Several years ago, Merc built a car called the R63 AMG. It was lunacy – a hefty, bargey people carrier with a 6.2-litre 118 in it. I mention it for no other reason than I hope they’ll have a similar lapse this time around and put the twin-turbo V8 from the E63 into this. That would be a hell of a thing.
As it is, the All-Terrain is a perfectly rational machine. It is exactly what you think it is – a high-rise E-Class, a perfect copy of the Audi Allroad and Volvo Cross Country. It’s available with two diesels, the new 2.0-litre four and the 3.0-litre V6. In the UK we’re likely to only be getting the latter. Pity, because the 220d makes a good case for itself and its presence would make the All-Terrain feel more like a proper model, less like a toe-in-the-water exercise.
4Matic 4WD derived from the GLE SUV is standard, it rides 29mm higher than the regular estate, and if you stick it in All-Terrain mode, the air suspension will push you another 20mm into the air. There’s another setting above that for full-on rock-crawling. I drove it off-road through a steep Austrian forest – you’d be amazed the places it’ll reach. Like Heineken.
On-road, the relatively tall-walled 245/45 tyres and softer, longer-travel suspension give it a lovely gait. You don’t push it hard, because it wouldn’t like that. It’s calm and soothing. Occasionally one of the big, heavy wheels will reveal just how big and heavy it is by shuddering over a fat expansion joint, but that’s it. Settled, quiet and refined, the All-Terrain drives very contentedly.
The 350d is a generous companion. It won’t arrive in the UK until next summer, but it’s all but identical to a standard E inside and has the same vast 640-litre boot. The price premium is likely to be around two grand. This is a more capable machine, repertoire beefed up by the ride height and body cladding. Side on, it looks too much like a Peugeot 508 RXH for my liking, but I can see this appealing to the country set. An E63 All-Terrain would bring new meaning to “Don’t spare the horses.”
2987cc V6 twbodiesel, 4WD, 254bhp, 457lb ft
47.0mpg. c.156g/km CO2
0-62mph in c. 6.5secs, 155mph
Merc jumps aboard the bandwagon with predictably impressive results. Rather this than the GLE SUV.