Get-where-you-need-to-be cred as Merc muscles in on A6 Allroad territory
We’ve seen this trick before. Not from Mercedes, but Volvo started it almost 20 years ago and Audi has kind of made it its own since then.
The trick is to take a premium estate car, add four-wheel drive, butch it up and hey presto, a soft-roader.
Next summer, Mercedes will join the fray. The E-Class All-Terrain will come to Britain with the 350d engine and a kit list mimicking the AMG Line trim from the everyday range. So it’ll have lots of premium toys to go with its toughened bumpers and arches, taller tyres and multi-height air suspension.
MERCEDES-BENZ E350D ALL-TERRAIN
Price: Est. £51,000 (TBC)
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, diesel
Gearbox: Nine-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 6.5sec (est.)
Top speed: 155mph (est.)
Fuel economy: 50.0mpg (est.)
CO2: 155g/km (est.)
At rest, ground clearance is 29mm higher than that of a standard E-Class Estate, and you can add another 35mm when using it off-road. By this time you’ll be running more than 2 inches of lift, which is what people who modify old Jeeps and Land Rovers tend to say is the limit before you have to start changing propshafts and so on.
You control all this via a special All-Terrain setting in the Dynamic Select palette, which also tunes the traction control and ESP to allow more wheelspin before jumping in. Wheelspin can actually be your friend sometimes when you’re driving off-road.
Of course, not even one single person is going to buy a car like this as an alternative to a Land Cruiser or Hilux or whatever, but having driven it on a variety of snowed-up roads and unsealed trails we can say that yes, it’ll get you further than the standard E-Class would. So clearly it does work. Much of the business for cars like this tends to come from regions where you need a 4×4 just to keep moving on the road when winter bites – that is, where the ruggedness of a ‘real’ off-road vehicle isn’t what you need.
When you drop back down below the snow line, the E-Class All-Terrain is very much like an E-Class. Being a 350d, of course, it’s refined and beautifully torquey, and with the drive mode set to Comfort you just go about your business in the style to which you’ll quickly become accustomed.
Having shelled out for an off-roader, though, wouldn’t you want the raised driving position of, say, a GLE? In the real world, that’s probably the one single biggest benefit people get from choosing a 4×4 instead of a traditional car.
Well, that and the fact that it looks cool, of course. So, would those gnarly bumpers convince you to choose the All-Terrain over a standard E-Class Estate?
For an answer, look to the success Audi has had with the A6 and laterally A4 Allroad. That would appear to be what Mercedes has done – as have VW and Skoda, if you go beyond the premium level, and as indeed did Subaru way back before any of the others ever even thought about the idea.
So there’s a market there. And with a smooth drivetrain, sophisticated ride and the same magnificent, spacious interior as the rest of the E-Class Estate range, we reckon this Merc is going to muscle in on a good bit of it.