First drive review: Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain
Offering more space and practicality, as well as a smoother ride and transmission than rivals, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain goes straight to the top of the class.
The Mercedes E350d All-Terrain has one clear mission and that’s to dismount the Audi A6 Allroad from its position as the one and only premium soft-roader estate.
To achieve this, Mercedes is aping Audi’s approach and only offering the All-Terrain in the UK with a V6 turbodiesel engine, so no E220d version for us like the rest of Europe gets. Nor will there be any skimping on the equipment, which we will come to in a moment.
Mercedes-Benz E Class
E220d AMG Line 2dr 9G-Tronic
- 8k Miles p/a
Per Month, EXC VAT
Business Users Only
So, what specifically has Mercedes done to turn an E350d Estate into the All-Terrain? Well, you’ll notice the plastic cladding around the wheelarches, 19-inch alloy wheels, chunkier bumpers, sill protectors and a new grille treatment that provides a visual link to the firm’s other SUV models.
The knobbly winter tyres managed well and the only limiting factor was ground clearance, but then we’re not sure we’d venture any further into the wilds in this type of car.
That’s the obvious stuff, but more important are the changes under the skin. This centres on the Air Body Control suspension which uses multi-chamber air cushions in place of steel springs and shock absorbers. Together with the larger tyres adding 14mm of additional ground clearance on their own, the suspension adds another 15mm of ride height so the All-Terrain sits 121mm proud of the road beneath it.
As part of the changes to the suspension, Mercedes has come up with its All-Terrain mode for the Dynamic Select system, which also offers the same Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual settings as the E350. Use the dedicated off-road menu and you can raise the car up to 35mm further away from the road to help when driving on rough tracks.
This set-up works at up to 19mph. Above that speed, the suspension reverts to its normal ride height, but a clever trick is it will pump itself back to the higher setting as soon as the car slows to 19mph or less. All of this is done using the small toggle switch on the gear tunnel console and there’s a dedicated screen on the 12.3-inch infotainment monitor to tell you how high the suspension is at any given moment. The same display also tells you steering and incline angles, as well as how much brake or throttle pedal movement the driver is applying.
The All-Terrain is ideal for dealing with the usual winter road conditions experienced in the UK.
Clever stuff, but it counts for nothing if the All-Terrain can’t cope with the rougher roads.
Thankfully, the Mercedes proved more than up to dealing with the ice-bound roads and unmade forest tracks we drove on. With the All-Terrain function selected, the point at which the ESP intervenes is raised, so the wheels can scrabble for grip to maintain forward momentum. For a large estate car, it coped admirably and every bit as well as an Audi A6 Allroad would. The knobbly winter tyres managed well and the only limiting factor was ground clearance, but then we’re not sure we’d venture any further into the wilds in this type of car.
In short, the All-Terrain is ideal for getting you to your winter holiday destination and dealing with the usual winter road conditions experienced in the UK. One point to mention here is UK-bound All-Terrains divide the engine’s power by sending 31% to the front wheels and 69% to the back. European versions split this with 45% to the front axle and 55% going rearwards.
The automatic transmission is as smooth as you’d hope for in a Mercedes.
Either way, the All-Terrain behaves very much like an E-Class Estate on the road. It rides with a supple calm that is only intruded on by sudden ridges. Even then, the Mercedes deals with them in an efficient, controlled manner rather than the unpleasant jolt that some air-sprung cars can suffer from.
Press hard into a corner and the front end will nudge wide, but in a progressive way that gives plenty of warning you’re pushing the chunky tyres to their limits. Few will drive their All-Terrain in this manner and the car discourages it with steering that reacts obediently to your inputs but with little in the way of communication. Be in no doubt, this is a car tailored for cruising in maximum comfort rather than serving up thrills.
This impression is backed up by the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine which comes with the same 258hp and 457lb ft of shove as it does on the E350d Estate. With peak torque arriving at just 1600rom, there’s rarely any need to stretch the motor beyond 2000rpm, at which revs you will be travelling well in excess of the national speed limit in the UK when the car is settled in the top of its nine gears.
The large boot offers 670 litres of capacity that extends to 1,820-litres ... considerably more space than an Audi A6 Allroad or Volvo V90 Cross Country.
The automatic transmission is as smooth at shifting from one ratio to the next as you’d hope for in a Mercedes, while steering wheel paddle shifters help when you feel in a sportier mood or want to hold the car in a lower gear while descending a steep hill.
Mercedes will confirm performance, economy and emissions figures for the E350d All-Terrain in April 2017 ahead of it’s arrival in the summer, but expect them to be slightly behind the E350d Estate’s.
What we can tell you is the E350 All-Terrain is expected to cost around £55,000 and will have a specification very similar to the Estate’s AMG Line models. So, you’ll get leather upholstery, electrically adjusted and heated front seats, infotainment system, Speedtronic cruise control and Parktronic to help guide you into spaces.
The rest of the All-Terrain’s cabin is the same as any other upscale E-Class Estate model, so there’s ample room for the driver and passengers. A large boot offers 670-litres of capacity that extends to 1820-litres when the 40-20-40 tip and fold back seat is dropped down. Notably, that’s considerably more space than an Audi A6 Allroad or Volvo V90 Cross Country can offer.
Which begs the question: does the Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain unseat its Audi rival? We say yes. Not by much, but the Mercedes offers more space and practicality, and has a smoother ride and transmission. However, there’s a completely new Allroad due in 2018, so Mercedes may not enjoy the same unchallenged dominance that Audi has had for quite so long in this corner of the market.
Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E350d All-Terrain
|Official fuel economy:||46mpg|
|Car tax band:||TBC|
|Engine:||3.0-litre 6 cylinder Turbodiesel|
|Luggage space:||670 litres|