All-wheel drive and extra ground clearance in this new and accomplished version of Mercedes’ high-class estate
If your motoring life occasionally involves the gloopy substance known as mud, a car like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain may be just the ticket. Not only does its Air Body Control suspension system give it a 29mm higher ride, its Dynamic Select system will give you another 20mm of clearance on top of that when All-Terrain mode is engaged.
You can only use that ‘giraffe’ mode at speeds up to 19mph. Go over 19mph and the suspension will automatically lower itself so you don’t lose stability. To stop that lowering process kicking in, you can limit your speed to anything under 19mph, a handy safety feature on rough tracks.
What else do you get to protect your All-Terrain from countryside damage? Well, on the passive side, there’s the usual external plastic cladding; more actively, there’s 4Matic permanent four-wheel drive with a 31/69 front-rear torque split.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, turbocharged diesel
Torque: 457lb ft
Gearbox: 9-spd automatic
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 41.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 179g/km
This model is unique in the E-Class estate range in combining the 4Matic system with the now quite old 350d 3.0-litre engine. UK buyers will get it with a 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, and more or less one standard spec which is on a par with AMG Line Premium Plus including a panoramic glass sunroof and a 12.3in-screened Comand system.
A strict five-seater with no seven-seat option, the 20-inch wheel All-Terrain has a standard electric folding towbar and can tow up to 2100kg – sufficient to deal with an average-sized car atop a braked trailer.
It’s not cheap at £58,880, or £60,575 as tested with the driving assistance package, but Mercedes reckons cost isn’t a major problem for typical buyers, and those buyers are going to be more than happy with the car’s visual impact both inside and out. The All-Terrain’s looks have been cleverly developed from the regular E-Class to deliver a handsome result.
Then you drive it and your happiness quotient is likely to go up still further. That V6 diesel engine is an oldie but a goodie, delivering super-smooth, low-profile power in easy conjunction with the superb 9G-Tronic. It makes light work of big loads or heavy overtaking punch.
Even on the 35-profile tyres, the Air Body Control suspension swallowed up big undulations and scraggy North Yorkshire roads with equal aplomb. The precise steering responds instantly to driver input. We hitched up a heavy horsebox containing a 250kg load and had no trouble negotiating a vertiginous forest track, restarting easily from a (deliberate) total stop halfway up. Taking the horsebox off, we skipped across a rocky moorland track in a similarly relaxed fashion.
A powered hatch opens up to the normal E-Class Estate load space of 640 (40/20/40 rear seats up) and 1820 litres (seats down). The low loading bay wil be very popular with dogs. The electric towbar is activated by a hatch- or driver’s door button. One of the reversing camera views you can get on the 12.3inch is an overhead angle which greatly facilitates reversing up the tow hitch. These are all very welcome attributes that add a bit of luxury to the often mundane activity of load-lugging.
The ability of a car to tow either on or off a gravel track or to extract itself from a mudbath is normally associated with traditional 4x4s, but estate cars like the All-Terrain make a lot of sense as an alternative as they offer easier maneouvring with (in many cases) more cabin space than an SUV.
Of course, many SUVs will be a lot cheaper than this, but they won’t have the luxurious ambience of a Mercedes.