Inevitable: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain
Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Welcome to America 2021, where if you want a Mercedes-Benz E450 station wagon (and you should), you can only get it as the All-Terrain model.
Making an E450 wagon an All-Terrain involves more brightwork, plastic cladding around the wheel wells and rear bumper, a power bulge on the hood and bigger wheels, plus a 1.2-inch increase in ground clearance. It's all in the interest of making the Benz look more SUV-like, which increases its sales appeal in the U.S.
It wouldn't put me off if I were in the market (though I'd buy a pure E450 wagon if one were available), but it's symptomatic of a really dopey American thing---the aversion to station wagons and the love of SUVs. Europeans still get the appeal and usefulness of wagons, shooting brakes, longroofs---whatever name you and they want to use. And you can get them there. From Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Jaguar and other manufacturers. But Americans? Nah. The station wagon has been in declining favor here since---well, this may be simplistic, but since National Lampoon's Vacation and the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. That was the summer of '83 and it's been downhill ever since. Not the first time Americans have been swayed by a Chevy Chase satire. Just ask the ghost of Gerald Ford.
Chrysler killed its wagons in 1988, Ford ditched its big wagon (which the Family Truckster was built from) in '91 and GM ended production of its station wagons in 1996. BMW stopped sending its 5-Series longroof to these shores in 2010, Jaguar ended imports of the XF Shooting Brake in 2020 and Volvo has announced that its V90 wagon can only be had in a similarly raised and cladded Cross Country model in America for 2022 and beyond. The only station wagon that sells well in the U.S. is the Subaru Outback. And even Subaru has decided it needs to be a bit more macho.
Under the hood, the E450 is blessedly unchanged. Its excellent 3.0-liter inline six with turbocharging and EQ Boost makes 362 horsepower with 369 pounds per foot of torque. It's dazzlingly quick, with a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. Credit EQ Boost and the 4MATIC all-wheel drive putting power down at all four corners of the car.
The transmission is a nine-speed automatic and the EPA fuel economy estimate is 22 miles per gallon city, 28 highway.
The good news is that once you are in the cabin of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain, there is nothing that has been re-done to be more "SUV-like". It's simply gorgeous in there, with everything logically laid out, Mercedes' next-level infotainment screen and the new "Hey Mercedes" feature.
The base price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC All-Terrain is $67,600. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are navigation, heated front seats with lumbar support and memory, a folding rear-facing third-row seat, rain-sensing wipers and a moonroof.
Of course, as a German luxury vehicle, there were extra-cost options. $19,120 worth of extra-cost options. I'll let you look for yourself at the window sticker. As lovely as the car was, I could probably find some places to economize. The E450 would probably ride a little better on the standard 19-inch wheels than on the $1,450 20s (though the ride was by no means objectionable). $350 for augmented video for navigation when 95% of my nav is actually coming through my phone via Apple CarPlay is probably a needless expense. An extra $1,000 for a panorama roof when the car comes standard with a traditional moonroof? I could probably do without it.
You might think massaging seats are frippery. That just means you haven't tried them. They stay. Still, there's $2,800 that I've cut from the total price , which, without my cuts and with $1,050 destination and delivery charges, came to $87,770.
The point is that, even at close to $90K, even with needless cladding and brightwork, the Mercedes E450 4MATIC All-Terrain is a lovely wagon. I'm one of the tens of millions of Americans who would find it more useful, more friendly and more enjoyable than an SUV---and that number includes a lot of SUV owners who just haven't figured that out yet. If some cladding helps keep the E450 wagon coming to America, it's a price worth paying---as is the one on the sticker.