Until now, the premium off-road estate market has been largely dominated by Audi and Volvo. But now Mercedes has weighed in with yet another version of its E-Class.
The new E-Class All-Terrain benefits from some adventure clothing in the form of the usual black plastic wheelarch protectors and bumper inserts, pseudo skid plates on the front and rear bumpers in aluminium, a unique SUV-style front grille and larger 19-inch All-Terrain alloy wheels.
Those wheels, and the tyres’ larger height and width ratio, create 15 mm of the total 29mm lift over a standard E-Class estate.
The suspension is a raised version of the E-C lass’s Air Body Control air springs and variable dampers. In its most extreme All-Terrain setting via Drive Select, this off-road- enabled E-Class gets 156mm of ground clearance, but only at speeds of up to 19mph. After that, it lowers automatically.
The 4MATIC permanent four-wheel-drive system, ESP stability control, ASR traction control and active yaw control all have their settings adjusted accordingly to suit the All-Terrain’s more adventurous capability, allowing it to clamber, crawl and wade where other E-Class models wouldn’t dare. You won’t be able to follow a big Mercedes SUV all the way into the wilderness but, unless you’re Bear Grylls on a mission, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Not that many All-Terains will venture off-road, but it’s nice to know they can, and the height advantage proves useful on the road, too. While the view over traffic isn’t greatly enhanced, the higher suspension and those taller sidewalls give the rugged E-Class a smooth, comfortable ride.
Inevitably, that lift results in some body movement in bends-which is largely welcomed because it improves comfort and makes the E-Class All-Terrain the most serene of Mercedes’ estates. The handling does suffer slightly as a consequence; the All-Terrain doesn’t steer with quite the precision of relatives with more conventional suspension. The difference is slight, though, and there is the opportunity to stiffen it up with the Sport setting, although this disrupts the All-Terrain’s otherwise pillow-soft ride and sees the engine and gearbox hold on to gears unnecessarily.
Comfort mode suits the All-Terrain’s demeanour, its smoothness complemented by the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine we’ll get in the UK. The 254hp and, more significantly, 620Nm of torque it produces, allied to the wide spread of ratios from the nine-speed automatic gearbox, make for unfussed progress, with only the faintest diesel rumble at higher revs. The gearbox is smooth, quick and adept at juggling ratios without the driver ever needing to take control via the shift paddles.
E-Class Estate’s vast boot capacity is unaffected in All-Terrain spec. You get 640 litres with the seats up, and dropping the 40:20:40-split rear bench will reveal a massive 1,820-litre load bay
Inside, there aren’t many changes; you get All-Terrain-specific floor mats, stainless steel sports pedals and unique carbon-effect aluminium interior trim – the latter won’t suit everyone. Otherwise, it’s all familiar E-Class, which means lots of space in the front and rear, 40:20:40 folding backseats and a driving environment dominated by a pair of huge screens.
We expect the All-Terrain model to be based on top-spec AMG-Line trim, so it should come loaded with kit such as Mercedes’ hi-tech widescreen display, sat-nav and touches of leather
These displays provide the additional All-Terrain functionality, plus you get the same autonomous driving options available across the E-Class range. Quite what the exact spec is has yet to be confirmed as it won’t arrive until summer 2017, but it won’t be too different from AMG -Line trim.
Other markets get Mercedes’ excellent 194hp 220 d engine, which might need working a bit harder than the V6 but will be more frugal. If there’s enough demand in the UK for that 220 d All-Terrain, Mercedes may offer it. We think it should, as even with the smaller unit the All-Terrain changes elevate the already impressive E-Class Estate to an other level – not just in terms of height.
Price: £52,000 (est)
Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbodiesel
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 6.2sec (est)
Top speed: 135mph (est)
Economy: 46mpg (est)
CO2: 165g/km (est)
On sale: Summer 2017
Taller, more supple suspension might allow the E-Class All-Terrain to venture off-road, but the benefits it brings to the on-road comfort are equally, if not even more, attractive. The outdoorsy-styling suits the exec estate, too, although the plans to offer only a single V6 diesel engine choice in the UK will limit the car’s appeal slightly and make it quite an expensive buy. Still, as a stylish, capable and premium alternative to an SUV, the new All-Terrain hits the spot.