The 2006 Mercedes E350 Sedan is a great little mom-mobile incognito. It certainly doesn't look like a kid-toting carriage from the outside, but rather appears more as an upper-level executive suite on wheels. The only thing it seems to be missing is a secretary to fetch my tea and water.
Loading in the kids' car seats is super swift thanks to the clever flap concealing easy access to the latch connectors. A button on the driver's console makes the head restraints fold back, leading to a great fit for the car seats. (Most manufacturers recommend you remove the head restraints before installing car seats.)
A fold-down armrest in the middle of the back seat keeps the kids' territory divided equally in two, helping to avoid the all-too-frequent "she's crowding my space" shouting matches. It also has the benefit of a couple of pop-out cup holders.
The E350 sedan's cargo space is much larger than one might think just by looking at the vehicle's exterior. When you get a look at the interior, you'll see a wealth of storage space. There's even enough room for a trip to the local bulk warehouse to load up on bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper, and our entire year's supply of meat (I went with the idea of getting just one pork tenderloin, though). Pressing the trunk release button on the key fob actually opens the trunk as I approach, keeping my hands free to keep my littlest monkey from running out into traffic.
Driving this Mercedes is just as smooth and luxurious as a Mercedes should be. The experience begins with 10-way power adjustable seats (including power adjusting head restraints for both the driver and passenger), with three memory positions. This means that my husband and I can both set the seat to our comfort level (which varies dramatically between the two of us), set the memory, and never fuss with it again. I only wish that I didn't have to hold the memory button down the whole time the seat is moving -- I don't have time for that! If I push "Memory 1," the car should know that I want the "Memory 1" setting, and just move there without me having to coddle it through the whole process.
The window shades in the back are by far my favorite feature. They roll up from the door jam and keep glaring sun out of my kids' eyes. The one on the back window rolls up and down automatically with the push of a button from the driver's console.
I can't forget to tell you about the wide range of safety features that come standard on this car (as they should, for the price tag). The 4Matic is Mercedes' version of all-wheel drive that works in conjunction with an Electronic Stability Program. Also standard are rollover sensors (leading to the 5-star rollover resistance rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), dual front airbags, head protection curtain airbags, side airbags for front and back passengers, Tele Aid emergency calling and communication system, 24-hour roadside assistance and much more.
One issue I had during my entire two-week test drive is my inability to find a clock anywhere within this vehicle. It seems I'm always in a rush to get to school pick-up, so I feel a bit naked without easy visual access to a clock. After pushing every menu button I can find, I give up and asked for help. Within a matter of seconds, I'm pointed to the big round analog clock dial located in the instrument panel directly next to the speedometer. Oh! A clock! Why I never noticed that BIG CLOCK right there in front of me the whole time is baffling. I'm trying not to dwell on it too much for fear of feeling, well, dumb.
Since my discovery of the clock, I can't seem to dig up much dirt on the '06 E350. It's nice to drive, has a clear view of the road, fits my kids and their stuff and doesn't make me feel frumpy driving it on a date night. What else can I ask for? Maybe that secretary to fetch my tea.
* The full archive of "Car Mom" Kristin Varela's Mother Proof reviews can be found at www.MotherProof.com.