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You don’t need an SUV, you just need a jacked-up estate

Merc’s wonderful E-Class All Terrain reminds us why SUVs are overkill

The world is quite literally falling to pieces. Anyone who’s driven a particularly broken road where the tarmac no longer concerns itself with the radical concept of ‘staying in one piece’ will agree. Our roads are failing.

Thus, if we follow this largely unscientific and anecdotal logic, you might think a large SUV is the answer. They’re big. They’re comfortable. They will absorb things and keep you safe and calm. They’ll even venture off-road if you wish.

Wrong.

Well, not wrong per se – technically SUVs can offer all of that, and some are really quite good (looking at you, Rangie) – but really what the progressive, modern and rational car buyer needs today isn’t a socking great SUV, but an estate.

Yes. Estate. Specifically, one of those jacked-up estates that couple the utility of something large, with the ability to traverse a wide variety of surfaces, ranging from ‘oh god that pothole looks like the entry to another dimension’, to ‘let’s all go to Mordor this weekend!

Something that’s not as imposing as an SUV and the stigma it brings; something capable of slipping under the radar, but provides a deep sense of well-being. Something like an Audi A6 Allroad, or any number of Volvo Cross Country models, or indeed, the Mercedes E-Class All Terrain.

Focusing on the latter for the sake of argument (arguably, any one of those fits the brief we have randomly assigned ourselves), we find a car with a massive, 640-litre boot (or 1,820 with the seats down) complete with a washable rubber mat. Comes in very handy when you have an excitable, muddy dog who doesn’t understand ‘boundaries’.

Then you have the rest of the E-Class interior: spacious enough for five real-life human beings, loads of kit thrown in, such as a Burmester stereo, keyless go, a panoramic glass roof and the quality and layout you’d expect from a modern Merc.

And it rides wonderfully. The four-wheel-drive system (Merc calls it something else which we shan’t) just gets on with the job without interrupting you every five seconds to tell you it’s Getting On With The Job. The additional ground clearance – 29mm over the regular E estate – and air suspension gives you a clean run of rubbish tarmac, but doesn’t perch you on a giant plinth. It actually destresses your journey. Despite whatever design said Muddy Dog has on you.

You get a big, hearty V6 diesel on board too, which – again, like the rest of the car – is so easy in its nature that you forget you’re being propelled by a diesel, or by 258bhp, and just go places. Suddenly, the journey and destination (or indeed family awkwardness) become focal points, not a grumbly engine note or a ride likely to induce nausea.

It’s basically the only car you will ever likely need if you have a family and a Muddy Dog and a desire to venture a little further off-track. Plus it tows stuff. Big heavy stuff. An SUV is bigger, heavier, and just as capable, but you don’t need any of it.

Sure, this E AT is expensive – at £58k – but SUVs are pricier still. An equivalent GLE-Class Merc is just under £10k more expensive, heavier, wider and not as cool. Look, you just don’t need one. Quiet, confident capability is the name of the game when the world is quite literally falling to pieces. If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs, and so forth…

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