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Driven: Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain hits town

High rider: The All-Terrain will go head to head with Audi’s A6 Allroad and the Volvo V90 Cross Country.

Latest E-Class wagon attempts to forge fresh All-Terrain for Benz

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Mercedes-Benz logo19 May 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific has been forced to select a single specification of E-Class All-Terrain locally after concluding that the market for large wagons is too small for even models with some high-riding off-road capability.

Rivaling the Audi A6 Allroad and forthcoming Volvo V90 Cross Country, the $109,900 plus on-road costs E220d All-Terrain replaces previous E-Class Estates with a single 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, all-wheel-drive model grade.

Although rear-wheel drive and V6 diesel versions are available overseas, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy told GoAuto that the company expected to sell about 150 units of the new model annually – just over the 100 units it requires to be a viable import.

“For us, it was a decision we could really only bring in one variant (and) we decided that the All-Terrain would broaden its (E-Class Estate’s) reach,” he said at the national media launch of the E-Class All-Terrain in Melbourne this week.

“Fingers crossed, that will pay off. I don’t think there’ll be someone who was looking at an E-Class Estate, and with the equipment that it’s got, decides they don’t want the All-Terrain package.

“The E-Class Estate I think our best year in the last few years has been about 150 (and) it has averaged about 100 per year. We reasoned, and speaking to existing E-Class Estate owners, they tend to be pretty loyal (and we asked) would you consider this car? So we had a choice, we could effectively only bring in one model, so we had to decide which model do we do.” The E220d All-Terrain costs $15,800 more than the E220d on which it is based, however Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific claims that there is more than than $17,000 in extra value over the sedan.

Although the high-riding wagon already sits 15mm higher than other E-Classes, the standard inclusion of air suspension can raise its ground clearance by a further 20mm below 35km/h, as part of an All-Terrain all-wheel-drive (which the company dubs 4Matic) mode borrowed from the GLE large SUV range. The rear-wheel-drive E220d sedan gets single-setting fixed suspension.

The boot is larger (up from 540 litres to 670L) than the E220d sedan, and the All-Terrain further adds 20-inch alloys (up from 19s), LED headlights with adaptive high-beam, electric tailgate and full leather including heated front seats.

In the sedan, optioning the majority of such equipment adds $7000 extra.

Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific public relations and product communications manager Jerry Stamoulis added: “You look at an E220d sedan and if you could put all the options on – you can’t put 4Matic but if you could put all the options – you’re getting close to that (E220d All-Terrain) money anyway.

“So for some people it might be a better option for them. Obviously there are going to be customers who may have opted for the (previous E-Class) Estate and this will be their only option and traditionally our Estate sales have been of the E250 CDI,” he continued.

“(But) one of the theories is we might see a few people coming out of a sedan, not many, but there might be a few.” Although the most popular version of the previous-generation E-Class Estate was the E250d with a 2.1-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque, its 2.0-litre single turbo-diesel E220d replacement makes 143kW at 3800rpm and 400Nm from 1600rpm to 2800rpm.

Despite the addition of a nine-speed automatic transmission – replacing the former seven-speeder – the inclusion of all-wheel drive has pushed the former 1810kg E250d Estate out to an SUV-like 1970kg. The E220d All-Terrain’s claimed 0-100km/h is now two-tenths slower, at 8.0 seconds, and its combined cycle fuel consumption claim of 5.7 litres per 100 kilometres is 0.6L thirstier.

An A6 Allroad offers a 500Nm V6 engine and even Mercedes’ own GLE350d offers a 620Nm diesel. Asked whether some buyers might see four cylinders as not befitting of a six-figure pricetag, Mr McCarthy replied: “No, it’s really the way the car drives.

“I don’t think it’ll be a big issue to be honest. I think once people drive the car, they’ll actually realise that diesel has the torque in the right places.” Mr McCarthy all but ruled out including the V6 diesel in the E-Class All-Terrain range, however, citing that it would cost around $20,000 more than the E220d. It was clear that the circa-$110,000 A6 Allroad had to be the target.

“Never say never (but) 100 units on a model is really what you need to justify complying, stocking spare parts, doing the training,” he said about the prospects of a V6 diesel All-Terrain addition.

“Anything less than that it becomes uneconomic. If people express a desire for the V6, that’s possible, but … you look at your competitors and Audi do pretty well with (A6) Allroad, not huge numbers but they do well, we know that there is a market there and we’d like a piece of it.” With this generation of E-Class, only regular Estates include the rear-facing third-row seating option that Mr McCarthy admitted “has been” a unique feature of the model.

“The fact is it (third-row) is not available in All-Terrain,” he added.

“We have to sell what we can get. Obviously for people that bought an E-Class Estate, and used that in the past, for them, if they used it, it was great. How many used it? I don’t know.” With run-flat tyres standard, a full-size spare wheel is likewise not available and a space-saver spare must be optionally added above cited above the luggage floor if a buyer chooses. The 20-inch rims are not compatible with snow chains, either, however chain-friendly 19s have been made a no-cost option.

Mr Stamoulis defended the lack of a spare wheel on a high-riding model: “The majority of customers who are going to buy this, we’re not expecting them to (do off-roading).

“We know our E-Class Estate customers and a lot of our SUV customers, and we’re not expecting them to do a lot of rock crawling in this vehicle,” he added.

“But it’s that added confidence of having that all-wheel drive traction, we know they will appreciate that.” Nor will Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific follow Subaru’s decision with the similar-in-concept Outback and market the E-Class All-Terrain as a large SUV model, although the company hopes some buyers will pick it over an SUV.

“We’re not going out with a hardcore SUV campaign, but it will be part of our marketing that we will show it going a little off-road,” Mr Stamoulis continued.

“We are going to be honest about who, in Australia, is buying it. We know in Australia that our customers don’t do that heavy off-roading in these types of vehicles.” Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific senior product planning manager John Vasilj further opined: “I think there will be some SUV buyers who are going to come into our showroom and see the stunning widescreen display, all the latest technology that is in this E-Class and find this All-Terrain quite appealing.” The E220d All-Terrain includes a digital radio, satellite navigation, internet connectivity and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring as part of its Comand infotainment system.

It also includes 360-degree camera, front and rear parking sensors with automatic park assistance, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable fronts seats and a full suite of safety technology – including nine airbags, active blind-spot and lane-keep assistance, active cruise control and full autonomous emergency braking (AEB), as per the entire E-Class range in Australia.

A Burmester audio system, head-up display and panoramic sunroof are available as a $4990 package option.

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