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


This is a stylish long-roof hauler.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain is the automotive equivalent of a cronut. This cleverly engineered pastry combines the tender flakiness of a croissant with the deep-fried goodness of a doughnut. In the baked-goods universe, cronuts truly are the best of both worlds. And just like this scrumptious treat, the E450 All-Terrain brings together disparate attributes into one delightful package — chiefly, the versatility and refinement of a station wagon with the enhanced capability and more-rugged styling of an SUV. This unique blend of traits results in a delightful vehicle that’s arguably more than the sum of its parts, just like a cronut.

Like

  • Surprising versatility
  • Sumptuous interior
  • Silky-smooth ride

Don’t Like

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

Of course, the folks in Stuttgart aren’t the only ones going this route. Audi and Volvo have been doing it for years with the A6 Allroad and V90 Cross Country, respectively, and Subaru’s mass-market Outback cleared the trail years prior. These models have proven this 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 plus downhill speed control, you should be able to take this family-hauler to some reasonably remote locales. 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 a maximum load, so tread carefully if you do venture off the beaten path. This Mercedes looks the part, thanks to new front and rear lamp designs, an updated grille and model-specific cladding. Unfortunately, those black plastic appliques, which accentuate the wheel openings and lower body section make me think of a Pontiac Aztek. Your eyeglass prescription may say otherwise, of course, and at least they don’t look that bad next to this example’s gray paint.

Cladding or not, the All-Terrain is a seriously handsome vehicle, with elegant details and simple lines. If you can get past the station-wagon stigma, it will look great parked at the end of any subdivision cul-de-sac or valeted in the front row at your favorite fancy restaurant. And behind that pretty face is ample versatility. With its back seats folded, this Benz provides 35 cubic feet of cargo space. On paper, that figure seems rather small, less than half of what you get in a Honda CR-V, but in the real world, this E-Class‘ cargo hold seems much more spacious, being both broad and long. A bonus is the rear hatch, which opens wide so even NBA-height drivers don’t clock their melons on it.

Settle into the All-Terrain’s passenger compartment and you’ll be impressed. As per usual for Mercedes-Benz, this interior is exceptionally nice, with a flowing, almost organic-looking dashboard, top-quality components and liberal amounts of open-pore wood furnishings. From the switches and air vents to the seat controls and door handles, everything feels top-notch. For an extra $350, my tester’s dashboard and door panels are trimmed in the automaker’s MB-Tex simulated leather, which looks and feels pretty much like the real thing. My tester is also fitted with the $1,050 warmth and comfort package, which adds heat to the armrests and steering wheel.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain

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


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Comfort is one of this vehicle’s strong suits, its front chairs being highly adjustable and very supportive. The All-Terrain’s second-row seat is reasonably spacious 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 also comes with an old-school, rear-facing third-row bench seat that folds into the floor when not needed. It provides a couple extra seats, which could be handy in a pinch, but I don’t recommend subjecting adult passengers to this for any length of time.

A prominent part of the All-Terrain’s interior is a duet of 12.3-inch screens, the canvas its digital instrument cluster and infotainment system are displayed on. Mounted in one elongated housing under a single pane of glass, these panels somehow manage to look futuristic and tacked-on at the same time. As for the MBUX multimedia array, it’s gorgeous, smooth and snappy, but it’s also complex, with unnecessary functionality and way too many customization options. While it works well, I prefer systems that don’t have such steep learning curves.

For added flexibility, you can interact with MBUX in a variety of ways. There’s the touchscreen itself, a laptop-like control pad on the center console, you can use voice commands or the controls on the steering-wheel spokes. For 2021, Mercedes-Benz changed this last item, but not for the better. Previous models had a smattering of physical buttons and touch-sensitive nubbins that were intuitive and responsive. Now, it’s switched entirely to touch controls and the results are less than ideal. Not only is this arrangement unintuitive, it’s difficult to use. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to adjust the audio volume only to inadvertently mute it instead, or how challenging it is to use the tiny plus (+) pad to navigate Apple CarPlay, which, along with Android Auto, is standard equipment.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain

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


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Fortunately, some of the E450 All-Terrain’s other tech is much friendlier. Features like keyless entry with push-button start, blind-spot monitoring and crosswind assist are all included at no extra charge. My nicely optioned tester, however, is graced with much more equipment. The $1,950 driver-assistance package includes a bevy of goodies like active brake assist with a cross-traffic function, which can help prevent collisions with other vehicles passing through intersections, and adaptive cruise control, which is responsive and attentive. Augmented video for navigation — which overlays navigation prompts over a video feed from the forward-facing camera so you know exactly where to turn ($350) — and a wireless charging pad ($200) are a couple modestly 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 should be no surprise the All-Terrain is more of a cushy cruiser than a corner carver. Especially in Comfort mode, its air suspension provides a magic-carpet ride, one that is free of gritty vibration or harshness, even when tackling severe bumps and potholes. Of course, relatively small 19-inch AMG wheels wrapped in Pirelli winter tires with rather generous sidewalls help digest many of those roadway imperfections. Further improving this vehicle’s refinement, the example seen here features the $1,100 acoustic comfort package, which includes extra cabin insulation and laminated glass, which makes it remarkably quiet inside.

This car’s powertrain is mostly smooth, too, mostly. Motivation is provided by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six that’s silkier than buttercream frosting. It delivers a stout 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, feathering in an additional 21 hp and 184 lb-ft as required. In operation, it’s seamless to the point you question if it does anything at all, something I wish could be said about the All-Terrain’s gearbox.

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain

The All-Terrain marries the best attributes of a station wagon with those of an SUV.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

No, it’s not that bad, but the one Debbie Downer of this vehicle’s powertrain is its nine-speed transmission. It can shift imperceptibly when it feels like it, but other times, gear changes are lumpy, particularly when slowing down to a stop. Refinement aside, at least this transmission helps deliver solid performance. Go full-bore and the All-Terrain can hit 60 mph in as little as 5.1 seconds, a legitimately quick time. Avoid burying the accelerator pedal when 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 combined it should return 24. During my week of testing, I averaged a solid 25.3 mpg.

Thanks to its handsome styling, versatile cabin and impressive refinement, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain is a great family hauler and, for many drivers, an excellent alternative to an SUV. About the only major deterrent is this vehicle’s price. An option-free example can be had for a little less than $69,000, including $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 lifted wagon a try. I assure you, it won’t disappoint.



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