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Feature: Station master
After much wait, Merc has got its first station wagon to India. Time to rejoice?
Indians are a bit conventional with their choices. Be it food, clothing or the way we like to decorate our houses, we aren’t really the most innovative community in the global perspective. Well, some of you might argue about the clothing and fashion bit, but there’s certainly nothing that you can argue when it comes to body styles of cars we choose. We are very sure that we would like to stick to only hatchbacks, sedans or SUVs and give a complete miss to pick-ups, big vans and of course, this, the station wagon.
And I have proof when I say Maruti, Tata, Skoda, big players in their segments, have tried their hand, but failed miserably. Now though, things are a little different, not only in other walks of life, but in the automotive world as well. Just as I write this, Isuzu has rolled out its 10,000th vehicle in India, most of which have been pick-ups, and Volvo is going strong with the V90. Yeah, I’d agree that none of the two, the pick-up or the station wagon, are blazing the sales charts, but there’s sustainable growth in the sector.
Anyway, on to the topic of the day: the Mercedes E-Class All Terrain. Merc has been rather patient with things in India and has allowed Volvo to test the waters before jumping into the deep with station wagons. And it’s only after a year of Volvo pioneering luxury station wagons in India, that Merc has readied itself with this offering. After showing it at this year’s Auto Expo, the E-Class All Terrain is finally ready to hit the roads. On the outside, the station wagon isn’t what you’d call path breaking.The designers have gone in for a more conventional look and it’s quite evident, with the slightly bulbous shape and lack of sharp creases that run the length of the car. But with the way things are done, it doesn’t make the E-Class All Terrain absurd in any way. And I say that because it’s a rather long car.
Apart from that, the designers have ensured that they work on a few more things to jazz up the otherwise conventional styling. The grille, for that matter, is completely different from the sedan version. To be in sync with the name, the grille swaps its posh, upmarket look for a more rugged one.
The E sedan that we get in India is the long-wheelbase version, but the All Terrain is based on the standard wheelbase E-Class. But despite that, room on the inside isn’t all that bad. You’d not be complaining even if you’re six feet tall and are occupying the back seat. That said, it doesn’t spoil you silly with the amount of space in the cabin like the E sedan. What overwhelms you though is the size of the boot.
Even with the spare wheel popping up from the boot floor, you’ve got ample space for a few suitcases. And if you have a dog, he’s going to love the back of the All Terrain.
Apart from the body style, the All Terrain also unfolds a new chapter for the E-Class. Unlike the Es sold until date, this one gets a brand new diesel engine. It’s a new-generation one that meets Euro VI emission norms. It’s the engine that will replace the 2,143cc four-pot diesel motor that currently powers most Mercs on sale. It displaces 1,950cc and makes 194bhp and 400Nm. It’s one of the most refined diesel mills we’ve driven and it keeps the vibrations at bay. The engineers have tuned the engine in a way that the turbo lag is at minimum and whatever’s present is dealt with by the nine-speed transmission.
The transmission that I’m talking about here is a fine piece of kit and goes about doing its duty magnificently without making much noise. It utilises its nine cogs well and tries to save every drop of oil by ordering the engine to spin at really low revs even at highway speeds. With this engine-gearbox combo, the 5m-long station wagon does the 0-100kph sprint in eight seconds.
Now to the second bit, the All Terrain bit of this station wagon. With things like the wheel cladding, a rugged looking bumper and grille, this E appeals to lads who occasionally wish to take it into the wilderness. And to save its underside from being bruised, it’s got a setting on the console. It raises the car by a few crucial centimetres and changes the throttle response to aid low-traction driving.
It’s got an all-wheel-drive system that is smart in choosing the wheel to send the power to and is capable of keeping the car away from trouble even over tricky surfaces. Of course, this isn’t any off-road champ or anything of that sort, but it’ll do things like taking you over the broken road to your farmhouse and stuff like that with a smile on its face.
On the road, the E-Class All Terrain rides well. Mercedes engineers have done a good job of tuning the suspension to soak up road irregularities without any fuss. In fact, it’s so good that it can well be called sublime. And the deal with the All Terrain is that it isn’t just a good riding car, it doesn’t handle half bad either.
The steering is direct and void of much vagueness. The weight management is done right and even when you go a bit hot into corners, the roll isn’t all that bad. The E-Class All Terrain, from the minute it starts its India chapter, will have to fight one fierce enemy, the Volvo V90 Cross Country.That too, just like the E-Class, has ample room in the cabin, a bit boot, AWD and few soft-roady things. The Volvo has sharper styling and is easy to win your heart. The E-Class, on the other hand, has a more refined oil-burner and a capable chassis that it sits on.
Unlike the regular E-Class, the All Terrain comes in through the CBU route and hence will attract more taxes than the locally made sedan. Mercedes is yet to announce the price for this E220d All Terrain, but I reckon it’ll be uncomfortably close to that of the V90 Cross Country. So, we’re talking about Rs 65 lakh (ex-showroom).
If you ask me, it’s a rather good bet for people who would use the E for more than just the home-to-office commute. It’s got the ability to handle a bit of abuse, stands out in the crowd, is more practical than a sedan and gets a swanky new motor. Now that’s enough for you break the clatter and fall in love with station wagons, isn’t it?