With the Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain, the mark has finally entered the market segment for executive estates with 4WD capability and SUV-style looks. If there is still any social stigma in driving an SUV and you don't like the thought of it, then if you're in the market for one of the best 4x4 estate cars that is a premium-branded load-lugger with light off-piste capability, this could be exactly what you're looking for.
Look closely at what makes the Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain model different and you begin to understand why it took Mercedes so long to launch an Audi A6 allroad rival. A car of this kind needs air suspension to be able to lift it clear of off road obstacles and it's only been since the launch in 2016 of the tenth generation E-Class model that the Stuttgart brand has had a system sophisticated enough to provide that kind of capability, the 'AIR BODY CONTROL' suspension set-up. It works as part of the 'All-Terrain driving programme' that's an added setting on the usual E-Class 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes programme. Selecting this mode at under 21mph raises the car by 20mm and at the same time, the thresholds for ESP stability control, active yaw control and acceleration skid control are adapted for off road use.
There's also a button on the centre console that allows the driver to select three levels of air suspension height, from zero to 35mm above the normal level. And a Mercedes E-Cass All-Terrain model already rides 29mm higher than a normal E-Class Estate, thanks partly to its larger tyres. Overall, that means the driver of this model can vary total ground clearance between 121 and 156mm, which means that this car can ride higher than most SUVs. As you'd expect, the brand's 4MATIC on-demand 4WD system is standard. And there are two diesel engine choices, either the 194bhp 2.0-litre unit of the E220d or the 258bhp 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel powerplant fitted to the E350d variant.
The styling of a car like this must be subtle in its 'SUV'-ness. Here, it is. At the front, there's a two-fin grille with the Mercedes star integrated in the centre, as you'd get in a Mercedes GLC. The distinctive front bumper and lower panelling, electroplated in silver-chrome, also contribute to the robust appearance. The top part of the three-part front bumper is painted in the body colour and the lower part comes in grained black plastic. At the side, there are black wheel arch covers and a black side skirt that features a chrome trip strip. The Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain also features a model-specific three-part bumper at the rear with the top part painted in body colour and the lower part in grained black plastic. Further features typical of an SUV include robust load sill protection and an underbody guard electroplated in silver-chrome.
The interior includes aluminium-carbon look trim that is exclusive to the All-Terrain, plus stainless steel sports pedals and floor mats with All-Terrain lettering. Otherwise, as you'd expect, it's exactly as it would be in any other Mercedes E-Class Estate. That means you get a loading capacity of between 670 to 1820-litres, which makes this load compartment one of the biggest in the segment, large enough in fact to incorporate an optional third seating row for kids if that's what you need.
There are always advantages in turning up late to any party and that certainly seems to be the case with Mercedes' belated entry into the segment for executive estates with SUV capability. This E-Class All-Terrain certainly seems to be a thoroughly developed thing and the AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension's flexibility really does give this model some genuine off road capability.
We can't really imagine drivers seriously ever putting this to the test though. If you were going to do that, you'd have spent the kind of money being demanded here on one of the brand's proper SUVs, a GLC or a GLE. A Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain lease is more likely to be taken out by someone who wants extra capability for icy country roads or who perhaps occasionally has to tow. If that's the kind of lifestyle you have in mind for an executive estate, then this one might well be ideal.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-Benz E-Class ALL TERRAIN range