2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain Elevates State of Station Wagon Art (Literally)
Benz's classy E450 wagon goes away for 2021, is replaced by a fancy Subaru Outback.
Don't be fooled by Mercedes-Benz's exclamation that, for the first time ever, the E-Class All-Terrain wagon is being introduced to the U.S. It was, sort of, already here—in the form of the nearly identical E450 station wagon. That lower-slung, un-fender-clad E-Class wagon is being swapped out for the E450 All-Terrain here in the United States. Overseas, both wagons will continue to be sold alongside one another, but not here.
Wondering what's so All-Terrain about the Mercedes-Benz station wagon? If SUV-like plastic fender flares and body armor, a small suspension lift, and a rugged-sounding name count, well, those three things. This format isn't new—it's pretty much the same formula that Subaru's Outback has ridden to success here in America. The All-Terrain treatment has been offered on the European-market E-Class wagon since the current-generation model went on sale for the 2017 model year. Its trip to the New World coincides with an E-Class lineup refresh for 2021, and it will go up against the Audi A6 Allroad.
The same basic updates, then, hit the E-Class All-Terrain as are applied to the 2021 E-class sedan: Updated full-LED headlights, revised taillights, and a minor revamp for the front bumper and grille. The wagon also inherits the same M256 inline-six engine as the rest of the 450-badged E-Class family members, which includes the EQ Boost mild hybrid setup with a 48-volt electrical system. Total output is 362 horsepower, which is exactly the same output made by the 2020 E450 wagon's non-electrified twin-turbo V-6.
Mercedes has, finally, made the E-Class's dual 12.3-inch cockpit displays standard fare. Initially, when the current E launched in the U.S., buyers had to pony up for the priciest option group to "unlock" the privilege of then spending more money for a matching high-resolution digital gauge cluster to match the central display. Why does this matter? Both displays shared a wide, horizontal binnacle; with both displays onboard, the dashboard was stunning—with the standard analog gauges next to the central display, not so much. Now every E-Class buyer gets the money setup, and the infotainment system's been upgraded to Benz's latest MBUX software.
The only other major change—well, besides the E-Class wagon's transformation into a pseudo-SUV—for 2021 includes a rash of updated driver assistance features. There is a new-generation steering wheel with hands-off detection for the Active Steering Assist, which augments the Distronic Assist radar cruise control and Active Stop-and-Go Assist semi-autonomous functions. The blind-spot monitoring system includes an exit ramp warning, and the Active Brake Assist automated emergency braking setup adds a steering avoidance function.
We'll miss the regular E450 wagon when the All-Terrain supplants it later this year. So, too, we imagine, will the E-Class wagon's traditional buyers, who are said to be among the most fervently loyal and wealthiest in the entire Mercedes brand portfolio, which also includes AMG and Maybach. Will they take to this plastic-clad, adventurous-looking E450, or hang on to their statelier, more classically styled wagons a little longer? That is now Mercedes-Benz's problem to solve. Our take? The E-Class wagon might not have sold in huge numbers, but it also catered to a highly selective clientele-one that might not enjoy being associated with more ordinary Americans who prefer something like the All-Terrain to a traditional wagon.