The Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain is not an SUV, but the latest addition to the estate range will rise to the occasion.
Business motorists who continue to resist the swing to sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are expected to fuel a further boost in sales of Mercedes-Benz estate cars with the arrival of a new addition to the E-Class range.
In the wake of a 62% jump in registrations of its upmarket load luggers, the German firm has made an extra-capability model available in the line-up to cater for the needs of drivers with more adventurous lifestyles.
Standing taller than its stablemates, riding on adjustable air suspension and decked out with SUV-style trappings like skid plates and plastic bodywork protection, the All Terrain is a tougher-looking workhorse that has the ability to cope with life away from the Tarmac.
“Not everyone wants to drive a sport utility and there are some fleet customers who don’t have the opportunity to take a full-size SUV, so I rate this as a compelling proposition for these drivers,” said Mercedes-Benz Cars head of fleet Rob East.
“It could be a particularly attractive alternative for people who need to carry equipment for sporting activities and we think it holds the prospect of further incremental volume.
"Our regular estate has achieved 1,911 fleet and business registrations in the past 10 months – 62% up on last year – so this is a welcome extra model at a time when premium segment customers have more choice than ever.”
East added: “Our research shows more people living in semi-rural areas want premium transport with occasional off-road ability and we’re already getting interest in this car from end users who have a relatively open policy.”
Based on the standard car in AMG trim, the All Terrain is a plush affair that lacks nothing by way of luxury and convenience features.
With boot space ranging from 640 litres to a cavernous 1,820 litres when the 40/20/40 split rear seat is folded, it is a versatile load carrier.
But the big difference comes in the way the new car behaves both on and off the road.
Mated to four-wheel drive, a turbocharged three-litre V6 motor provides vivid acceleration and promotes confidence at any speed while its hushed output is complemented by a slick-shifting nine-speed auto transmission.
Yet for all that, the biggest wow factor concerns the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz air suspension system, which manages to blend sublime comfort with driver involvement despite the longer travel arising from a 29mm increase in ride height.
The result is a commendable engineering package that manages to deliver tenacious traction over winding roads and stability in spirited cornering.
Even rough and tumble progress fails to disturb the calm when the bodywork is hoisted a further 20mm for off-roading adventures.
With such a relaxed demeanour to go with its armchair comfort, the All Terrain appeals as an accomplished performer that offers a refined, understated travel environment with the ability to make light work of mile-munching in all but the worst of road and weather conditions.
Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E-Class All Terrain E350D