How things change ! We surely would have laughed out loudly if someone had told us that, we would be delighted to sit behind the wheel of a Mercedes Diesel estate on high heels. And yet… after spending so much time with portly SUVs and their incongruous hybrid systems, testing a good old style premium car is a real breath of fresh air.
Audi launched its first jacked-up estate in 1999 but it took Mercedes a few more years to come up with a rival : the first All- Terrain E-Class Estate arrived in 2017. However, sales must have been « adequate » as from now on the smaller C Class estate sits higher too. There is black cladding on the body sides as well as redesigned front and rear ends and underside protection, of course… just like on the best go anywhere vehicles. The wheels are unique too, just like the single slat vented chrome grille. Enough to set it apart on the outside, even though inside it’s just like any other C Class and we think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I like it
The very concept of a jacked up station wagon might seem to be an oddity but for us, this is no more incongruous a coupe SUV moving just the driver around on his or her own most of the time. It could even be said that such a vehicle is also relevant elsewhere than in emerging countries. Considering Belgium’s road network appaling condition (it’s even worse in Wallonia), this C-Class All-Terrain is an ideal mile- muncher. And even better, it does it in total serenity. And what could be better than a diesel engine to power it ? Under our test car bonnet sits a 2-litre 4-cylinder engine developping no less than 200 HP and a 420 Nm torque value. A micro-hybrid system features as well : there’s a starter-generator integrated in the 48 V network. It can briefly add 20 hp and 200 Nm.
Behind the wheel, everything is smooth and perfectly consistent with this car’s personnality. The extra torque adds to the driving experience and can’t really be felt… that surely shows how well the micro-hybridation is executed. By the way, once all the extra equipment and a full tank are added, the C Class All- Terrain weighs close to 2 tons… This is no sports car (even if the way it looks could have you to think so), more of a genuinely comfortable cruiser, whatever the load and road you throw at it.
I don’t like it
The 9-speed automatic gearbox could be better. Sometimes, it seems it doesn’t know what to do, especially so when you try to get the most of the engine’s power and torque. Clearly, the auto box electronic management could be better suited to the car’s character. Even if this C Class is a 4X4, forget about using it on very steep forest hills. Its ground clearance is not much higher than that of a 2 WD estate… Even if it displays proudly its cladding, the bodywork is rather fragile and you will soon lament trees scratchings or trapping mud into impossible places.
Why I buy it
In congested traffic areas or on particularly rough roads, the Mercedes C220d All-Terrain really shines and ticks all the boxes. There’s even an Offroad driving mode that softens throttle response and disable the ESP to maximise traction on soft ground. However, for real offroading only the G Class will do. This C Class All- Terrain is wonderfully comfortable, its fit and finish are outstanding and its state-of-the-art technology, safety and infotainment features are typical Mercedes features. All you need to be safer on any road and enjoy all trips is there. And let’s not forget the very frugal diesel engine : its range would shame the most efficient electric vehicles.
Why I don’t buy it
The C-Class All-Terrain is compromised : it is less dynamic on the road than its road car siblings as well as less capable off road than the range of Mercedes SUVs. It’s a heavy car and it rolls a lot if you want to have fun on winding roads. Anyway, is that a real flaw or just part of the concept ? Finally, let’s mention its price… Starting from € 57,354 without any extra, this stylish 4X4 estate is expensive. However, if you are a fan of it, knowing that Mercedes cars have high residuals (even diesel ones) could make the sale bill less hard to swallow. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)