Here's a Mercedes E-Class Estate you might want to get really muddy. Yes really. Jonathan Crouch checks out the E-Class All-Terrain.
Ten Second Review
With the E-Class All-Terrain, Mercedes finally enters the market segment for executive estates with 4WD capability and SUV-style looks. If there is still any social stigma in driving an SUV and you don't like the thought of it, then if you're in the market for a premium-branded load-lugger with light off-piste capability, this could be exactly what you're looking for.
Mercedes usually isn't slow to enter new market niches, but there are exceptions to that rule. For example, the brand couldn't offer you a mid-sized SUV until the GLC model was launched in the Spring of 2016. And, for people buying in that car's segment who need light off road capability but don't want an SUV, they've never provided a contender to take on Audi's A6 allroad, a model that's been in production since the turn of the century. The Audi has direct competition now though, in the shape of this car, the E-Class All-Terrain.
As with the A6 allroad, the formula here is pretty straightforward. Take an E-Cass Estate, give it a few visual SUV-style aesthetic cues and add in an air suspension system that can lift the ride height and make rutted tracks easily passable. Let's have a closer look at what's on offer.
Look closely at what makes this E-Class All-Terrain model different and you begin to understand why it took Mercedes so long to launch an Audi A6 allroad rival. A car of this kind needs air suspension to be able to lift it clear of off road obstacles and it's only been since the launch in 2016 of the tenth generation E-Class model that the Stuttgart brand has had a system sophisticated enough to provide that kind of capability - the 'AIR BODY CONTROL' suspension set-up. It works as part of the 'All-Terrain driving programme' that's an added setting on the usual E-Class 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes programme. Selecting this mode at under 21mph raises the car by 20mm and at the same time, the thresholds for ESP stability control, active yaw control and acceleration skid control are adapted for off road use.
There's also a button on the centre console that allows the driver to select three levels of air suspension height, from zero to 35mm above the normal level. And an E-Cass All-Terrain model already rides 29mm higher than a normal E-Class Estate, thanks partly to its larger tyres. Overall, that means the driver of this model can vary total ground clearance between 121 and 156mm, which means that this car can ride higher than most SUVs. As you'd expect, the brand's 4MATIC on-demand 4WD system is standard. There's just one diesel engine choice - the 258bhp 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel powerplant fitted to the E350d variant.
Design and Build
The styling of a car like this must be subtle in its 'SUV'-ness. Here, it is. At the front, there's a two-fin grille with the Mercedes star integrated in the centre, as you'd get in a GLC. The distinctive front bumper and lower panelling, electroplated in silver-chrome, also contribute to the robust appearance. The top part of the three-part front bumper is painted in the body colour and the lower part comes in grained black plastic. At the side, there are black wheel arch covers and a black side skirt that features a chrome trip strip. The All-Terrain also features a model-specific three-part bumper at the rear with the top part painted in body colour and the lower part in grained black plastic. Further features typical of an SUV include robust load sill protection and an underbody guard electroplated in silver-chrome.
The interior includes aluminium-carbon look trim that is exclusive to the All-Terrain, plus stainless steel sports pedals and floor mats with All-Terrain lettering. Otherwise, as you'd expect, it's exactly as it would be in any other E-Class Estate. That means you get a loading capacity of between 670 to 1820-litres, which makes this load compartment one of the biggest in the segment, large enough in fact to incorporate an optional third seating row for kids if that's what you need.
Market and Model
The E-Class All-Terrain Estate costs just under £60,000 in its sole E350d guise which, as you would expect, is much the same kind of money you'd pay for a top comparable version of a rival Audi A6 allroad model. Equipment levels include a Burmester surround sound system, Air Body Control air suspension, a panoramic electric sunroof, the COMMAND Online system with a 12.3-inch infotainment display and a 12.3-inch cockpit display - the two monitors creating a widescreen effect. There's also leather upholstery, electrically operated heated front seats, an LED Intelligent Light System, the Keyless-Go Comfort package, privacy glass, split folding rear seats, 20-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels and an electrically folding tow bar with a 13-pin adapter.
There's also the brand's clever 'Mercedes me connect' remote online services package. This allows you to monitor many aspects of your car from your PC or smartphone - almost everything in fact, from its tyre pressure to its washer fluid level. With 'Mercedes me', you can lock or unlock your car from wherever you are, summon breakdown assistance, liaise with your dealer on servicing and even locate your E-Class model's position if you've forgotten where you parked it. There's even a Concierge service that'll help you find places such as fuel stations and restaurants. Safety-wise, there's a 'Collision Prevention Assist Plus' autonomous emergency braking system, plus a 'Pre-Safe' anticipatory safety system (including 'Pre-Safe Sound', which helps prevent damage to hearing).
Cost of Ownership
You'll have to shoulder quite a significant running cost penalty for choosing an E-Class All-Terrain model over an ordinary E-Class Estate with the same engine. It certainly helps though, that the 3.0-litre biturbo diesel engine in the E350d variant that's being offered here was already recognised as one of the more economical choices in the segment. The combined cycle economy can be as low as 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions are rated at 179g/km. That means that an All-Terrain model in E350d guise will take you around 7 miles fewer on every gallon and put out around 28g/km of CO2 more than a conventional E350d Estate.
And otherwise? Well this model series is designed for the long haul. This car will easily out-last you, one reason why all-important residual values have traditionally been strong. Unless you do something silly like specify an overly bright colour scheme, you can expect to get over 60% of your initial purchase price back after three years.
There are always advantages in turning up late to any party and that certainly seems to be the case with Mercedes' belated entry into the segment for executive estates with SUV capability. This E-Class All-Terrain certainly seems to be a thoroughly developed thing and the AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension's flexibility really does give this model some genuine off road capability.
We can't really imagine owners seriously ever putting this to the test though. If you were going to do that, you'd have spent the kind of money being demanded here on one of the brand's proper SUVs, a GLC or a GLE. An E-Class All-Terrain is more likely to be bought by someone who wants extra capability for icy country roads or who perhaps occasionally has to tow. If that's the kind of lifestyle you have in mind for an executive estate, then this one might well be ideal.