- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

There is just something decadent about tooling around town in a station wagon capable of making the leap from dead stop to 60 mph in less than five seconds. Station wagons aren’t supposed to do that, are they?

In a vehicle usually associated with transporting groceries home from the store or hauling Junior and instrument to tuba practice, high performance seems, well, somehow wrong. If it truly is wrong, then the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Sport Wagon is one very bad boy, indeed.

An inordinate number of the Mercedes-Benzes on the road today seem to be silver or Brilliant Silver in Mercedes-speak. This is all well and good for your run-of-the-mill four-door Benz, but doesn’t quite fit the intimidating nature of the E55 wagon. No, for a wagon packing a 469-horsepower punch, a dark color is more appropriate. While the sleek lines of the E55 wagon’s exterior easily grab the eye, covering those aggressive lines in a dark hue better transmits the E55’s menacing and sinister nature.

AMG-tuned versions of the various Mercedes models all tend to create some excitement among the Mercedes-Benz initiate. Powerful hand-built engines, performance suspensions, larger wheels, ground- effects packages and interior enhancements such as upgraded leather and gauge package all contribute to the AMG mystique.

In the case of the E55 wagon, these upgrades begin with an exceedingly handsome E-Class wagon.

The end result of AMG’s tinkering is a wagon for which descriptions such as heart-stopping and breathtaking seem to fall short of the mark.

More than a pretty face, the E55 wagon backs up its looks with a supercharged 5.5-liter V-8. A single technician is responsible for assembling the entire engine and is identified by a signature plate attached to it.

In addition to its 469 horsepower, this V-8 delivers 516 ground-churning foot-pounds of torque. Corralling this energy and injecting it into the rear wheels falls to an AMG-tuned, driver-shiftable five-speed automatic transmission.

The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph — a common denominator among most AMG-fortified models — and the E55 gets there in a hurry. Not so much accelerating as blasting off, goosing the throttle is always an experiment in controlled mayhem. This wagon cooks.

Despite its V-8-on-steroids performance, the E55 wagon is surprisingly fuel conscious, if not fuel stingy.

Still not quite good enough to avoid the $1,700 gas-guzzler penalty, the E55 wagon earned an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 14 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the open road.

This certainly won’t make conservationists join hands and sing “Kumbaya”; but considering what’s percolating under the hood, it’s not unreasonable.

AMG also applies its expertise to the exhaust system, adding larger-diameter pipes and less restrictive mufflers. The subtle rumble of the exhaust note is a thrill in itself. More power requires more brakes. AMG answers the challenge with larger perforated rotors grabbed by eight-piston calipers.

Rounding out the AMG engineering tweaks is a suspension bolstered by beefier struts, springs and dampers.

Inside, the cabin’s basic design is pure E-Class. Positioning of the gauges, controls and switches are all identical to the regular wagon. Likewise the busy center stack should be familiar to E-Class fans. Primarily AMG has made cosmetic changes such as a new headliner, Nappa leather upholstery, black bird’s-eye maple accents and sport gauges. However the enhancements also include multicontoured sport seats and an AMG steering wheel.

The sport seats are 10-way adjustable with side-cushion and side-bolster adjustments.

The luxury appointments are standard and include four-zone automatic climate control, power tilt/tele- scoping steering wheel, auto-dimming driver’s-side outboard and review mirrors, and intermittent wipers with rain sensor.

It wouldn’t be a Mercedes-Benz without a horde of safety features. Helping keep its occupants out of trouble or protect them if it occurs is a phalanx of systems and air bags.

An electronic stability program, Electronic Brake Assist and anti-rollover sensor all work transparently in concert with the all-wheel disc brakes to aid the driver in avoiding accidents. When a wreck can’t be avoided, dual frontal air bags are joined by side-impact air bags on all four outboard seating positions. A 6-foot-long head-curtain air bag also serves both front- and rear-seat passengers.

At the bottom line is a price that guarantees the E55 AMG Sport Wagon-owners club will remain exclusive.

With the gas guzzler tax and destination charges, the E55’s base price is $84,420. Adding the third-row seat swells the price by an additional $995. For another $1,200, you may add the Light Package. This features a headlamp washing system as well as a cornering bixenon headlamp system that reacts to steering.

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