The powertrain's 16/23 mpg city/high way EPA numbers are far better than in the R-class or the ML but can't match the Cadillac or Audi wagons. Buyers choose Luxury or Sport trim. An AMG body kit distinguishes the Sport, which has a firmer suspension with a lower ride height and the option of eighteen-inch wheels. Even with the eighteens, the Sport has very good ride quality, and the steering effort is just right While not a canyon carver, the E350 is far more pleasant to maneuver than a bulkier crossover or SUV.

The E-class wagon is also more expensive, which should help keep this wagon away from the likes of Walley World.

■ on sale: NOW i baseprict $57,075 specs: 3.5L V-6.268 hp, 258 lb ft: 4-wheel drive

Many of today's adults grew up riding in a station wagon's third seat, but wagons have become rare in the U.S. market—and wagons with a third-row seat have become rarer still. In fact, only one remains: the Mercedes-Benz E350. (Volvo was the other holdout, but it dropped the option with the new V70 and XC70 in 2009.) The standard rear-facing third seat gives the E350 nominal seven-passenger capacity—but the two in back can't be more than 55 inches tall or 110 pounds. Watching the world unspool behind them, those kids are getting an old-school automotive experience that their peers plugged in to videos while riding in minivans will never know.

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