Mercedes-Benz has an interesting history with premium SUVs - the brand started the prestige off-roader movement with its ML in the 1990s, yet for all that model’s success Mercedes has been reluctant to apply SUV themes to its wagon.
Until now, that is. With the introduction of the E-Class All-Terrain ,Mercedes-Benz is aiming at that small niche of buyers for whom a traditional wagon won’t cut it, but that might find a fully-fledged SUV too cumbersome.
In fact the All-Terrain is the only way you can buy an E-Class wagon in Australia now, with the low-riding version passed over in favour of this model thanks to the ever-growing popularity of SUVs.
Vehicle Style: Large crossover wagon
Price: $109,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 143kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel | 9sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.7 l/100km
The All-Terrain makeover sees the crossover wagon sit 15mm higher than other E-Classes with the ability to gain an extra 20mm for really rough going at speeds below 35km/h thanks to standard air suspension.
All wheel drive is also part of the package, naturally, with exterior details including black plastic-clad bumpers and wheel arches with matte silver detailing for the front and rear bumper guards and chunky stone-deflecting side sills.
Priced from $109,900 plus on-road costs the E-Class All-Terrain brings a significant step-up in price over an E 220 d sedan (at $92,900) but helps balance the ledger thanks to the aforementioned all-wheel drive, air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, Adaptive LED headlights, electric tailgate with swipe-to-open function and full leather trim with heated front seats.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, auto wipers and headlights, dual-screen Widescreen Cockpit instrument cluster, power tailgate with hands-free opening, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch display, central touch and scrollwheel controller, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, online features
- Cargo Volume: 670 litres to rear seats expandable via 40:20:40 quickfold rear seats
As with the sedan it’s based upon, the interior of the E-Class All-Terrain is large enough to seat five adults in comfort, and following Mercedes-Benz’ most recent interior design efforts looks opulent and luxurious in the process.
If basic black isn't your thing, optional Nut Brown and Macchiato Beige leather is also available. The options list also includes Burmester premium audio, a head-up display and a panoramic sunroof for $4990 extra, features that should arguably be standard at this price.
Rear seat passengers get their own ventilation outlets, but go without the opportunity to set their own temperature with dual zone, rather than tri-zone, climate control standard.
The cargo area dimensions are large enough to shame some larger SUVs, with functional additions including a 40:20:40 auto-fold backrest and kick function for the electric tailgate - allowing the keyholder to swipe a foot under the rear bumper to activate its raise - fitted as standard.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel 143kW @3800rpm, 400Nm @1600-2800rpm
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Height-adjustable air suspension - Wishbone front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering
Mercedes-Benz will offer the E-Class All-Terrain with just one engine from the broader E-Class range: a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with 143kW and 400Nm - though with its prestige pricetag some buyers may find four cylinders for six-figures a bitter pill to swallow.
When it comes to opposition only the philosophically-similar Audi A6 Allroad goes toe-to-toe with the All-Terrain but in Audi’s case power comes from a 500Nm V6 diesel for only a scant few thousand dollars more and even Mercedes’ own large SUV, the GLE350d, scores a mightier-again 620Nm V6 diesel for less money.
With a 1970kg kerb weight the E 220 d All-Terrain also rivals fully-fledged SUV’s at the weighbridge, and although it won’t set any speed records a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.0 seconds is still respectable. Better still official fuel consumption is rated at an impressive 5.7 l/100km.
The engine itself is slightly clattery, though hardly uncouth and the nine-speed automatic quickly cycles through gears to ensure the engine doesn’t need to rev too hard, nor should it need to with peak torque provided from just 1600rpm, however overtaking can be more strained than it should be. This ultimately doesn't feel like a $110,000 engine.
Efficiency takes precedence over performance and the All-Terrain provides an all-around ‘tread softly’ approach with light and fluent steering, and superbly absorbent air suspension in either ultra-cushy Comfort or beautifully controlled Sport mode.
Despite the plushness (and the heavy kerb weight) this Benz feels lighter on its feet than raw figures suggest, with a nicely balanced chassis that outshines most large SUV’s on the road and a Goldilocks suppleness that makes it easy to live with in most situations.
We also sampled the exclusive All-Terrain suspension mode that raises the ride height at low speeds to discover it effortlessly tackled mud ruts and steep-ish climbs alike, however the chances of it being put to use by owners seem low.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - The E-Class (sedan) scored the maximum available rating when tested in 2016, based on information gathered by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: Nine airbags (dual front, front seat side, rear seat side, curtain, and driver’s knee), fatigue detection, pedestrian-protecting pop-up bonnet, tyre pressure monitoring, 360-degree camera, electronic stability and traction control, and ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
All E-Class models also come standard with Mercedes’ Drive Assistance Plus package including adaptive cruise control with active lane keeping (Drive Pilot), active brake assist with cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, active blind spot assist, and Pre-Safe accident preparation including Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which adjusts seat bolsters to move occupants away from a side impact.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While the exterior treatment might suggest that E 220 d All-Terrain is a go-anywhere E-Class, the real beauty of the SUV-inspired treatment lies in the way the All-Terrain can traverse speed humps and steep driveways without unsettling occupants.
Mercedes-Benz is more than aware that this is no G-Class in training, hence the fitment of run-flat tyres and a space-saver spare wheel that comes only as an option, and doesn’t even fit beneath the boot floor. Snow chains? You’ll need to order your car with no-cost 19-inch wheels for those.
That’s fine though as Mercedes has a range of ‘real’ SUVs for the rough stuff. The E-Class All-Terrain instead excels as a plush family wagon that won’t mind the gravel carparks and muddy roads that lead to farmers markets and organic produce festivals. Now if only Mercedes-Benz would see fit to supply the V6 diesel engine available overseas to Australia to give the All-Terrain a real boost.
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