2022 Mercedes E450 All-Terrain

INDIANAPOLIS — Mercedes-Benz had a pretty crazy strategy when it introduced the jacked-up All Terrain E-Class wagon in Europe, home of fast cars and faster highways, and left crossover-crazy America with the more boring Rodeo Drive version.  I mean, hadn’t they learned the basic lesson of the Subaru Outback?  Americans want to look ready for adventure whether they’re hitting the trails…or shopping mall.  Mercedes mends its ways with the 2022 E450 All Terrain.

Styling tricks are familiar, but the canvas is not.  In domestic form, the E-Class wagon is a sleek sled honed to make haste in the left lane of Germany’s famed Autobahns, but All Terrain editions put on a face of industrial metallic grille, black plastic wheel well extensions, 19” AMG alloy wheels, and dual exhaust outlets.  LED headlamps and glitzy chrome trim add style.  All kinds of attachments for bikes, kayaks, skis, and other gear attach to the slim roof rails.  It finally looks like a station wagon affluent Americans will appreciate.

The interior is pure Mercedes with curvy planks of authentic Grey Ash wood on the dash, doors, and center console.  Heated leather front seats are the perfect thrones from which to command the dual-zone automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, and saturating Bermester audio system.  Connect devices via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and wireless charging.  Power open the rear hatch to find two additional rear-facing “kid seats” in the cargo area, proving you don’t need a full-size crossover for seven passengers.

Twin screens display driver info and infotainment.  I am not a fan of the touch pad in the console because I kept changing radio stations every time I grabbed my latte, but infotainment can also be commanded via touch and voice.  Being a Mercedes, safety is beyond reproach.  The basics like blind spot warning, rear cross path detection, and lane keep assist are covered – as are advanced systems like automatic emergency braking, lane following steering, and evasive steering assist that helps drivers execute emergency maneuvers.  Very impressive.

Getting down the road will not be a problem.  Beneath the sculpted hood is a turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine delivering 362 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque to the smooth shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.  4MATIC all-wheel-drive shifts power between wheels as needed, keeping the car moving through snow and muck.  A light hybrid system and engine stop/start contribute to reasonable fuel economy ratings of 21/28-MPG city/highway.  I guess nobody promised a frugal little Prius, which is good, because the E450 isn’t one.

The engine is not even the best part of driving the E450.  Air suspensions often feel chattery over rough pavement, but the E450’s wafts down the highway, glides over broken asphalt, and with the flick of a switch, tightens up for a spirited backroad cruise.  The same switch configures the steering feel and throttle response through a range from Eco (numb) to Comfort (commuting), Sport (lively) and Sport+ (hang on).  Being a machine with off-road ambitions, the suspension can even raise the wagon to clear off-road obstacles.

Not everybody wants a crossover.  Station wagons are pretty cool, especially when you consider their interior space, improved handling, and acceleration.  This one is especially fetching with its air suspension, body cladding, and third-row seat.  However, E-Class wagons are not cheap.  The base price for the E450 All-Terrain is a lofty $68,400, but came to $80,070 as tested.  Competitors include the Subaru Outback Touring and Volvo XC70 Cross Country.

—  Casey Williams (MyCarData)