Car Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain
This rough-and-tumble wagon offers a compelling crossover alternative
Shoppers looking to spoil themselves with a fresh new machine from the rapidly-expanding luxury utility scene have some great choices, and one of them is an interesting wagon with a technology-powered personality.
The lifted and outdoorsy Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Wagon is an $82,000 alternative to a sub-six-figure luxury crossover. With its long roof and deep, easily-accessed cargo hold, the E 450 All-Terrain has the space and flexibility that shoppers in this universe are after. Ditto a selection of features, technologies, and engineering tweaks that give this stately-looking station wagon one of the smoothest and most disturbance-free drives I’ve encountered on northern backroads and trails in recent memory. The intention with this machine is delivery of a driving experience that’s ready for adventure, commuting, light off-road duty, and everything in between.
It’s the E-Class take on a recipe you’ve seen before: take a standard wagon, lift the suspension, and add some scratch-resistant cladding and all-terrain tires — all while maintaining that classy station wagon look that outdoorsy wagon shoppers (your VW Alltrack-driving writer included) love.
Shoppers in this price bracket seeking a machine that delivers crossover capabilities with decidedly more car-like looks, driving position, and dynamics can consider the E 450 All-Terrain highly worthy of further investigation.
Utility aside, two key technologies stole the show as I spent 1,800 kilometres testing the E 450 All-Terrain in and around Northern Ontario for various assignments for TV and web. Separately, the two technologies are impressive in their ability to refine key parts of the driving experience, especially in relation to use on rough trails and northern backroads. Combined, they give the E 450 All-Terrain a powerful personality that’s defined by a smooth, quiet and strong performance over virtually any terrain.
First, the suspension.
From its lowered position, drivers can press a button to lift the E450 All Terrain’s suspension up, adding ground clearance on command to keep the floor, bumpers, and vital organs further from the turf. In the OffRoad + setting, the suspension lifts as high as possible, provided drivers keep speeds to 35 km/h or less. Even in its regular drive height, the All Terrain sits some two inches higher than the standard E 450. The added clearance allows drivers to summon additional confidence at the touch of a button when tackling deep snow, rough trails, and more challenging terrain. It can help drivers avoid getting high-centred, hung up in deep snow, or having the underbelly remodelled by a boulder. All the while, a low and in-control driving position and handling are delivered when you’re on city roads and highways. All said, the ride is low and car-like, or jacked up and ready to hit the trails. You’re the boss of the E 450 All-Terrain’s suspension.
Mercedes calls this suspension system Air Body Control, and the push-button lift-kit isn’t the only trick up its sleeve.
Within each of the four dampers are sensors that monitor the speed, position, and forces applied to each in real time. Each damper also contains multiple air tanks, separated by solenoid-controlled valves. Rather than simple springs that just bounce, the Air Body Control suspension is constantly calculating, optimizing, and adjusting the vehicle’s ride. The result is a suspension that’s alive, intelligent, and very manipulative. Triggered on the fly, lightning-speed changes to damping force can be applied on a wheel-by-wheel basis, and from the driver’s seat, you’re suspended on four high-tech air springs that have full control over their springiness in real time. The goal? Improved ride comfort and control that applies to a wide range of conditions.