E-AT out

Good­bye Mercedes E350d AT

Top Gear (UK) - - GARAGE - TOM FORD

£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...

Lit­tle did the E-AT know that Wook had grand de­signs...

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