Given that Mercedes’ ambition to fill every off-road niche is still a motor show reveal or two short of completion, you’d be forgiven for thinking it a mite odd that the company should suddenly peel off down the potential sales cul de sac of the off-road estate and introduce this E-Class All-Terrain.
Established competition from Audi and Volvo
Then again, with the E-Class already widely celebrated as a Jolly Good Thing, allied to the somewhat tardy recognition that the likes of the Audi A6 Allroad and Volvo’s V90 Cross Country have had things all their own way for far too long, this car has been a long time coming.
The news that the All-Terrain variant only boasts a meagre 5% difference in parts from its standard estate sibling would make it seem eminently more feasible as a project with which to keep Mercedes engineers busy in their spare time.
All-Terrain styling chunkier than E-Class Estate
The E-Class Estate is already a handsome car in its own right, yet Mercedes has not pulled off quite such a tidy job of off-road appliqué as Audi managed with the A6 Allroad. The All-Terrain may be identified by an increased ride height, redesigned front and rear bumpers, the faintest whiff of plastic nappies around the wheelarches and – ribbed for added off-road sensitivity – along the bottom of the car, with standard-fit 19-inch alloy wheels.
The front is most visibly changed, with a chunkier twin louvre-style upper grille treatment and a less appealing, somewhat fussy-looking lower grille surround above a faux underguard panel. But at least all the brightwork is finished in subdued satin rather than shouty chrome. At the rear, twin exhaust outlets are, as ever, fake, despite the option of a V6 under the bonnet.
Familiar Mercedes-Benz interior and engines
On board, all is high-end E-Class Estate, which equates to superb build quality allied to a few suspect trim finishes (pinstripe piano black, anyone?), a comprehensive equipment list that would probably unearth the kitchen sink itself if you burrowed deep enough into one of the media system sub-menus, stainless steel sports pedals, bespoke floor mats and All-Terrain-exclusive brushed aluminium trim.
Though the standard E-Class Estate is available with 194hp 2.0-litre and 258hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel power, the All-Terrain represents salvation for those who wish to enjoy the larger motor and all-wheel drive installed in a slightly taller load-lugger.
High standard specification
Indeed, the All-Terrain goes on sale in the UK in summer 2017 with the larger engine alone and is likely to cost more than £50,000. Buyers can expect just one high-specification trim level – somewhat akin to sporty AMG Line spec – with a nine-speed automatic transmission, adjustable air suspension and 4Matic permanent four-wheel drive fitted as standard.
A selectable All-Terrain driving mode system – derived from Mercedes’ GLE – accesses the vehicle’s off-road driving settings and can automatically raise the ride height by 20mm. The highest suspension setting gives a total ground clearance of 156mm, which, allied to four-wheel drive, proves enough for the car to acquit itself with considerable aplomb on rocky forest tracks. Bring on the wet gymkhana grass…
Comfortable, classy and – when it comes to semi-autonomous driving – a little too clever for its own good (which we’ll come to), the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain makes a very respectable fist indeed of disguising how little it actually differs at heart from the standard estate.
Think of it more as the only way of acquiring this particular combination of engine and all-wheel drive technology, and it becomes a sufficiently compelling proposition to get the Allroad and Cross Country glancing nervously over their shoulders.