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Car Reviews


Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain


Herndon, VA – There are many pluses in having a Northern Virginia zip code. If into American history, its best repository – Washington, DC – is but 30 minutes east, and if into aviation the National Air and Space Museum is just up the road, near Dulles Airport. If automotive history cranks your motor, there’s an entertaining Cars and Coffee on most Saturdays in Great Falls, VA; it’s just ten minutes from my driveway to the Katie’s (coffee shop) parking lot. And if you enjoy European wagons there are plenty, including the Mercedes E450 4Matic All-Terrain on loan this week. Its combination of comfort, composure and performance is tough to beat – and were I to work for a living it would be on my shopping shortlist. 

As a kid in the ‘60s or ‘70s, the wagon – often with a rear-facing third row – was what the family typically grabbed, whether heading to the DQ or Gulf Coast. (Our own wagon ‘adventure’ was a vacation to Monterrey, Mexico in a ‘63 Dodge 440 wagon. In August. Without A/C. On vinyl seats.) Among the Impalas and Country Squires was the occasional Volvo or, even less likely, Peugeot; both were true outliers in a tranquil sea of domestic bliss. It was only as Americans moved to their minivans that the Europeans became interested in shipping us their estates, selling so well ‘on the Continent’ but without a foothold – or much of a base – here in the U.S. Given the experience Mercedes has with the cab industry in its home market, a Benz wagon would seem natural for a transatlantic crossing.

With its E450 4MATIC All-Terrain, Mercedes builds on the positives contained within its midsize sedan with a slightly elevated suspension, fender cladding to – presumably – butch it up, and its 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. If Subaru’s Outback was launched with the able assist of Paul Hogan and his offshoot, Crocodile Dundee, you could see Keith Urban behind the wheel of the All-Terrain, taking Nicole for a night in Nashville.

Finished in Polar White, our E450’s 195 inches of overall length (on a wheelbase of almost 116 inches) gives it a real presence in the grocery store parking lot, where GLCs and GLEs will outnumber the Mercedes wagon by a ratio of – I’ll guess – 40 to 1. The reasons to love it, however, are many, given its just-right footprint, the ease in which you can enter and exit, and – not to be underestimated – the beautiful functionality of its Nut Brown MB-Tex upholstery. While totally of this century, the vibe is of the ‘80s and ‘90s, when Mercedes-Benz products were truly vault-like in their build, and few OEMs could match them.

Behind the wheel, you find the power seat adjustment mounted on the door(s), the transmission selector where the wiper control – to the right of the steering wheel – typically sits, and wipers activated by a twist of the turn signal lever. All of that’s easy enough, while the infotainment screen is less so. As I’ve noted repeatedly, anyone owning this technology will – at the very least – adapt; hell, some may even thrive. But I would rather drive, and have the audio and ventilation controls adjustable with but one motion – and not three. And in this ideal world, limited thought would be necessary for their actuation.

Once settled, you have a chance to drive as Gott and His Autobahn intended. The E450’s 3.0 liter turbocharged (and inline!) six delivers 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, in combination with a mild hybrid system supplementing those numbers with an additional 21 horsepower and significant serving of torque. The result, connected to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic, is a 0-60 time of just over five seconds, along with an EPA estimate of 20 City/26 Highway and 22 Combined. For reference, if you’re driving to a Mercedes showroom in Subaru’s Outback Wilderness, you’ll hit 60 in 6.3 seconds and net 24 miles per gallon combined. That’s at, to be sure, roughly ½ of the Benz’s $75K window sticker.

What’s harder to quantify – or, for that matter, simply describe – is the all-of-a-piece feel imparted by a sedan-derived wagon. You’re in the vehicle and not on it; you’re in traffic, not above it. While many are entrenched in the higher seating position afforded by SUVs, there’s a lot to be said – and it’s not said often enough – to a return to street level. The vehicle becomes an extension of yourself, not that of a marketing survey.

For those pursuing an active lifestyle, and wanting that excitement to begin enroute to the trailhead, Benz has your build. And given the E450 4MATIC’S combination of safety and all-season performance, the company also has your back. 

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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