2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain review: The sweet spot

2021 mercedes-benz e450 all-terrain

This is a stylish long-roof halter.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain is the automotive equivalent of a cronut. This cleverly engineered pastry combines the tender crust of a croissant with the deep-fried goodness of a donut. In the universe of baked goods, cronuts really are the best of both worlds. And just like this luxurious treat, the E450 all-terrain brings together different features in a delightful package—primarily, the versatility and refinement of a station wagon with the increased capability and more rugged styling of an SUV. This unique blend of traits results in a delightful vehicle that is arguably more than the sum of its parts, such as the Cronut.

like

  • amazing versatility
  • luxurious interior
  • silky-smooth ride

do not like it

  • Byzantine MBUX infotainment system
  • Sometimes the rough gear changes
  • Irritating touch-control buttons

Of course, the people of Stuttgart are not the only ones to go this route. Audi and Volvo have had it for years. are with A6 Aldrod and V90 Cross Country, respectively, and Subaru’s mass-market outback Cleaned the track years ago. These models have proven this to be a viable strategy, one Mercedes-Benz has only now adopted here.

The E450 all-terrain comes standard with 4Matic all-wheel drive and an adjustable air-suspension system. With two driver-selectable off-road modes and downhill speed controls, you should be able to take this family-driver to some remote locations. That said, there’s one big caveat—or more accurately, a relatively small one: This model’s ground clearance is only 5.7 inches with maximum load, so tread carefully if you venture off the beaten path. Thanks to the new front and rear lamp designs, updated grille and model-specific cladding, it looks the Mercedes part. Unfortunately, those black plastic appliques, which enlarge the wheel openings and lower body part, make me think of a Pontiac Aztec. Your glasses recipe may say otherwise, of course, and at least they don’t look bad next to the gray paint in this example.

Cladding or not, the All-Terrain is a seriously beautiful vehicle, with elegant details and simple lines. If you can get past the station-wagon stigma, it would look great standing at the end of any subdivision cul-de-sac or in the front row at your favorite fancy restaurant. And behind that pretty face is enough versatility. By folding down its rear seats, this Benz offers 35 cubic feet of cargo space. On paper, this figure seems relatively small, giving you a . I get it is less than half Honda CR-V, but in the real world, this E-Class’ cargo hold feels more spacious, being both wider and longer. A bonus is the rear hatch, which opens wide so even NBA-height drivers don’t see their weeds on it.

Sit in the passenger compartment of the all-terrain and you will be impressed. As usual for a Mercedes-Benz, this interior is exceptionally nice, with a flowing, almost organic-looking dashboard, high-quality components and a generous amount of open-chip wood furnishings. From the switches and air vents to the seat controls and door handles, everything looks great. For an additional $350, my tester’s dashboard and door panels are trimmed in the automaker’s MB-Tex imitation leather, which looks and feels just like the real thing. My tester also came equipped with a $1,050 warmth and comfort package, which adds warmth to the armrests and steering wheel.

2021 mercedes-benz e450 all-terrain

The All-Terrain’s third row seat is a no-adult area.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Comfort is one of this vehicle’s strong suits, with its front chairs being highly adjustable and very supportive. The All-Terrain’s second row seat is spacious enough for adults, though a slightly higher bottom cushion and a touch more legroom would be appreciated. Offering an extra dash of SUV-like versatility, this Mercedes-Benz comes with an old school, rear-facing third row bench seat that folds into the floor when not needed. It offers some extra seats, which can come in handy in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend subjecting adult passengers to it for any length of time.

A key part of the all-terrain’s interior is a couple of 12.3-inch screens, its digital instrument cluster and infotainment system displayed on canvas. Mounted in an extended housing under a pane of glass, these panels somehow manage to be futuristic and tacky at the same time. As far as the MBUX multimedia array is concerned, it’s gorgeous, smooth and fast, but it’s also complicated, with redundant functionality and lots of customization options. Although it works well, I prefer systems that don’t have this kind of learning curve.

For added flexibility, you can interact with MBUX in a variety of ways. There’s the touchscreen itself, there’s a laptop-like control pad on the center console, you can use voice commands or controls on the steering-wheel spokes. For 2021, Mercedes-Benz changes this last item, but not for the better. Previous models lacked physical buttons and touch-sensitive nubbins that were intuitive and responsive. Now, it has completely switched to touch controls and the results are less than ideal. This arrangement is not only intuitive, but it is difficult to use. I can’t tell you how many times I tried adjusting the audio volume to just unintentionally mute, or how challenging it is to use the tiny plus (+) pad to navigate apple carplay, which, together android auto, is standard equipment.

2021 mercedes-benz e450 all-terrain

From the materials to the controls, this Mercedes has a seriously cool interior.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Fortunately, some of the E450 All-Terrain’s other technology is more friendlier. Features like keyless entry with push-button start, blind-spot monitoring and crosswind assist are included at no extra charge. My well-chosen tester, however, is loaded with too many tools. The $1,950 driver-assistance package includes goodies like Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic function, which can help prevent collisions with other vehicles passing at intersections, and Adaptive Cruise Control, which is responsive and attentive. Enhanced Video for Navigation — which overlays navigation from the front-facing camera onto a video feed so you know exactly where to turn ($350) — and a wireless charging pad ($200) are some moderately priced extras . Curiously, adaptive high beams are included in the $900 exterior lighting package, though they should probably be standard in a vehicle of this caliber.

Given this car’s relaxed demeanor, it’s no surprise that the all-terrain is more of a cushy cruiser than a corner carver. Especially in Comfort mode, its air suspension delivers a magic-carpet ride that’s free from vibration or stiffness, even when tackling severe bumps and potholes. Admittedly, the relatively small 19-inch AMG wheels wrapped in Pirelli winter tires with rather generous sidewalls help to digest many of those road imperfections. Further improving upon this vehicle’s refinement, the example seen here has a $1,100 Acoustic Comfort Package, which includes additional cabin insulation and laminated glass, making it remarkably quiet inside.

The powertrain of this car is mostly smooth, mostly. Inspiration is provided by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that’s silkier than buttercream frosting. It makes 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, but that’s not all. Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Boost mild-hybrid system helps improve efficiency and performance, putting in an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of wingspan as needed. In operation, it’s comfortable to the point at which you question whether it does anything at all, something I wish could be said of the All-Terrain’s gearbox.

2021 mercedes-benz e450 all-terrain

The all-terrain matches the best qualities of a station wagon with an SUV.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

No, it’s not that bad, but a debunker of this vehicle’s powertrain is its nine-speed transmission. It may shift imperceptibly when it feels like it, but other times, gear changes are lumpy, especially when slowing to a stop. Refinement aside, at least it helps the transmission deliver solid performance. Go full-bore and the all-terrain can hit 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, a legitimately quick time. Avoid burying the accelerator pedal while taking off from every stop and this ersatz SUV will return good fuel economy. Around town, this Benz is rated at 22 miles per gallon, so on highway drives you can expect 28 mpg and mixing it should return 24. During my week of testing, I averaged 25.3 mpg.

Thanks to its elegant styling, versatile cabin and impressive refinement, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain is a great family vehicle and, for many drivers, an excellent alternative to an SUV. About the only major deterrent to this vehicle is the price. An option-free example might go for a little less than $69,000, which includes $1,050 in destination fees, but the model reviewed here checks out for $82,760, which is far from cheap. If you’re in the market for a luxury utility vehicle and have a few bucks to spend, give this lift with a wagon a try. I assure you, it will not disappoint.

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