Mercedes E220d All-Terrain

Mud in the eye for an SUV-obsessed world

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

IS THIS the end for Benzís large luxury wagon in Australia? Thanks to posh SUVs riding roughshod, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate as we have known it over the past 37 years and five iterations looks dead.

Well, not quite. Come May, Stuttgart is having one last go with the S213 series E220d All- Terrain, the brandís first foray into premium crossover territory, taking on the long-established Audi A6 Allroad and upcoming Volvo V90 Cross Country.

Itís an important symbolic move.

The All-Terrain has 29mm more ground clearance than the regular E-Class Estate, and looks more rugged with its twin-louvered grille, beefier bumpers, black wheelarch surrounds and chunkier 19-inch alloys.

But the All-Terrain is more than just a jacked-up marketing exercise. Yes, the platform and wheelbase are the same as the sedanís, but with 4Matic all-wheel drive, wider front and rear tracks to accommodate larger wheels and tyres, and a trick air suspension system that varies ride height according to four selectable driving modes, thereís been some serious re-engineering. Adaptive dampers, vital to the All-Terrain, are also part of the package.

The wagon DNA provides a practical and roomy platform for the All-Terrain that no SUV can match; a long, flat cargo floor aided by a handy upright-angle setting for the seatbacks that help to maximise available space (670 litres, rising to 1820L with the 40/20/40 second row folded).

Mercedes-Benzís energetic 143kW/400Nm 2.0-litre allaluminium four-pot turbo-diesel will be the only engine offered, mated to a nine-speed auto. It might be the quietest, revviest, and most unclattery diesel yet.

Power delivery is velvety and intelligent, and gear ratios shuffle imperceptibly. However, while mid-range response is strong enough, off-the-line performance is a tad languid, betraying the 1845kg the four-pot Benz must drag around.

Dynamically, too, the All- Terrain creams SUVs. It has beautifully tactile steering thatís both quick and free from kickback, providing taut and controlled handling without the inertia or understeer that most crossovers suffer. But the piece de resistance is the serene ride extolling a suppleness no modern Mercedes this side of an S-Class can match; just a loping, relaxing cushiness to drink in. We trust such comfort will translate from Austrian to Australian roads.

The E220d All-Terrain transcends the E-Classís modish couture to rise above most of its stablemates, let alone mere premium SUVs. Thereís still fight left in the large luxury wagon.

The All-Terrain adds air springs to the four-link front and five-link rear suspension layout, for ground-clearance variance of 121mm to 156mm depending on transmission mode and speed. With three chambers and self-levelling, it offers five modes, altering the spring stiffness, ESC and active yaw thresholds.

In ĎAll Terrainí mode the suspension rises another 20mm, for a fording depth of up to 300mm.

E220d could use more poke; silly auto shifter; no petrol option for Oz PLUS & MINUS Refinement; comfort; safety; design; quality; steering; handling; AWD

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight Economy 0-100km/h Price On sale Mercedes E220d All-Terrain 4Matic 1950cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TD 143kW @ 3800rpm 400Nm @ 1600-2800rpm 9-speed automatic 1845kg 5.3L/100km 8.0sec (claimed) $110,000 (estimated) May