On the Road

The Mercedes c320 Sports Wagon

Why the Mercedes c320 is not a station wagon Because a station wagon is a clunky vehicle with fake-wood sides that Muffy used to drive to the commuter railroad to pick up Biff at martini time.

What it is A sports wagon or, as they call it in Britain, an "estate." What it looks like The top-of-the-line S-Class supercars, notably in the headlights. Wildly romantic by Mercedes' sober standards, these headlights are high-tech orbs--like two bubbles that miraculously merged as they floated up out of a bubble bath.

Where those curves come from The studio of Mercedes design chief Peter Pfeiffer. The wagon was created at the same time as the sedan and coupe but by a separate design team. It's not an afterthought, with a box added on in back to make a wagon. And the curves of the swooping roof perfectly match those of a country road.

Where the sound comes from The engine. Its 215-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 makes it drive like a sports car.

Neatest gadgets The advanced electronic stability control smooths the ride on tight curves. The innovative automatic transmission becomes a manual with a flick of the wrist.

Cleverest feature A filter to thwart the diesel exhaust coming from the 18-wheeler you're stuck behind. Also note the amazing Teutonic engineering of the C320's cupholder: With one touch of a chrome button, it blossoms like a time-lapse flower on the Nature Channel.

Competition Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series wagon, Lexus Sportswagon.

Not big enough? Have a look at Mercedes' E-Class wagon, introduced a couple of years ago and stylish enough for Ralph Lauren, who has one in navy blue.