Goodbye Mercedes E350d AT
£58,880 OTR/ £61,260 as tested
Unless you are monstrously rich and/or subject to a very narrow set of lifestyle choices, whichever car you buy for multi-purpose use will always be a bit of a compromise. The trick is to pick the vehicle that best covers off your needs without ending up with some sort of beige, multi-seat sadness barge that signals to the world that you’ve entirely given up on life.
This tends to panic-happen when you have kids, or dogs, or generally just more to think about than just pure personal transport. Some migrate to a crisis SUV, some to the stocky redoubt of a people carrier. But after living with a Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain, I have to say that’s rubbish: in a world of niches sliced so thin they need explaining to the people that make them, I reckon nine out of ten would be fine with a good old-fashioned estate.
Yes, the All-Terrain is very slightly taller, AWD and has plastic arches bigger than the standard E, but that’s pretty much it. There’s four-wheel drive for heavy weather or the odd field, an efficient diesel up front and enough room for people and kit in 99 per cent of situations. The interior is posh, the image solid, the feeling that this kind of big Merc estate always offers options, and therefore provides easy solutions. Bluntly, I’ve loved having it. From 130+mph blasts down the Autobahn to 13mph crawls through green lanes and forest tracks, the E-AT has been a faithful companion.
Jürgen Eberle (engineer at Daimler HQ) fashioned us a one-off roofrack, and aero-style wheels were sourced from the depths of the Mercedes options list and fitted with larger, more aggressive BF Goodrich tyres. Those PIAA spotlights were positioned in homage to the ‘Red Sow’ AMG touring car, trim pieces painted bronze or black, the badges removed. The roof was filled with useful things, the boot underfloor with leisure battery, three-pin power inverters and a compressor. A custom sunshade-slash-aero device was also fabricated by Ralph at RH Engineering – it didn’t really work, but looked interesting. And even pushed to extremes, the Mercedes has just plodded along doing what it does best: being quietly good at things.
It has not been without fault. Frankly, I don’t get on with the Burmester stereo, and have fiddled with it incessantly without making it sound right. And the 9spd autobox has clunked changes when a 6spd traditional auto would feel more robust. It didn’t ever leave me stranded, but… I would probably avoid a pale interior if you have lots to do, and remember this isn’t a small car in any sense of the word. But it handles better than an SUV and returns better efficiencies (generally early 40s mpg, 20 per cent less plus tyres and rack) and looks slicker than an MPV. A car for all seasons? Yes. A car for all seasons, all terrains and all types of lifestyle, in fact. I’m going to miss this one.
Coming soon to unsuspecting country roads near you...
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