You're probably tired of hearing this, but we'll say it again anyway – wagons are awesome. They provide the perfect combo of car-like drivability with the space of a small crossover, and in the case of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain, some extra ruggedness to go along with it. And we're not lying when we say this thing is pretty good off the beaten path.
Beyond updating the exteriors and interiors of the entire E-Class range, Mercedes made improvements specific to the European All-Terrain model for its big debut in North America. Now there's more cladding around the fenders, a taller ride height, plus two dedicated off-road modes that allow you to take it off the beaten path… assuming you're brave enough to blast an $85,000 Mercedes down the nearest dirt road.
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All it took were new headlights, a sharper grille, and a sleeker front bumper to transform the E-Class All-Terrain from bulbous to beautiful. Beyond that, the roofline and general shape from the Euro model carry over, as does the rear bumper treatment – even last year's horizontal LED taillights carry over. Unlike the sedan, which swapped the old bulbs for a new lighting design, the wagon keeps the previous model’s taillights and we actually prefer this look.
There is some additional cladding around the wheel wells too – and the extra ruggedness is appreciated. The now-standard air suspension also gives the E-Class 5.8 inches of ground clearance at full load over the old E-Class wagon. A set of 19-inch wheels come standard, but our car wears the optional 20-inch AMG shoes ($1,450), and the $1,080 Designo Cardinal Red metallic is a sharp exterior hue, too.
The E-Class All-Terrain's insides are entirely familiar if you've been in any other modern Benz. The 12.3-inch central touchscreen and corresponding 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster from other Mercedes models carry over, and the general layout looks like a copy-and-paste job – not that we're complaining. Modern Benzes have some of the plushest interiors out there.
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Low-profile summer tires (245/40/20) and optional 20-inch wheels do not make for a comfortable ride, no matter how good the air suspension is. The All-Terrain is harsh over bumps and undulations, and those tires contribute to a lot of road noise on the highway. More confusing is that Mercedes designed this vehicle for dirt roads, and the wheel and tire combo are arguably the worst setup for the tough stuff, clunking over rocks and potholes with an uncomfortable thud.
Nappa leather is available on the All-Terrain for a cool $2,990, but our car's combo of non-Nappa Neva Grey and Magma Grey leather is still soft and super high-quality (itself a $1,620 option over standard MB Tex leatherette). The seats contour well around the body with solid bolstering and great thigh and back support. There are even multiple massage settings that we used pretty regularly on longer highway bouts.
The back seats are big enough to accommodate average-sized adults, with ample head space and plenty of room to stretch your legs. The 38.2 inches of headroom in the second row bests the Volvo V90 Cross Country's 37.7 inches, and the Benz's 36.1 inches of legroom are better than the Volvo's 35.9 inches, but the Audi A6 Allroad is a bit better in both respects (39.5 / 37.4 inches).
Even with that extra passenger space over the Volvo, Mercedes doesn’t require you to make sacrifices in the cargo department. The All-Terrain has a class-beating 35.0 cubic feet behind the second row and 64.0 cubes with the second row folded flat. The Volvo has a mere 19.8 and 53.9 cubic feet, while the Audi only has 30.0 cubes behind its fixed third row.
What can we say about MBUX that we haven't said in previous reviews already? It's one of our favorite infotainment setups, with a central touchscreen, a corresponding 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a touchpad controller managing it all. The home screen layout is clean, the graphics are crisp, and the touchpad makes it all easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity both come standard, as does the “Hey, Mercedes” voice control system. And it all worked flawlessly in our test.
The only tech that the All-Terrain model gains over the standard E-Class are configurable gauges for off-road modes. The left gauge displays a roll and pitch meter for when the going gets tougher, while the right cluster shows ride height, which either drops by one inch at high speeds or raises at low speeds of up to 22 miles per hour when on sand and dirt, or up to 28 miles per hour on rock, depending on the mode.
We still prefer the previous steering wheel to the current one, though. The new steering wheel design – making its way to every model – uses haptic feedback "buttons" atop piano black plastic fixtures that don't work as well as the tactile buttons on the last iteration.
The lone engine in the E450 All-Terrain is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with EQ Boost, which replaces the outgoing and outdated V6. We've said this before but, Mercedes-Benz builds some of the best inline-sixes in the business. This powertrain is incredibly smooth and refined, yet more than powerful enough to deliver a solid 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, backfilling an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft in certain situations with EQ Boost.
Although it may not look the part – what with its shape and cladding – the E450 All-Terrain will scoot. Pop it into Sport or Sport Plus drive modes, and the Benz hustles to 60 miles per hour in just under five seconds by our rough measurement (Mercedes doesn't publish a 60 time). The nine-speed automatic is innocuous, shifting without issue, and the summer tires combined with the standard all-wheel-drive system give the All-Terrain plenty of grip.
When not in Offroad mode, the E450 All-Terrain is a solid cruiser. The tall-ish stature makes it feel like a compact crossover from the driver's seat, and it handles just as well. The suspension keeps body motions mostly in check, and the steering is well-weighted and responsive. But there's nothing that blow you away from a performance standpoint.
On the dirt, though, the E450 All-Terrain showed off some surprising skills. With the Offroad or Offroad Plus modes selected and the ride at its max 5.8-inch lift, the air suspension allowed the Benz to skip over rocks and dirt at speeds of up to 28 miles per hour. There was plenty of grip in the mud and sand, too, and a hill descent control function just in case.
The only thing holding this wagon back from being genuinely great on the dirt are the optional 20-inch wheels and low-profile rubber. The optional setup proved harsh on paved road, and was punishing over deeper nicks and potholes off-road. You'd be much better off with smaller wheels and more sidewall.
Mercedes-Benz does offer a number of standard safety features on the All-Terrain, like automatic emergency braking, attention assist, blind-spot monitoring, and crosswind assist. But it’s not until you add on the $1,950 Driver Assistance package do you get things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep with lane-centering assist, evasive steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, and much more.
Mercedes has always had one of the most comprehensive active safety suites in the business, and that’s still true here. The adaptive cruise control works exceptionally well on the highway, keeping the E-Class centered in the lane, braking it seamlessly down to zero and delivering smooth acceleration inputs. You even get an automatic lane-change function that moves the car into the next lane automatically with a simple flick of the indicator stalk.
The Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain achieves 22 miles per gallon city, 28 highway, and 25 combined, which puts it at the top of the class. By comparison, the Volvo V90 Cross Country only achieves 24 combined, while the Audi A6 Allroad is the least efficient of the bunch with 22 combined. That said, the All-Terrain’s fancy powertrain only drinks premium fuel, as do its competitors. And in a mix of city and highway driving in our test, we saw an average fuel economy figure of 22 mpg.
To put it simply, the Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain is expensive. With a starting price of $68,650 including the $1,050 destination fee, the Benz is the priciest option in the class, slightly more than the A6 Allroad ($66,945, with $1,045 destination) and way more than the V90 Cross Country ($55,895, including $995). And once you start digging into options, it only gets worse.
Our tester costs a whopping $84,790. The most expensive option is the $2,300 Premium package, which adds Active Parking Assist, a 360-degree camera, an upgraded audio system, and satellite radio. Just below that are options like the $1,620 Neva Grey leather interior, the $1,450 AMG wheels, the $1,320 multi-contour front seats with a massage function, and even the Designo Cardinal Red paint is another $1,080. The A6 Allroad gets as pricey, but the V90 Cross Country never crest $80,000 fully loaded.
As we already mentioned, if you’re planning on taking this vehicle off the road, you can probably do without the 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires. And if you want to save some extra cash, ditch the Cardinal Red paint and opt for one of Mercedes-Benz’s no-cost color options instead. It’s unfortunate that Mercedes packages its Driver Assistance package ($1,950) with the $2,300 Premium package, but the active safety equipment is well worth the extra cost.
E-Class All-Terrain Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain Wagon: Review
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain