Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain: ‘an extraordinary family car’

View all Mercedes-Benz E-Class Reviews

► CAR lives with an E350d All-Terrain
► A plush off-roader that isn’t an SUV
► This month: bike racks

Month 8 living with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain: the long-term test verdict is in

I can remember the precise moment when I knew this new long-term test car and I would get along. It was 10 o’clock at night in mid-February, just a couple of days after it had been delivered. We were on the M6, somewhere in Lancashire. The Beast from the East 2 was dumping snow on the motorway in such quantities that the slowing traffic wasn’t clearing it, and we passed maybe half a dozen cars which had spun out on the other carriageway and come to a halt at crazy angles. 

Inside our E350 All-Terrain my four-year-old slept in the back and my five-year-old watched all this unperturbed from the front seat. His calmness was doubtless a reflection of my own. I wasn’t cursing my stubborn refusal to let a weather forecast cancel our long-planned trip to Northern Ireland. 

I knew that unless the motorway was closed, the E-Class would get us to our hotel in Cumbria and onto the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast the next morning. And despite having set out from Sussex at tea time, everyone’s mood was better for the All-Terrain’s seat comfort, noise levels and ride quality.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain: 'an extraordinary family car'

Sure, any all-wheel-drive estate on winter tyres might have provided the same progress. But it’s the manner in which it does it and the state in which it leaves you after even the toughest of drives that you pay the extra for with this Merc, or any of its premium rivals. And it is quite a lot extra over the dimensionally and conceptually similar Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer which has been on the long-term test fleet at the same time.

But the E’s ease encourages you to do more. The kids liked the road trip from Sussex to Belfast so much that we did it again in July, but this time went all the way to Donegal. What sane single dad does a 1500-mile road trip with two small children, twice? One with an E-Class.

There were also trips to North Wales, the Isle of Man and France, just because they felt easy. The All-Terrain racked up 13,000 miles with me in nine months, more per month than I’ve done in any other long-termer, and a lot given that I have access to other cars.

Ben Oliver driving his Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain: a consummate long-distance cruiser

It needed a service at 14,000 miles which was carried out efficiently by the dealership in Brighton for £385. They were also very helpful in replacing the two (two!) 20-inch rims bent by potholes on the rural lanes around my house, at £639.76 each. I’ve never buckled a wheel before, but the holes were particularly vicious so I can’t blame the design.  

The second incident also ruptured the tyre, which cost £334 to replace. The absence of a spare meant Merc’s dedicated breakdown service had to come out, fit their space saver and follow me to the dealership to retrieve it, while I left the car overnight until the replacements arrived and taxied home. 

It’s not a problem unique to Mercedes, but you have to wonder if the saving in weight and emissions of omitting a spare is worth the faff, especially in something intended to off-road and thus more prone to punctures. Living on a farm, the extra ride height of the All-Terrain was of use: it never got stuck or bottomed-out, even on more remote tracks. Only West Sussex’s terrible roads could stop it.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain long-term test review by CAR magazine

The E350d which I have just reluctantly relinquished is now obsolete, replaced in the Merc range by the 336bhp, 516lb ft E400d. I’ve tried the new engine and it’s enough to make the nation fall in love with diesel again. It gives the All-Terrain a seamless, scary and near-silent surge of acceleration which is almost Tesla-like. 

It’s also nearly four grand more expensive now, at £62,900. But the car which encouraged me to do more can now do more itself, and its price-insensitive private buyers will like it even more as a result.

By Ben Oliver

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz E350d 4Matic All-Terrain 

Price £58,880
As tested £61,260
Engine 2987cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 179g/km CO2
Miles this month 1882
Total 14,962
Our mpg 35.3
Official mpg 41.5
Fuel this month £337.96
Extra costs £385.69 (service), £334.18 (tyre), £639.76 (wheel), £234 (alignment check)

Count the cost: Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain depreciation

Cost new £61,260 (including £2380 of extras)
Private sale price £33,995
Part-exchange price £32,400
Cost per mile 16.7p
Cost per mile including depreciation £2.66

Month 7 of our Mercedes E-Class All Terrain long-term test review: autonomous car creds

See also  Mercedes A-Class: the half-year test

Ben Oliver's children 'driving' his Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain

At four and five years old my kids are probably the first generation for whom a semi-autonomous car is entirely normal. 

In our time with the E-Class All Terrain we’ve done some long road trips in it together. The weight-sensing automatic front airbag deactivation means that one of them can ride up front with me and marvel more clearly at the Level 2 autonomous DrivePilot system doing its thing: turning the wheel to stay in lane, executing lane changes unaided, locking onto and following the vehicle in front, and braking to a standstill if required. 

Don’t tell Mercedes, but the kids also drive it (well, steer it while sitting on my lap) on the farm tracks around us, which the All Terrain covers comfortably at 25mph with the ride height raised in off-road mode.

The self-steering thing has become so normal to them that when I let Tom ‘drive’ my Peugeot 205 GTi over the same tracks recently he turned to me and explained, incredulously, that the funny little white car couldn’t drive itself. A recent survey found that three-quarters of us still wouldn’t ride in an autonomous car, and two-thirds don’t want to share the roads with one. 

Tom will have his licence in 12 years. Such resistance won’t last long.

By Ben Oliver

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz E350d 4MATIC All-Terrain Edition

Price £58,880
As tested £61,260
Engine 2987cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Performance 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 179g/km CO2  
Miles this month 1512  
Total 13,080  
Our mpg 37.9  
Official mpg 41.5
Fuel this month £240.57
Extra costs None

Month 6 living with an E350d All-Terrain: affixing tricks

I have now reached Level 3 Fatherhood, in which one must attach stuff to the exterior of one’s vehicle on summer holidays. So I made my first use of the standard retractable towhook and the optional double bike rack which attaches to it easily and with reassuring solidity.

Bike rack on Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain

It’s flexible enough to handle both my road bike and a BMX, and pivots to give access to the boot. Despite the very full load I managed my best-ever tank at 42.6mpg, using active cruise control for most of the 600 miles to Donegal. 

By Ben Oliver

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz E350d 4MATIC All-Terrain Edition

Price £58,880
As tested £61,260 
Engine 2987cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm 
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 179g/km CO2
Miles this month 2346
Total 11568
Our mpg 38.0
Official mpg 41.5 
Fuel this month £419.49
Extra costs None

Month 5 of our Mercedes E350d All-Terrain long-term test review: potholes and punctures

Damn you, West Sussex County Council. A pothole with a particularly vicious, cliff-like profile left my tyres and suspension undamaged but made one of my E-Class All-Terrain’s standard 20-inch rims slightly egg-shaped, if still driveable. 

Mercedes E-Class All Terrain puncture

The very helpful staff at Mercedes-Benz Chelsea could tell me how many were in stock in the UK and even in Germany, but unfortunately also knew the price: £639.76. I had one delivered next day to Mercedes-Benz of Brighton, who fitted it for £35 and even brought the car round to where I was sunning myself in a corner of the forecourt. Impressive service throughout, and all sorted in less than 24 hours from impact. 

Now where’s that claim form?

By Ben Oliver

Month 4 living with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain: comparing with a Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

Of the many CAR Bens, I am the best upholstered but Ben Whitworth (below left) is easily the most premium with his dapper refinement and sharp creases. Yet somehow I’ve ended up with the more premium of our two jacked-up estates. 

Functionally these cars are almost identical: both are just shy of five metres in length, but Ben’s Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer is 39mm longer and provides a little more legroom at the expense of boot space, with 1665 litres to the 1820 litres of my Mercedes E350d All-Terrain. Yet despite their near-identical dimensions and intent, the Mercedes costs more than twice as much in standard trim, at £58,880 to the Vauxhall’s £28,435. 

Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain meets Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer

The Vauxhall narrows the price and kit gap with a lightly-used Corsa’s worth of options at £7250; the Mercedes adds ‘only’ £2380 as almost everything is standard. But the E-Class is still asking pretty much twice the price for essentially the same package. So why on earth would any sane person choose it over the Insignia?

Browse Mercedes-Benz E-Classes for sale

The name is easily the least premium thing about Ben’s car: ‘Country Tourer’ sounds like it should be adorning the beige plastic sides of a four-berth caravan. It’s a good-looking car, though. The torpedo styling makes a virtue of its length, while the cabin borrows cues from supercars (the faux passenger grab handle) and is far more exuberant in form than my E-Class. 

See also  Mercedes X-Class long-term test: our year-long verdict

Both the Country Tourer and the All-Terrain suffer the same plastic wheelarch cladding which clumsily announces almost all such raised-ride-height wagons, but just looks to me like the unpainted, cheap-to-replace bumpers on a van. I’m told the red was chosen by the designers for press cars to make these hideous addenda stand out. I’d go for a grey to disguise them.

I like the Insignia’s chassis. It gets Flexride adaptive damping and the clever GKN Twinster AWD system which vectors torque across the rear axle with pair of electronically-controlled clutches. Together they give it a crisper turn-in than the autobahn-orientated Mercedes, while the smaller, 18-inch rims give better secondary refinement over coarse surfaces. 

But ask more of the Vauxhall and it starts to struggle; once the suspension components begin to move you can feel them doing so through a bodyshell which is palpably less solid than the Merc’s. Overall the Mercedes is the far more soothing companion: the Insignia cannot approach the E-Class’s world-beating long-haul chops.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain

The Merc’s killer advantage lies in its software rather than its hardware. Swapping cars made me realise how much my perception of my own car is influenced by its information, assistance and entertainment systems, which are a class above the Vauxhall’s in both their individual competence and their seamless, near-sentient interaction. 

In airline terms, the Insignia is premium economy, but the E-Class really is the business. The competitive finance deals which have doubled Merc’s UK sales in the last five years may well soften that list price hammer blow. If I could stretch to one, I would.

By Ben Oliver

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz E350d 4MATIC All-Terrain Edition

Price £58,880
As tested £61,260
Engine 2987cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 179g/km CO2
Miles this month 1432
Total 9222
Our mpg 35.5
Official mpg 41.5
Fuel this month £253.07
Extra costs None

Month 3 of our Mercedes E-class All-Terrain long-term test: motorway miles

Travelling fairly calmly and in a mostly straight line might not seem the most demanding of tasks, but some cars manage it far better than others. It’s an overlooked and underrated talent, given how much of our driving is on multi-lane roads. My Merc’s motorway mileage has been racking up rapidly of late, with trips to Northern Ireland, northern France, Wales and the Isle of Man, some of which you’ll read more about in coming issues.

It’s hard to think of a better car for the job. Under the All-Terrain cladding this is still an E-Class, and the defining purpose of the E-Class has always been to demolish big autobahn journeys. Sure, an S-Class may be quieter and more spacious inside, but these are by-products of its main purpose, which is to be luxurious, which brings penalties of weight, size and cost. I’m not saying that the E-Class is light, small or cheap, but it’s perfectly optimised for its main purpose: rapid inter-city transport. 

Merc E-class All-Terrain grille and badge

The All-Terrain comes on air springs as standard, which helps with steady-state ride comfort and noise, and my car’s optional Driving Assistance Plus package allows the car to self-steer and execute lane changes autonomously, subtly reducing the strain of a long trip. Seat comfort is superb too – this from a man with a spring in his spine. In Eco mode, which decouples the transmission to let the car glide down hills, the E350d will return something close to its claimed combined consumption of 41.5mpg, and I get around 450 miles between fills.

This isn’t just about being pampered. Any new car will carry you along a motorway. But if you do these trips regularly, the E-Class will deliver you in a better state and able to do more. An example: I cycled a lap of the Isle of Man before putting the car on the Steam Packet ferry for the two and a half hour crossing to Liverpool. After the ride, I was dreading my five-hour drive south and planned a hotel stop halfway. Instead, I was feeling so fresh in the E that when a friend rang and asked if I wanted to join a night out in Brighton, I agreed, diverted, and stayed up until 6am. Not, perhaps, why German executives have long loved the E-Class, but a good illustration of its ability to do a simple thing well.

By Ben Oliver

Month 2 living with a Mercedes E-class All-Terrain: Driving Assistance Plus pack = driverless car?

A couple of long motorway trips have let me test the E’s Driving Assistance Plus pack, which for £1695 makes it about as autonomous as a car can be today. The self-steering element reduces the strain on long trips, and I’d trust it to take control long enough for me to open a drink, wipe a kid’s nose or gesticulate furiously at terrible human drivers.

See also  Mercedes S-Class S580e L hybrid (2022) review: playing the loooooooong game

Mercedes E-class All-Terrain badge

But the automated lane-change function feels like a gimmick. The labour saved by not having to turn the wheel is outweighed by my triple-checking of the car’s risk assessment.

By Ben Oliver

Logbook Mercedes-Benz E350d All-Terrain

Price £58,880  
As tested £61,260  
Engine 2987cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm  
Transmission 9-speed auto, all-wheel drive  
Performance 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 179g/km CO2  
Miles this month 906
Total 4180  
Our mpg 34.1  
Official mpg 41.5mpg
Fuel this monthF£140.48  
Extra costs None

Month 1 of our Mercedes-Benz E-class All-Terrain long-term test review: the introduction

These long-term tests require us to swap cars every few months, which is fine until you have one which you’d happily keep for the rest of your life. My outgoing Volvo V90 was one such car. A premium diesel estate has long been on my list of cars I’d buy and drive forever if I gave up this job – although the diesel element of that plan may soon need to change.

Ben Oliver and CAR magazine's Mercedes-Benz E-class All-Terrain

I was left wondering what to replace the Volvo with, knowing that my next car would probably fit into my life slightly less well. Yes, I know, poor me. Brilliantly, I hit on the plan of replacing it with… another premium diesel estate car. But this time, with a twist.

As part of its plan to occupy every market niche, Mercedes-Benz has produced this All-Terrain version of the E-Class estate. Volvo got there first 21 years ago with the Cross Country variants of its big estates. The first Audi Allroad arrived a couple of years later, but BMW has left the jacked-up estate market alone, for now.

Volvo reports that over its long lifetime the Cross Country has accounted for around a quarter of V70 or V90 sales. That percentage is far higher among private buyers, given the large numbers of standard models which go to fleets. This E-Class All-Terrain’s spec suggests that Mercedes is aiming it at the same relatively cost-insensitive, discretionary private purchasers. The 350d V6 diesel is the only engine offered, the kit list is impressive, but at £59k the list price is high to match.

E350d All-Terrain side pan

The All-Terrain gets the Premium Plus package from the standard E-Class estate, which brings keyless go, a panoramic sunroof, memory seats, intelligent LED lights and a Burmeister sound system with its beautiful filigree speakers. Underneath, there’s a nine-speed transmission and Merc’s 4Matic system, giving a 31/69 torque split in normal driving. Air springs and 20-inch rims together give a 29mm boost in ride height, and an off-road mode in the Dynamic Select system puffs it up another 20mm. My car is currently on 19s wearing Pirelli Sotto Zero winters. It hardly looks under-tyred, but the standard wheels will go back on soon.

First impressions? In Selenite Grey with hazelnut leather, I like the way it looks, but I’d like it more if Mercedes had resisted the predictable design shorthand for ‘this is our jacked-up estate’ and not compromised the standard E estate’s lovely lozenge lines with black plastic wheelarches and a slightly tacky grille and rear venturi treatment. Proper SUVs do without plastic wheelarches: I’m not sure why less capable vehicles need to look more butch.
Inside, the E’s cabin still provokes a little ‘ooh’, even after the V90’s fine effort. If you order an All-Terrain now, yours will feel even fancier, with a stitched leather dash top-roll in place of the plastic on mine.

E-Class All-Terrain interior

I appreciate that this is atypical, but I live at the end of a three-quarter-mile unmade, muddy, heavily potholed track. I use off-road mode at least twice every day. And when I reach the asphalt, a long, sweet and often empty stretch of B-road, I switch everything to Sport Plus, and even on winter tyres and with its extra ride height the All-Terrain does a very close impression of a standard fast estate. It’s satisfying to feel that you’re using the entire span of your car’s ability, and not paying in money and weight and bulk and emissions for off-road capability you’ll never use. I’m missing that Volvo a little less already.

Logbook: Mercedes E350d 4Matic All-Terrain

Engine 2984cc 24v turbodiesel V6, 254bhp @ 3400rpm, 457lb ft @ 1600rpm   
Transmission 9-speed automatic, all-wheel drive   
Stats 6.2sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 179g/km CO2  
Price £58,880
As tested £61,260  
Miles this month 759
Total 3274
Our mpg 34.3
Official mpg 41.5
Fuel this month £131.07
Extra costs  £0

Check out our Mercedes reviews here

About Tim Pollard

Avatar photo
A tech enthusiast and content writer, has a knack for simplifying complex technical information. He enjoys researching and writing about the latest gadgets and technology trends. He has a degree in computer science and is experienced in creating content for tech blogs and websites.

Check Also

BMW 530d SE Touring (2011) long-term test review

View all BMW 5-Series Reviews A year in our BMW 530d Touring – 20 January …