- Carlike drive with crossover capability
- Smooth new hybridized engine
- Seats for seven
- Stuffy interior
- Overweight sensation
- Tight third row
There’s a sense of gatekeeping that comes with proper SUVs. These four-wheel-drive body-on-frame vehicles are SUVs, but those unibody all-wheel-drive vehicles are fugazis—lifted hatchbacks, mere crossovers, wagons in drag.
We much prefer to let the manufacturers provide their own interpretations of the genre, whereupon we prove them right (or oftentimes wrong) during our SUV of the Year competition. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain is bound to make the former group unhappy and the latter quite pleased.
It’s easy to dismiss the E 450 All-Terrain as little more than a lifted Mercedes E-Class wagon, and, well, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. But as millions of Subaru Outback, Volvo Cross Country, and Audi Allroad buyers will tell you, that’s not such a bad thing.
Curbside, the biggest changes are a lightly nipped and tucked nose and tail (to match the refresh given to the rest of the E-Class lineup), the black plastic fender flares that every automaker seems to think automatically turns a wagon into an SUV, and a small suspension lift, courtesy of the standard Air Body Control air suspension.
Rounding out the package: an updated cabin with Mercedes’ latest (but not greatest) MBUX infotainment system and yummy massaging seats, plus, more important, a new powertrain—Mercedes-Benz’s hybridized 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 powerplant making 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. It gets paired to a nine-speed automatic and the brand’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
So how does the E 450 drive? Basically like a taller, more powerful E 400 wagon. The new electrified I-6 is a better match for the All-Terrain than the V-6 it replaces. It’s more responsive and, thanks to the electric boost that comes on as the turbo spools up, has a smooth torque curve you can sail all the way to redline.
There’s a heft to the way the E 450 All-Terrain drives, especially in comparison to its rival Audi A6 Allroad. Its steering is pleasingly heavy and accurate, and the Mercedes rides almost as nicely as that Audi. “The E 450 has phenomenal ride quality, one might say carlike,” senior features editor Jonny Lieberman said. “But yes, if you add air springs to most cars, the result is quite nice.” With an adjustable ride height, the E 450 All-Terrain masks its higher center of gravity well while those inside benefit from improved sightlines.
And although SUV of the Year isn’t a comparison test, comparisons to the A6 Allroad were unavoidable for most judges—especially in comparing the two interior approaches. “The interior is typical Mercedes-Benz and quite nice,” features editor Scott Evans said, “though again, I find myself liking the Audi better. I like how the wood trim flows from the dash onto the doors on the Mercedes here, but I think the design overall is more interesting and better executed in the Audi.”
But the Mercedes has an ace up its sleeve—or more accurately in its trunk—that the Audi lacks: an old-school rear-facing third row, boosting the Benz’s passenger capacity to seven. They’re little more than some leather over MDF, but these emergency-only rear seats were a nostalgic throwback to a bygone era for most judges. “I may have fond memories of using the third row in my mom’s Mercedes 300TE wagon, but these seats are near useless for passengers,” Buyer’s Guide director Zach Gale said.
The most ardent SUV enthusiast is unlikely to see the E 450 All-Terrain as anything but a jacked-up wagon. Those who can look past that, however, will find quite a compelling luxury crossover.
|2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic All Terrain|
|Base Price/As tested||$68,650/$87,700 (est)|
|Power (SAE net)||362 hp @ 5,500 rpm (gas); 21 hp (elec); 362 hp (comb)|
|Torque (SAE net)||369 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm; 184 lb-ft (elec); 369 lb-ft (comb)|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||5.0 sec|
|Quarter-mile||13.7 sec @ 99.7 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||115 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||26.2 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||19/26/22 mpg|
|Vehicle Layout||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door wagon|
|Engine/Transmission||3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6/9-speed automatic|
|Curb Weight (F/R Dist)||4,555 lb (52/48%)|
|Length x Width x Height||194.8 x 73.7 x 58.9 in|
|Energy Cons, City/Hwy||177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 Emissions, Comb||0.90 lb/mile|
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