Is Mercedes-Benz fashionably late to the party with the E 220 d All-Terrain? It could be argued that Audi has had the large crossover wagon market almost entirely to itself while rivals like BMW and Benz have had no answer for the jacked-up Audi Allroad.
In Australia at least, Mercedes-Benz has seen the writing on the wall for the traditional wagon, and in the latest generation E-Class there’s no traditional estate. Instead buyers looking for more space and flexibility in an E-Class have this as their sole option - or one of Mercedes’ many SUVs.
That’s a bold move compared to the last generation which provided options ranging from four-cylinder turbo petrol and diesels, up to a twin-turbo V6 - although none with the all-wheel drive capabilities and added ride height of this new breed of E-Class Estate.
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 formula is recognisable; take a regular family wagon, raise the suspension, add all-wheel drive, apply more rugged-styled bumpers and wheel arch flares and ride the wave of popularity enjoyed by SUVs.
Audi excels at it in the prestige market, Subaru pioneered it in the mainstream market, and even companies as diverse as Skoda and Holden have attempted it in the past - with Holden set to try again with it’s new fully-imported Commodore range.
For buyers in the premium sector, Benz is playing coy with its initial All-Terrain offering. There’s just one model - the E 220 d All-Terrain, using the entry-level diesel engine that’s also available in the E 220 d sedan.
On price, the $109,900 wagon commands a not insubstantial $15,800 premium over the most basic E 220 d sedan. But as a result of its unique configuration, features like standard all-wheel drive, height adjustable air suspension plus luxuries like real leather trim, bigger alloy wheels, and a powered tailgate (among others) help justify the difference.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.5/5
- 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
Mercedes-Benz has just about perfected the modern luxury interior, with contemporary design details and finishes that blend with a convincing integration of essential high-tech features.
The interior hallmark is a huge panel of open-pore wood, punctuated with circular air vents. Dual widescreen displays flow into each other forming the infotainment and instrument displays, with the multi-hued LED ambient lighting giving a modern technical feel to the interior.
With multiple configurations and display options, the TFT instrument cluster can be configured to suit all tastes, although learning to navigate the capacitive controls for both the instrument cluster and Comand display in the centre of the dash isn't as intuitive or user-friendly as it should be.
Spacious large car dimensions of the E-Class are all the more noticeable in the wagon with extra rear headroom to complement the sedan’s already decent dimensions, plus the flexibility of a larger rear compartment.
The E-Class range also benefits from clever packaging that sees the gear selector moved to the steering column, freeing up additional lidded storage space in the centre stack big enough for you phone keys and wallet, along with the usual storage nooks under the centre armrest and glovebox, and deep door bins for maps or drink bottles.
While standard specification is hardly light-on with dual zone climate control, keyless entry and start, leather trim, heated power-adjustable front seats, auto lights and wipers, power-opening tailgate, and a massive 12.3-inch infotainment system with navigation and internet connectivity, there’s also more that can be added.
In the case of the vehicle we tested a Vision Package adds 13-speaker premium Burmester audio, head-up display, and panoramic sunroof for $4,990 extra.
Cargo space measures 670 litres, which is large enough to put some ‘real’ large SUVs to shame, and the rear seats can be folded from inside the boot for ease of use. The loading height isn't as lofty as taller SUVs either, helped out by air suspension that settles into access height when parked.
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
To ensure the E-Class All-Terrain lives up to its name, the standard drivetrain configuration includes 4Matic all-wheel drive, ensuring extra mechanical grip on loose or slippery surfaces for extra peace of mind.
The only other E-Class to come with all-paw grip in Australia is the high-performance E 63, but unlike that monster the E 220 d All-Terrain is a little more modest in its performance potential.
Under the bonnet is a familiar 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine as used across the Benz range, with a willing 143kW of power and a strong 400Nm peak torque figure.
Certainly that strong surge of torque gives the E-Class a commendable amount of thrust once rolling, but can feel less responsive from a standing start - a problem no doubt amplified by the All-Terrain’s substantial 1920kg kerb weight.
The standard nine-speed automatic works well with the engine, and changes gears so smoothly as to be barely noticeable.
To drive the All-Terrain feels little different from any regular E-Class. While the ride is 15mm higher (and can be further raised an additional 20mm for off-road expeditions at the touch of a button) the air suspension system manages to absorb rough roads with a firm and measured composure.
At times the steering can feel a little too light, as if Mercedes has turned up the assistance to counteract the bigger wheel package. It’s fine at urban speeds, but a little too absent at the freeway limit.
Although there’s an off-road mode that raises ride height and adjusts stability control systems to optimise slip-and-grip the biggest restriction to taking the All-Terrain into unchartered territory is its very, very road-biased tyre selection, with low-profile 20-inch tyres that don’t offer much sidewall flex over precarious surfaces.
That’s fine though, as is the trend for many prestige SUVs the E 220 d All-Terrain isn’t designed to be able to go everywhere a LandCruiser could, instead offering a mild all-rounder package designed for weekends at the snow or rural getaways that might involve gravel roads or grassy carparks.
Refinement in the cabin earns high marks with low levels of road or wind noise at freeway speeds, and only an occasional hint of under bonnet intrusion if the diesel engine is asked to work hard.
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.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: The E-Class All-Terrain requires servicing at 12 month/25,000km intervals, capped servicing is priced at $556, $1112, and $1112 for the first three services respectively.
Pre-purchased service plans are also available to cover either standard servicing, or servicing, wiper, and brake replacements. Two, three, four, and five year plans are available and your Mercedes-Benz dealer can advise on price, terms, and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
As the closest competitor in terms of size and functionality, the Audi A6 Allroad does cost slightly more, but also brings a more powerful V6 turbo diesel engine. The Audi is an older vehicle than the Benz however, and while the interior still looks great, it’s clearly not as modern.
If size matters Mercedes-Benz can put you into a four-cylinder GLE SUV for far less money, and even the V6 diesel GLE 350 d is a touch cheaper. Though less dynamically competent, as well as being noticeably older inside, the big GLE range also comes with more power and torque, and greater off-road ability in its standard package.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you didn’t want a prestige SUV you really don’t have a great deal of choice within the Mercedes-Benz range when it comes to large wagons, with the All-Terrain being the only choice currently.
It is still very much a wagon, with generous cargo carrying ability and plenty of room to carry passengers in relaxed comfort. Take it as a plus that you also get all-wheel drive grip and a somewhat unique styling package as well.
As sales of traditional wagons continue to slide, Mercedes-Benz has made the right move in terms of grabbing buyer attention, although the value might be hard to see when compared to the more cost-effective GLE SUV range.
While it may not come with the same level of off-road ability as its larger stablemate, there’s no doubt the E 220 d All-Terrain will soon infiltrate the tennis court carparks of Australia’s leafy suburbs and be right at home doing so.
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