Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E220d All-Terrain
SUV-beating load space, plush cabin, sublime Airmatic suspension and steering, sweet bitumen and dirt-road dynamics
Room for improvement
Four-cylinder diesel not to six-figure standards, some optional equipment should be included for the price, no spare tyre
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17 May 2017
MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific executives seemingly almost plead for the penny to drop in the minds of family-car buyers perusing the upper end of its showrooms locally. By that, we are talking six-figure sums for a multi-person household seeking space among other premium virtues.
The current-generation GLE, formerly known as ML, turns six years old this year. In the automotive industry, its pension card cannot be far away. For just over $100,000 buyers can choose from six-cylinder diesel GLE350d or this new four-cylinder diesel E220d All-Terrain.
For some it could be a case of less is more. Less bulk and less engine, but as local executives point out, greater technology and luxury than its ageing large SUV.
The E220d All-Terrain delivers the same luxurious, S-Class-inspired cabin as the identically priced ($109,900 before on-road costs) E300 rear-wheel-drive sedan, only with a larger boot and greater rear headroom, plus a different engine.
It is an opulent place to be, and quiet, too. Look closely, and the thinness of the cabin door handles and slightly clicky console storage lid are still indicators that – as with C-Class – this interior may look like the limousine Benz, but it is not built quite to the same standards. An S-Class has deep, rich, lush doorhandles and flawless damping for its storage lids – as do most Audis for this price.
Even so, the twin widescreens stretching from ahead of the driver all the way across towards the passenger are a high-resolution delight to view from anywhere inside the cabin.
The Comand system is mostly easy to use, with a full complement of connectivity features, but both the touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel and ‘hooded’ touchpad control on the centre console are less intuitive to use than BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI equivalents. A premium Burmester audio system and – especially – head-up display are also options, but should be standard.
Likewise, three-zone climate control could rightly be expected as standard, not optional, though rear accommodation is generous in all directions, and each portion of the 40:20:40 split-fold backrest individually can drop flat at the touch of a button. The cargo area is the SUV-beating star of the show, though, with a low loading lip and impressive 670-litre volume.
The equipment list is virtually mirrored with the E300, which means LED headlights with Benz’s brilliant adaptive high-beam that can cancel only strands of light affecting particular forward or oncoming traffic is standard.
Likewise, the latest version of lane-keep assistance, which works more prudently than ever before to keep the vehicle lane-centred on the freeway, often hands-free.
Meanwhile nine airbags, adaptive cruise control and full autonomous emergency braking (AEB) round out an utterly complete safety technology list.
The 180kW/370Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol of the E300 sedan is, however, flicked for a 143kW/400Nm diesel of the same capacity and method of forced induction.
The E220d All-Terrain is heavy, though, at 1970kg, and 0-100km/h takes 8.0 seconds. In the same-price E300, it is 6.2s.
With the exception of the Mercedes-AMG E43 and E63, the E220d All-Terrain is the only E-Class that sends power to all four wheels, in this case with a permanent 55 per cent rear-wheel bias.
As with every six-figure-plus E-Class, the famed Mercedes-Benz Airmatic air suspension is standard. It gets Comfort and Sport modes, as well as All-Terrain borrowed from the GLE-Class, which raises the body by a further 20mm at speeds under 30km/h, and alters the electronic stability control (ESC) settings.
Despite riding on a 20-inch alloy wheel and low-profile tyre package, the E220d All-Terrain’s ride quality is sublime. Whether traversing broken sections of bitumen on a poorly fixed urban arterial or heavily corrugated dirt roads, the suspension delivers near-flawless compliance and composure that any luxury car rival regardless of body style would struggle to match.
It gels ideally with wonderfully light and intuitive steering, and a balanced long-wheelbase chassis to make this E-Class feel smaller, lighter and more enjoyable to drive than its kerb weight would indicate. In the tightest suspension setting the slightly wafting – calling it floaty is too harsh – sensation is also removed, enhancing driver enjoyment without significantly degrading the ride.
If there is a weak link in the package it is the engine. The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is nicely refined and distantly clattery, a fine complement to the low levels of road noise inside. Especially when partnered to a nine-speed automatic it never seems slow, but with only 400Nm it is solid more than sterling and certainly feels more like a $75,000 drivetrain rather than a $110,000 offering.
Benz claims the V6 diesel available overseas would have to add $20,000 to the price, yet Audi can deliver a 500Nm 3.0-litre for around the same coin.
Experience with that creamy six-pot oiler indicates that for drivetrain appeal the A6 Allroad continues to have the edge overall.
Even so, from technology to luxury to space to plushness and subtle driver enjoyment, there are many virtues that impress about this All-Terrain. It also feels several steps more alluring and intelligent than the GLE350d and others for the price, a case of wagon boutique over SUV brawn.
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