When someone talks to you about a station wagon, more likely than not you’ll start to think about the old and boring wagons that your dad or grandad drove. But these days, station wagons are cool again and the Mercedes-Benz E450 All Terrain 4MATIC & the Volvo V90 Cross Country deserve much more recognition than their SUV counterparts.
Engine – Starting with the Volvo, the big change for the V90 CC is the addition of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It comprises of an integrated electric motor and an electric supercharger. Both of these components help the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produce 295 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque (220 kW & 420 Nm). The addition of the electric assist makes the engine much more responsive than the old mechanical supercharged & turbocharged T6 engine. The electric motor provides the necessary torque (13 hp & 30 lb-ft / 10kW & 40Nm) to get the car moving before the turbocharger gets up to its correct boost threshold – with the aid of the electric supercharger – and takes over in providing the bulk of the power.It is a much smoother feeling engine than the old T6 engine but it’s not quite as powerful as the engine in the Mercedes.
The E450 Wagon has a turbocharged 3.0L inline-6 cylinder that produces 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque (270 kW & 500 Nm). It too has a 48-volt mild-hybrid system which Mercedes-Benz calls EQ Boost which can provide an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque (16 kW & 250 Nm). Just like in the Volvo, it consists of an integrated electric motor and electric supercharger in aiding the engine at lower rpms. However, the inherently balanced nature of the inline 6 engine makes this car even smoother than the 4-cylinder in the V90. Engine response is just as quick but you get a stronger “punch” when you put your foot down in the E450.
The Mercedes E450 All Terrain can tow up to 4,630 lbs while the Volvo V90 Cross Country can tow up to 3,500 lbs.
Fuel Economy – Of course the main purpose of both of these wagons having a mild-hybrid system is to aid in fuel economy. The 2022 Volvo V90 CC is rated for 10.6 L/100km (22.2 MPG) in a city and 8.1 L/100km (29 MPG) on a highway. Interestingly, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon gets the exact same city fuel economy figure; 10.6 L/100km (22.2 MPG). But it is a bit worse on highways with a rating of 8.4 L/100km (28 MPG).
The reason why the bigger engine in the Mercedes is just as efficient as the smaller engine in the Volvo is because the EQ-Boost is more advanced. Both of these cars have smooth auto start/stop features but in the E450, it will shut off the engine just before arriving at a stop. The Volvo only does it once the car comes to a complete stop. As well, if you drive the Mercedes in Eco mode and you take your foot off the throttle pedal, the car will coast with the engine shut off. This allows it to go further as there is no engine braking to slow it down. Of course the engine will immediately turn back on as soon as you touch the throttle pedal or provide enough braking force. The Volvo V90’s mild-hybrid can’t do this.
Transmission – The Volvo V90 Cross Country is mated with an 8-speed automatic while the Mercedes-Benz E450 All Terrain is paired with a 9-speed automatic. During everyday city driving situations, both of these transmissions are smooth at changing gears. However when the roads get twisty, it’s the Mercedes’ 9-speed that swaps gears a tiny bit more quickly than the 8-speed in the Volvo.
Braking – Both of these cars have easy to modulate brake pedals with an adequate amount of feedback to your right foot. Neither of them feel like as though you’re stepping on air. For the 2022 model year, the V90 receives a new brake-by-wire system. This is for better integration with the mild-hybrid and automatic emergency braking / semi-autonomous driving systems. Just like the old hydraulic system, the brake pedal feel is firm but easy to modulate. You don’t notice that it’s controlled by computers.
Handling – Although both of these cars have slightly taller ride heights than the normal wagons of which they are based on, they are both more enjoyable to drive on a winding road than their SUV counterparts. They are both lighter than the GLE & XC90 respectively and yet they feel just as planted through corners.
However, just like the engines, the Mercedes E450 All-Terrain drives just that little bit better than the Volvo V90 Cross Country. The E450 has a RWD biased 4MATIC AWD system which means that it can better rotate the rear end of the car through corners. The V90 CC has a FWD biased AWD system so on the limits, it tends to understeer more than the Mercedes. My only complaint about the driving dynamics of the Mercedes E450 Wagon is with the steering feel at highway speeds. It is too light. Happily that can be fixed by setting up the Individual drive mode to have the Sport steering setting with every other adjustment on its Comfort or Eco setting.
As for going off the beaten path, both of these wagons have off-road drive modes which will raise the air suspension (if equipped) and adjust the throttle, transmission, AWD system, and traction/stability control programs for the best possible traction. Both wagons also have downhill descent which is like cruise control but for slow speed off-roading. While neither of these were designed to tackle the Baja 1000, they are just as capable as their SUV counterparts.
Ride Comfort – The Volvo V90 CC can be equipped with an optional air suspension system. Unfortunately this demo vehicle did not have the option equipped. The Mercedes E450 AT has standard air suspension and as such, it feels more forgiving over rougher roads and more plush on highways. Having said that, the V90 CC is still a comfortable wagon for daily commutes but without the air suspension option, the Mercedes gets the ride advantage.
However the seats in the Volvo V90 CC are a bit more comfortable than those in the E450. Both of the cars are available with massaging seats but it’s the way that the V90’s seats contour to your body that make them more comfortable on longer journeys.
Interior Space – On paper, these two wagons have similar interior dimensions. The Mercedes has a tiny bit more headroom across both rows and has about ¼ of an inch more rear legroom while the Volvo has half an inch more front legroom. Compared to their SUV counterparts, they are a little bit smaller but not by that much.
As for cargo capacity, the Mercedes E450 wagon has less with the 2nd row seats up at 640 L (22.6 cu-ft) whereas the Volvo V90 CC has 714 L (25.2 cu-ft). With the seats folded, the Mercedes has 1,820 L (64.3 cu-ft) while the Volvo can swallow up to a maximum of 1,517 L (53.6 cu-ft) of luggage. Again compared to their respective SUV counterparts, the wagons have a little bit less space but it’s not a huge difference.
As well, if you find yourself in a pinch and need to carry a total of 6 passengers (excluding the driver), the Mercedes-Benz E450 Wagon has two extra seats under the trunk floor. These are rear facing, so kids can make funny faces that the car behind, and they are very small so they should only be used by little kids.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – When computing to work or just driving around town, both of these wagons are quiet vehicles. Engine, wind, and road noises are well subdued from the cabin. But if you decide to drive a bit more enthusiastically, the engine in the Mercedes sounds a lot better than the 4-cylinder in the Volvo. It’s no AMG sound but at least it’s more pleasing to the ears than the drone of the 4-cylinder in the V90 CC.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – This particular Mercedes-Benz E450 demo vehicle is the 2021 model year and it had a starting price of $80,900 CAD. The 2022 Mercedes-Benz E450 All Terrain Wagon received a price increase of $800 to $81,700 CAD ($68,400 USD). The 2022 Volvo V90 Cross Country Wagon has a starting price of $65,950 CAD ($56,200 USD). But of course, these demo vehicles have options on them which increase the price to $94,100 CAD ($83,350 USD) for the Mercedes and $77,450 CAD ($71,250 USD) for the Volvo. They’re not fully loaded but pretty close to it.
Gadgets – There isn’t that much difference between these two cars when it comes to gadgets & gizmos. They are both available with a wide range of advanced safety & driver aids. They both have semi-autonomous driving assists that work very well on highways. They both have the same convenience features such as soft leather upholstery, heated, ventilated & massaging front seats, panoramic sunroofs, power liftgates, head-up displays, surround view cameras, and so on.
But for their respective model years, both of these cars received new infotainment systems. The Mercedes is now equipped with MBUX and is controlled via the touchscreen, the touchpad on the center console, or voice controls. There is also a capacitive touch button on the steering wheel that can also be used to control the infotainment system but it is far too finicky and distracting to use while driving. The infotainment system itself looks gorgeous, it is quick to respond to your inputs, and while it may seem daunting at first, it’s actually pretty easy to use.
In the Volvo, it receives a new Android Automotive based infotainment system. It looks similar to the old Sensus system but it is less cluttered and it loads up much faster on cold start than the old system. It is a huge improvement over the old infotainment system.
Interior Design – The Volvo V90 CC doesn’t see many changes to the interior design. The major design change is the new electronic drive mode selector. It is now the same one that has been used in T8 hybrid Volvo vehicles. The other change is with the digital driver display. It still is a full digital display but it has new graphics. Unfortunately it’s not customizable like the one in the Mercedes. Your only choice in the Volvo is to see the map or a black center portion.
The Mercedes also gets a few changes to the center console with the new touchpad control for the infotainment system. The other big change is with the steering wheel. It is the same one that is used in the new Mercedes S-class and I absolutely hate using the capacitive touch control buttons on it. The individual physical buttons of last year’s model were much easier to use and less distracting when driving. Plus not to mention, the gloss black will easily show fingerprints, dust, and scratches.
One more thing to note on the interior of the Mercedes, if you do plan on getting one, get it with the open pore wood trim. This gloss black trim on the center console may look good at first, but it will quickly get scratched up. This is the case on this demo vehicle which has less than 5,000 km on the odometer.
Exterior Design – In the past, station wagons used to be bland boxes on wheels. These days, they are more stylish than the most stylish SUVs on sale. However, between these two, it’s the Volvo that is the stand out. The design language looks as fresh now as it did 4 years ago when this generation of the V90 CC was introduced. Even though the Mercedes E450 received new headlights and taillights for the 2021 model year, it still doesn’t turn as many heads as the V90 CC does.
Warranty – Both of these luxury European wagons have the same warranties. 4 years or 80,000 km (50,000 miles in the United States) new vehicle & powertrain warranty, whichever comes first.
Conclusion – Both of these wagons are spacious and luxurious family vehicles. But between the two, the Volvo feels a bit more family focused while the Mercedes feels a bit more driver focused. However, both of these cars are much more enjoyable to drive than their SUV counterparts. They’re also more fuel efficient, can carry almost the same amount of cargo, and are generally less expensive. So if you do have your eye on a new luxury SUV, put the XC90 & GLE brochures down, go to your local dealership, and ask them to bring one of these wagons for you. You will not be disappointed with either of them.
Thank you to Volvo Canada for providing the V90 Cross Country. www.VolvoCars.com
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the E450 All Terrain. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca