There are those welcoming and rare occasions that I get a vehicle in for review that feels a little nostalgic. This week, a rarity among the mainstream and luxury segments graces my garage in the form of a wagon from Mercedes-Benz. The Benz lineup is extensive, and in it are a few rarities that have the occasion of surprising many onlookers and those intrigued by the German brand boldly going where other automakers do not dare. This time, it’s the Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain wagon that captivates many as I drive it around town and on the highway.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is refreshed for the 2021 model year and with that, the E450 wagon gets a unique treatment to not only fit the refreshed mold but also go the way of SUVs and, dare I say, Subaru, with its plastic wheel arch cladding. Such a look isn’t what you expect out of Mercedes-Benz but somehow, they make it work, and the way it works is rather clever in still retaining the supple ride quality and exceptional luxury appointments that you expect out of a new E-Class. The wagon side of things, just as it’s done in a traditional sense with Mercedes, doesn’t detract much from its drivability in expecting a luxurious sports sedan experience.
Powered by Mercedes’ latest ‘modular’ engine, a mild hybrid setup, the E450 All-Terrain wagon is poised out on the road and takes well advantage of the 48-volt system. The setup keeps accessories running at full capacity for long periods of time at the stoplight when the engine shuts down. The engine choice, with a total output of 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, is the latest 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6-cylinder that gets a temporary power boost from the mild-hybrid system that can add as much as 21 additional horsepower to the mix when such power is demanded. The engine is mated to a 9-speed transmission and sends power to all four wheels creating a smooth and seamless experience in power delivery. The only major difference in the mild-hybrid setup in the E450 wagon compared to something like the AMG E53 Sedan is that the wagon’s version lacks a true power-filler to add low-end torque but still adds the horsepower when the proper level of the throttle is applied. The system actually makes for a rather fuel-efficient experience with real-world achievable EPA-estimates of 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. When you’re not pressed to save fuel and make a dash to 60 mph from a standstill, expect it to take just 4.4 seconds, which is impressive for any “wagon” based on a mid-sized sedan.
Summarizing the performance aspects of the E450 All-Terrain wagon, you can easily say it’s more of a road conqueror than an off-roader despite its ability to literally rise to the occasion with its adjustable air suspension. The ride height is already 1.2-inches higher than its predecessor and it can slightly increase ground clearance by raising the suspension in the Off-Road drive mode and automatically adapt the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for rough terrain. For where the E450 All-Terrain will spend most of its time, out on the road, there’s a Sport and Sport+ mode that lowers the suspension but retains a nice compliant ride quality to remarkably smooth and instantly dampens road imperfections. In the default Comfort drive mode, the E450 Wagon ride very plush without much unwanted body movement with effortless and somewhat numb steering – it’s a quiet, isolating, almost S-Class, experience.
The styling of the E450 All-Terrain wagon is pleasing with a nice classiness to the overall appeal. My test vehicle having a long list of options, includes the larger 20-inch wheels, which add a sporty styling to the look and its driving character over lower-trims of the E-Class sedan with the standard wheel package. Surprisingly, the wheels and tires are staggered with larger 275/35 in the rear and narrower 245/40 rubber in the front. The Pirelli P-Zero run-flat performance tires do well to remain very quiet on the road and offer assurance of getting to a safe place when a flat tire situation arises, as it did on my test. I was able to make it to a local tire store and have the tire replaced after cruising 45 mph for about 8 miles without much difference in the ride until making a sharp turn into the shop’s plaza. Two nails in the sidewall put a finish to the run-flat tire, which otherwise may have been okay if it was a simple flat. Good call on the run-flats, Mercedes!
The interior of the new Mercedes E450 All-Terrain wagon takes much of the new style from the updated E-Class. Where things are a bit different, for obvious reasons, is out back where there are a couple of tricks up the E450 wagon’s sleeve. Out back you’ll not only find a cavernous cargo area in the All-Terrain being exclusively a wagon, but you will find two rear-facing jump seats that fold out of the cargo floor. The two jump seats are small and mostly made for those times you need to tote two of your friends, preferably kids or “small adults,” in a pinch. That technically makes the E450 All-Terrain wagon a 7-passenger. The jump seats are the nostalgic parts of the E450 All-Terrain, bringing back the many memories of myself jumping into my aunt’s old 1970-somthing Ford LTD wagon – I can even remember that distinctive vinyl seat smell. The E450 All-Terrain didn’t have that smell, thankfully. Instead, it had the delightful smell of its cabin freshener canister encased in the glove box that can be set to automatically pump through the climate system. All I had to do was say, “Hey Mercedes, can you turn on the air freshener?”
There’s an abundance of the expected tech features throughout the E450 All-Terrain’s dashboard, which include the highlighted features of heated/ventilated front seats, massaging front seats, heated rear (second row) seats, manual rear seat sunshades, soft-close doors, color heads-up display, 12.3-inch configurable gauge cluster, the latest 12.3-inch touchscreen MBUX infotainment system with “Hey Mercedes” voice response, augmented reality for the navigation system, wireless phone charging, 64-color ambient interior LED lighting, panorama roof, power rear cargo privacy cover (opens and closes with power liftgate) and a full array of active safety features (lane departure warning/change assist, blind-spot monitors, forward collision alert/emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert/active brake assist, adaptive cruise control/w route-based speed adaptation). Use of the touch-capacitive steering wheel buttons can be a mixed bag as you are sure to accidently press or slide across some of the touch points, which incorporate both touch-slider areas and buttons.
Mercedes knows how to do wagons laced in luxury and decent performance, and the new E450 All-Terrain takes such a unique segment to new heights fundamentally unseen by any other brand. Adding a touch of SUV-appeal doesn’t hurt the overall package as well. However, what may hurt is the price of admission in loading up such a vehicle with an expected price to match my test vehicle at $91,210. Though, it’s best to keep in mind that the E450 All-Terrain wagon starts at just $67,600, but you’re going to want some of the desirable options that you see here on my lavishly appointed test vehicle, because 7-seats – and you can be just like a modern-day Clark Griswold with several extra bonuses, sans the wood panels.