What is it?
The Mercedes-Benz E 350 d All Terrain is a not entirely unexpected addition to the E-Class line-up that has been conceived to compete with the long-established Audi A6 3.0 TDI Allroad quattro and the more recent Volvo V90 D4 Cross Country.
Due in mid-2017, the new high-riding five-seater builds on the standard E 350 d Estate, receiving standard Air Body Control suspension and 19in wheels that provide it with a nominal 29mm increase in ride height. It also has Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel drive, among other features to help extend its ability away from the bitumen and make it an attractive alternative to the myriad of dedicated SUV offerings on sale.
The E 350 d All Terrain is visually differentiated from the latest E-Class Estate by a series of exterior styling changes, all of which aim to provide it with a more rugged appearance than its road-biased sibling.
Included in the exterior makeover is a redesigned front bumper with a central chrome look kick plate, an altered grille with uniquely styled blades, black plastic cladding within the wheel arches, integrated roof rails, beefed-up sills underneath the doors and a new rear bumper with chrome-look protection within the lower section as well as integrated trapezoidal tailpipes.
Predictably, the styling changes made inside are less distinctive than those outside. They include unique brushed aluminium trim within the dashboard, stainless steel pedals and floor mats with All Terrain lettering. The equipment level is based on the AMG Line of the standard E-Class Estate.
As with the latest E 350 d Estate that has been on sale in the UK since early 2016, the new E 350 d All Terrain does not want for versatility. There are 640 litres of nominal boot capacity underneath the cargo blind at the rear, increasing to a generous 1820 litres overall when the 40/20/40-configured rear seat is folded away.
Power for the new model comes from Mercedes’ long-running OM642 diesel engine. Already used by the standard E 350 d Estate, the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, produces 254bhp and a solid 457lb ft.
Drive is channelled as standard through Mercedes-Benz’s 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic gearbox with a conventional torque converter and the German car maker’s familiar 4Matic four-wheel drive system. The nominal drive split on right-hand-drive versions is 31% front and 69% rear, as opposed to the 45% front, 55% rear split of left-hand-drive variants. However, it can be altered to provide up to 55% of drive to the front and the remaining 45% to the rear if required.
Underneath, the E 350 d All Terrain receives Mercedes-Benz’s latest Air Body Control suspension. Featuring three-chamber plungers, as opposed to the single-chamber design used by the earlier Air Matic system, it has been specifically tuned to suit the new model’s dual on-road/off-road role with its own unique mapping ensuring tauter damping in order to offset a the increase in height compared with the E 350 d Estate.
At the same time, the Air Body Control suspension provides an additional 15mm of ground clearance over the regular E 350 d Estate. In combination with standard 19in wheels shod with 245/45 tyres that add a further 14mm of ride height, this raises it by 29mm over the E-Class Estate at 156mm, together with a fording depth of up to 300mm.
When the All Terrain driving mode is activated via the standard Dynamic Select system, the air suspension provides a further 20mm of ride height at speeds of up to 19mph. At the same time, the thresholds for the electronic stability control and gearbox shift points, along with the mapping for the throttle and steering, are altered to boost ability in more demanding off-road conditions.
What’s it like?
Initially, there’s little to differentiate the E 350 d All Terrain from its E 350 d Estate sibling. The interior is virtually identical and offers a first-class driving environment, especially when fitted with the optional 12.3in high-definition instrument and infotainment displays of our test car.
Everything feels impeccably constructed with high-grade materials. The added 29mm of ride height is quite obvious from the outside but does little to alter your view of the road from behind the steering wheel, and can be compensated for by a wide variety of driver’s seat adjustment if required.
Yet when you set off down the road the All Terrain reveals a character that’s subtly different and arguably more endearing to that of the E 350 d Estate. Fitted with the latest evolution of Mercedes-Benz’s air suspension as standard, it rides with outstanding smoothness and wonderful control in Comfort mode. You do notice a touch more vertical movement than in its standard sibling, but it manages to sponge away imperfections with superb authority and a pleasingly relaxed gait.
Mercedes-Benz’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel may already be earmarked for replacement by a more contemporary turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six, but it is nonetheless flexible and refined. With its torque arriving between 1600rpm and 2400rpm, it offers plenty of low-end punch along with hushed qualities when hauling higher gears on the open road.
These qualities are backed up by the slick-shifting nine-speed gearbox and traction-enhancing traits of the 4Matic system, all of which makes this car a terrific all-season proposition.
No performance or economy claims have been made as yet, but expect figures close to those of the E 350 d Estate 4Matic, which boasts an official 0-62mph time of 6.6sec along with combined economy of of 49.6mpg and an average CO2 rating of 150g/km.
During our first drive of the new Mercedes-Benz, it provided confident and sure-footed progress over challenging alpine roads strewn with fresh snow and the odd section of ice.
There’s plenty of steering feel, too, even when running on winter tyres. Relatively firm damping also ensures body roll is well contained through tight bends. A higher centre of gravity than the E-Class Estate means it leans more than its standard sibling, although it never builds to the levels found in the considerably higher-riding GLE.
The decision to fit the E 350 d All Terrain with standard air suspension offering variable ride height is justified the moment you head away from asphalt. In high-speed conditions on gravel, it offers great comfort and control, but it is at lower speeds through mud that the new Mercedes really makes its case. The solid torque of the engine, 176mm of ground clearance, standard 4Matic four-wheel drive and the All Terrain driving mode allow it to creep along with strong traction in situations that would surely leave the E 350 d Estate floundering.
Should I buy one?
If you’re already in the market for an E-Class Estate, you should definitely consider this more rugged-looking but no less comfortable stablemate.
Pricing is yet to be announced, although suggestions are that the sole model in the UK line-up, the E 350 d All Terrain, will land here at around £53,000. This would make it some £3300 more expensive that the E 350 d Estate with the AMG Line styling package.
The new Mercedes-Benz comes comprehensively loaded and is arguably a more relaxed and cosseting car to drive. Despite the added ride height, there’s very little deterioration in overall handling, and its ability in moderate off-road conditions is outstanding.
At the same time, the E 350 d All Terrain offers outstanding quality and versatility allied to strong performance and expected economy. All things considered, it’s probably all the car you’re ever likely to need.
Mercedes-Benz E350d All Terrain
Location Innsbruck, Austria; On sale Summer 2017; Price £53,000 (est); Engine V6, 2987cc, diesel; Power 254bhp at 3400rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1600-2400rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight na; 0-62mph na; Top speed na; Economy na (combined); CO2 rating/tax band na; Rivals Audi A6 3.0 TDI Allroad quattro, Volvo V90 D4 Cross Country
What is it?