Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain: Get This Instead Of An SUV.
Good wagons need to be more popular in the States. This Mercedes could help the movement gain momentum.
Wagons are a dying breed over here in America. Buyers are opting for massive SUVs instead, making massive profits for manufacturers, resulting in far fewer longroof models on dealer lots. Sadly that means buyers are nearly forced to stick an SUV in their garage because of better availability. Thankfully the big German OEMs still produce a good wagon, and are still shipping them to our shores.
Mercedes has been selling its E-Class wagon for six generations, to keep buyers who want one over an SUV happy. For 2021, Mercedes has given all its E-Class models a facelift, and has added plenty of new features. After testing the E450 coupe when it debuted, and then E350 sedan more recently, I wanted to evaluate the EQ Boost-enhanced powertrain in wagon form, and the good folks at Mercedes shipped the go-anywhere All-Terrain model for me to check out for a week.
The Key Figures
The Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain goes head-to-head with the Audi A6 allroad, intended to offer great space for a family to tote all their stuff while exploring just far enough off the usual roads. Gone are the days of easy naming conventions, with the E-Class numbering having nothing to do with engine displacement. The E450 All-Terrain packs a 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six, packing 362 horsepower from 5,500 - 6,100 RPM and 369 lb-ft of torque stretching from 1,600 RPM to 4,500 RPM.
On its own, that engine is good for a luxury wagon, but the Mercedes engineers coupled its EQ Boost integrated starter generator system that adds an extra 21 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of electrified torque in an instant. Unleashing this extra power helps the E450 All-Terrain sprint from 0-60 MPH in 4.4 seconds, and trip the 1/4-mile lights in 13.1 seconds. The E450 All-Terrain's horsepower and acceleration figures also have an advantage over its Audi rival, with identical peak torque.
As you'd expect from something called "All-Terrain" the Mercedes E450 wagon has Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system hooked up to a 9-speed DCT. The All-Terrain is also equipped with a new air suspension at all four corners--as opposed to just at the rear in the last generation--to help keep the ride smooth while offering adjustability for the ground clearance when taking this wagon off the pavement.
Pricing for the Mercedes E450 All-Terrain starts at $67,600, and can shoot up quite a bit, depending on how sorted and stylish you'd like your E-Class wagon. The All-Terrain I tested ticked a bunch of options boxes, and was painted Polar White with black leather and natural grain grey ash wood inside. After adding 20-inch wheels with summer tires, massaging and ventilated front seats, and a full slate of driving assistance tech features, this E450 All-Terrain hit a total MSRP of $82.440.
A Good Daily Driver
The E-Class hits the sweet spot in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, offering the right size for a luxury sedan, with loads of great features with just enough style and tech to remind you what you're paying for. On your daily commute and errand running, the E450 All-Terrain offers a smooth drive that glides over any surface, thanks to the air suspension. This E-Class is nicely sorted for bumpy city streets, and excels at covering fast highway miles. Because you can set up an individual drive mode in addition to the standard set Mercedes supplies, I took advantage and put the suspension and steering in a sporty setup, but made the engine more eco-friendly. Even with the suspension in a firmer setting, the response was still composed yet pleasingly responsive.
Applying the go pedal is fun in this luxury wagon, as the added electrified torque from the Mercedes EQ Boost system is fantastic. Rather than feeling a bit of turbo lag from the straight-six, the 48V mild hybrid setup flattens the torque curve where it counts, and supplies ample acceleration that's surprisingly civil. Don't get too carried away with the throttle use, as the speedometer will quickly climb when the electric boost continues to surge. I did a lot of city miles during my week-long test in the E450 All-Terrain, so I was a hint under the 22/28/24 (city/highway/combined) EPA estimated fuel economy.
2021 Mercedes E-Class models got a facelift outside, with new headlights, taillights, and a refreshed grille, but that wasn't it. The cabin got several updates too, and the most noticeable is the new steering wheel, which has a more futuristic shape, equipped with new touch control buttons for the audio, settings, and cruise control systems. These steering wheel functions take some getting used to, and have inconsistent sensitivity that I don't love. Sure they eliminate buttons that get gunk stuck under them, but I do miss the positive feedback and click sensation of the steering wheel buttons from the last generation E-Class.
Cabin treatments are a nice blend of cool and luxurious in the E450 All-Terrain, with exceptional seats that support you just enough if you toss the big wagon into the corners, but will keep you comfy on a long road trip. Shoulder space is fantastic, and the optional panorama sunroof makes the already massive cockpit seem more airy. If you live in a hotter climate, definitely opt for the ventilated seats while ticking the box to add the acoustic package that provides heat absorbing coating to thicker windows which make the cabin whisper silent on freeways.
In wagon form, the E450 All-Terrain provides significantly more cargo space in the back, now bumping up to 64 cubic feet of it with the seats folded, and a healthy 35 cubic feet of storage when the seats are up. That's not much smaller than the E-Class' bigger GLE SUV sibling. What's also cool about this E-Class wagon is in the rear hatch, where little third row seats pop up from the floor, allowing kids rear-facing rides.
As you expect from a modern luxury car, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are installed in MBUX, but there's no wireless compatibility yet. The pair of 12.3-inch screens for the instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment unit are great, allowing plenty of customization for your dials and data, with the center screen offering touch capability in addition to a functional trackpad on the center console. I appreciate Mercedes offering a touchscreen for infotainment use, paired with a trackpad, but the pad is really sensitive to any contact. I noticed it often moving the selection cursor and settings if my iPhone cable made the slightest contact with it.
For Weekend Exploring
Most people aren't taking a luxury wagon--or SUV--too far from perfectly smooth roads. For those who do want to wander on a family trek, the E450 All-Terrain is nicely functional, with plenty of space to stuff your gear. Engage either of the pair of off-road drive modes to raise the ride height a couple inches, soften the suspension to make chunky terrain more comfortable to cover, and allow the Mercedes wagon to confidently move about without the worry of rocks destroying its underside.
The additional black flare-cladding keeps brush from scraping your Mercedes' fenders, and gives the E450 All-Terrain a slightly more rugged look. As a driver who leans more on the side of fun, I can give the thumbs up to equipping stickier rubber on a test car, but for the purpose of evaluating the E450 All-Terrain, I would have stuck with the more capable rubber rather than the Pirelli P-Zero summer tires. I definitely don't suggest ticking that option box if you want to take your E450 wagon on camping trips along rugged trails.
Mercedes' drive select system supplies a good sport mode, which gives the E450 All-Terrain a better sporty behavior, but don't expect the sort of handling and response you get from the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S I praised last winter. The E450's upgraded front brakes sport monoblock calipers and cross-drilled rotors, which help the pedal feel if you're trying to hoon this big wagon, but at over 4,500 pounds, the All-Terrain wagon needs more braking power if you try tossing it around.
A Really Sorted Wagon Is What You Need
After a good week in the Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain, I'm sticking to my opinion that wagons are far superior to SUVs for damn near any driver. It has loads of space for people and their stuff, is equipped wonderfully for a luxury car, and still provides a driving experience that's enjoyable on any road.
I haven't had a go in the Audi A6 allroad yet, but having just driven the RS6 Avant (review coming soon), I do like the look of the Audi a bit more. If you want something that's a bit more of a sleeper in the kids' school pickup line, but still provides an exceptional all-around experience, the E450 All-Terrain is a damn good car to stick in your driveway.