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Driven: Mercedes E-Class All Terrain

Station wagons haven’t done really well in India. Remember the Indigo Marina and the Skoda Octavia Combi? Well, we don’t blame you if you don’t. Only a handful of Indians put their money on the table for this body style in all these years. But things are changing, and changing for the good. Volvo has brought the V90 Cross Country to India and it’s been getting decent response. And to start another chapter in the station wagon story of India, Mercedes is about to launch this, the E-Class All Terrain.

Merc has been rather patient with things in India and has allowed Volvo to test the waters before jumping in the deep with station wagons. And it's only after a year of Volvo pioneering premium station wagons in India, they've readied themselves with their offering. After showcasing 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 you can tell that 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 make 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 the matter, is completely different than that of the sedan version. To be in sync with the name, the grille swaps it's posh, upmarket look for a more rugged one.

The E-Class sedan that we get in India is the long wheelbase version, but the All Terrain is based on the regular wheelbase E-Class. But despite that, the room on the inside isn't all that bad. You will not be complaining even if you're a six-footer and asked to take 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 till date, this one gets a brand new diesel engine. It's a new generation one that meets the Euro 6 emission norms. It's the engine that will replace the 2,143cc four-pot diesel engine 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 its minimum and whatever's present is dealt with by the 9-speed transmission.

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 a 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 which 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's doing 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 big boot, an AWD and few soft-roady things. The Volvo has sharper styling and is easy to win your heart. The E-Class, on the other side, 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's uncomfortably close to that of the V90 Cross Country. So, we're talking about Rs 62-64 lakh (ex-showroom). If you ask me, it's a rather good bet for people who would use the E for more than 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?

Specs:
Engine: 1950cc, 4cyl, turbo diesel
Power: 194bhp at 3800rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1600-2800rpm
Transmission: 9A, AWD
0-100kph: 8 seconds
Top speed: 231kph
LxWxH: 4947x2065x1497mm
Wheelbase: 2939mm
Price: Rs 62-64 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom)

Verdict:
A practical station wagon with heaps of space in the cabin and in the boot. Also gets a smooth diesel motor

Rating: 8/10


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