There's a new E-class in town. It's a rugged, all-wheel drive estate. Here's what its like.
What is it?
The E 220 d 4Matic All-Terrain is to the standard Mercedes-Benz E-class sedan what the V90 Cross Country is to the Volvo S90 sedan. That is to say, the All-Terrain is the rugged all-wheel-drive-equipped, estate version of the E-class. The All-Terrain is a unique offering as is, but what makes it that bit more special still is that it marks the India debut of the BS-VI-compliant version of Mercedes’ latest-gen OM654 2.0-litre diesel engine that debuted on the E 220 d sedan last year. Notably, just like the facelifted S 350d’s new 3.0-litre OM656 diesel unit, the revised OM654 can meet BS-VI emission norms even when powered by lower-grade BS-IV fuel. Locally-assembled Mercedes cars will get the engine update toward the end of the year.
What’s it like on the outside?
The All-Terrain might be based on the standard wheelbase E-class (as opposed to the locally-assembled long-wheelbase sedan) but being nearly 5m long, it is still a lot of car. Of course, it’s the section aft the B-pillar that typifies the All-Terrain. The rear overhang is long but the large 19-inch wheels and plastic cladding on the lower section of the bodywork and bumpers keep the All-Terrain’s tail from looking ungainly. Also neatly integrated onto the rear bumper is the scuff plate that encircles the twin (albeit dummy) exhaust ends. Up front, the All-Terrain gets a bespoke styling treatment (vis-à-vis the E-class sedan) with its bolder, twin-louvre grille and different bumper.
All said, while the All-Terrain is well-turned out, the extent to which you will appreciate its look, remains a function of your openness to the estate body style in general.
What’s it like on the inside?
If you’ve been in any new-gen E-class before, you’ll get a sense of familiarity in the All-Terrain’s cabin. The smooth, flowing dashboard is shared with other versions of the E-class though the fully digital display offered on Es sold abroad has been given a miss on the All-Terrain for India; the speedo and tacho dials are analogue units. Still, there’s a genuine high quality to the car's look inside the cabin and almost all of what you touch feels rich.
You don’t sit any higher in the driver's seat than you would in an E-class sedan so the view to the outside is decent but not what you’d call commanding; and ingress/egress is similar, too. Passenger-seat comfort, however, is excellent and those seated at the back have it good, as well. Sure, there’s less rear legroom than in the long-wheelbase sedan, and the seat recline function and soft pillow headrests from the sedan don’t make it to the All-Terrain either – but your rear passengers will still not have reason to complain. If anything, it’s the high centre tunnel that could be a bother for the middle passenger.
Judged as an estate, the All-Terrain impresses with its massive luggage bay. Standard luggage capacity is 640 litres and adjusting the rear backrests by 10 degrees frees up another 30 litres of space. Completely folding the 40:20:40-split rear seat backrest takes the car's cargo volume to 1,820 litres. There’s also a sizeable storage bay under the boot floor. Unfortunately, there’s no provision for a spare wheel which means the space saver spare (which was not on the test car) will inadvertently eat into prime real estate in the boot.
The All-Terrain comes reasonably well-specced as standard – with air suspension, a panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, three-zone climate control and an electrically operated tailgate – although a Volvo V90 Cross Country does offer a whole lot more.
What’s it like to drive?
The All-Terrain gets standard air suspension with three levels for the ride height. The ride height can be raised by up to 35mm at the touch of a button – but with a maximum ground clearance (laden) of 156mm, this is no SUV. The All-Terrain didn’t ground on any of the mild off-road stretches we ventured onto; but the fact is that we were also extra-mindful of the vehicle's clearance at all times. The 2.9m-long wheelbase also means the All-Terrain is not the most maneuverable of cars you could venture into the wild in. What does its work well is the 4matic all-wheel drive system that apportions torque between the front and rear axles, based on available traction. The Merc didn’t lose its footing – neither in the rough, nor on the rain-drenched tarmac – on the journey home. There are five drive modes on offer (including an ‘All-Terrain’ mode and ‘Individual’ mode) and do alter the driving experience.
There’s a hint of firmness to the All-Terrain’s ride which is quite the opposite of the air-suspension-equipped E 350 d sedan that is setup soft to the point of almost being floppy. The All-Terrain rides with great composure and body movements are well-contained at all speeds, effectively making the driving experience more involving than the E-class sedans. A fluid steering and neat dynamics help to this end and, as mentioned, there’s always the option to customise steering and suspension settings to your liking.
The All-Terrain’s 2.0-litre diesel engine makes the same 194hp and 400Nm of torque seen in the E 220 d sedan. Performance and refinement levels are also similar. The engine is smooth in the way it delivers its power; and though it is not outright punchy like a like-sized BMW diesel, the Merc unit feels strong. The nine-speed auto is slick in its shifts as well but it does tend to trip, at times, when you floor the throttle. A tug at the steering-mounted paddles does help performance, however. Mercedes claims a 0-100kph time of 8sec for the E 220 d All-Terrain – which is reasonable for a car that weighs an upward of 1.9 tonnes (1,900kg).
Should I buy one?
In isolation, the E 220 d All-Terrain is a rather nice package. It’s distinct, luxurious, more than pleasant to drive, and also offers every bit of the practicality that estates are famous for. It’s no off-roader but the all-wheel drive also brings in a degree of added usability that no E-class sedan can match.
The trouble is, buyers willing to pay Rs 75 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom) price for the car, have other options to choose from, too – least of all the better-equipped and higher-specced Volvo V90 Cross Country. In the same price bracket, you could have a full-fledged SUV from a premium marque (even within Mercedes, itself) with all the trappings that have made this genre of vehicle so popular in India.
Good as it may be, then, the All-Terrain is not the first Merc – or even the first car, for that matter – that springs to mind for anyone with a shopping budget of about Rs 75 lakh.
Mercedes-Benz E 220d All-Terrain image gallery