2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Review: Keeping the Dream Alive

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 3.0L I6 Turbo
Output: 362 hp, 369 lb-ft
Transmission: 9AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 22/28/24
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 10.6/8.4/9.6 (est)
Starting Price (USD): $68,650 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $82,030 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $82,900 (est, inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $96,100 (est, inc. dest.)

The humble station wagon remains the golden calf of the auto journalist.

We praise its practicality, achieved without the needless added height and weight of the crossovers that ply our roads.

Get a Quote on a New Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain

But people want crossovers. They want them so much, that the only way the station wagon can survive is to adopt crossover cues, like this 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain. The All-Terrain is the They Still Do Not Realize meme in car form. It’s playing a convincing game of dress-up, yet barely sacrifices the virtues that we hold so dear in doing so. If a bit of plastic cladding and a dash of off-road prowess keeps the long-roof alive, well, isn’t that a win? As the All-Terrain proved over the course of a week, yes, yes it is—at a cost.

What’s new?

Mercedes treated its E-Class to sweeping improvements for 2021. Exterior changes are minimal, mostly focused on the headlights and front bumper. If you thought it was hard to distinguish between C-, E-, and S-Class sedans before, well, good luck now.

You won’t confuse the All-Terrain with anything else, though. The regular E wagon is long and low, and this one adds the requisite black plastic cladding around the wheels, some tough-looking brightwork in the front bumper, and a boost in ride height. It’s an overall handsome shape, especially in this pretty Hyacinth Red paint, but does still give off a LARPing-as-off-roader vibe. Blame the optional 20-inch wheels, replete with low-profile rolling stock.

There’s just one engine choice for the All-Terrain: a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, producing the same 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque as last year’s V6. It’s now shacked up with a mild-hybrid system, dubbed EQ Boost. This adds up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft. This is one of two flavors of E-Class wagon American buyers will find at their local Merc purveyor. The other is about as different as could be: it’s the monstrous, 603-horsepower E 63 S. Canadians get a mid-level E 53 AMG as well.

Sumptuous, mega-comfortable interior

Mercedes hasn’t messed with the E-Class interior much for the 2021 refresh. It didn’t need to: this remains one of the most pleasant, comfortable places to spend time in the mid-sized segment.

SEE ALSO: Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 vs Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Comparison

The wraparound dashboard design is inviting, with the glossy, pinstriped pattern accentuated the width of the cabin. This is still piano black trim we’re talking about, though. It’s all over the center console too, and that means fingerprints and dust will begin to show about 0.02 seconds after getting into the All-Terrain. You’ll find the stuff on the steering wheel too—but more on that bit later. Beyond that, all the materials in here look and feel worthy of the asking price, with soft black leather all over the place. MB-Tex is standard in the US, but in Canada, real cow is standard.

Front-seat comfort is supreme. The front thrones offer outstanding support, not just for the back, but the thighs as well. There’s even the option of a massage function if you’d like. Rear-seat comfort is similarly solid for adults, with 38.2 inches (970 mm) of headroom and 36.1 inches (917 mm) of legroom. The graceful arc of the window line, and a second moonroof, ensures plenty of natural light in the back.

The cavernous rear hatch will easily store all the assorted paraphernalia of four adults, too. 35.0 cubic feet (991 liters) is nothing to sneeze at; that’s more than the seats-up stat for the big GLE. Fold the 60/40-split second row down and there’s 64.0 cubes (1,812 liters) to play with. You could conceivably camp back here, which is on-brand for the All-Terrain.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Genesis GV80 Review: Putting ‘Em All on Notice

Touch screens good, touch controls less so

I’ve said it in every other Mercedes review over the last couple years: MBUX is still one of the very best infotainment systems out there. The big screens make it easy to grok the necessary info quickly, so there’s less time with your eyes off the road. Touchscreen capability means the passenger has an intuitive setup as co-driver, too. Merc’s center console-mounted trackpad is still here if you feel so inclined. I’ve always gravitated towards the wheel-mounted controls myself, and that’s where my first major issue with this car lies.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Review: Mild-Mannered Mild-Hybrid

All of the buttons on the two spokes are now touch-sensitive. That isn’t too much of a problem for handling Bluetooth calls, but it makes setting the audio volume and cruise control speed a guessing game. Tapping away repeatedly works alright, but even after a week, I could never master how much of a swipe was necessary for any particular task. The small pads used for navigating the instrument panel (left) and infotainment (right) are now debossed too, so they’re not as friendly to chubbier thumbs.

The rest of the package is, thankfully, still very good. The head-up display provides a clear view of important details, and the augmented reality navigation makes it a cinch to weave through unfamiliar areas. The upgraded Burmester sound system is crisp, clear, and powerful—as I found out, every time I tried to only slightly change the volume.

Soft on-road (soft off it, too)

One of the main selling points of something like an All-Terrain over its GL siblings is that it drives like a car. The E is uncannily smooth, even on those huge 20-inch wheels and rubber-band tires. The standard air suspension plays a big part here, sanding the edge off every pothole and crack before it can travel up into the cabin. The All-Terrain’s cabin is much quieter than the last GLE I was in too, and that’s without the optional acoustic comfort package ($1,100 / $1,500 CAD), which adds laminated glass and extra sound deadening in the cabin.

The low-profile tires provide plenty of grip on the tarmac. Standard all-wheel drive transmits every bit of the drivetrain’s power to the contact patches, making the All-Terrain surprisingly quick. It’ll crack up to 62 mph (100 km/h) in just 5.2 seconds according to Mercedes, and I’ve no reason to doubt it. Testing that time out will bring out the inline-six’s inherent singing voice, but otherwise, it’s barely audible.

Of course, there’s a flip-side to those pretty, spindly wheels and their tiny-sidewall tires: outright off-road ability is limited. The E 450 will clamber across a cottage lane no problem, but anything more serious would leave its driver with a permanent wince. To its credit, there is an Offroad mode, which raises the air suspension to 5.8 inches (147 mm) up to a maximum speed of 35 km/h. The hill descent control works well, too.

There are the other, more typical drive modes. Sport+ is great, if you’ve ever wondered what a camel in Nikes must be like. The E 450 is a lot like those desert-dwelling dromedaries, holding onto fuel the same way a camel stores fat in its hump for when food is scarce. The EPA rates the All-Terrain at 24 mpg combined (Canadian figure: 9.6 L/100 km), yet my mixed-use week produced 26.7 mpg (8.8 L/100 km). The estimated range was nearly 600 miles (965 km).

Who’s the competition?

Mercedes was a little late on the trail-friendly, posh wagon front. The originator was arguably the Volvo V70 XC of the ’90s; the current V90 Cross Country carries the torch. It starts at a much more wallet-friendly $55,995, including destination. You’re looking at a less-powerful, less-spacious hauler, however. Sorry Canadians, the V60 isn’t an option up north. There’s also the Audi A6 Allroad. Pricing for Audi’s capacious load-lugger starts from $66,945 ($78,650 CAD).

If you’re looking at these soft-roaders, there’s a good chance an actual SUV or three are on your shortlist. Mercedes’ own GLE is the clearest comparison. It comes in 450 flavor too, with the same drivetrain as the All-Terrain, and starts from $63,550. Canadian pricing is $77,500 before delivery charges—Mercedes Canada allows every dealer to set its own destination amounts. There’s the cheaper, four-cylinder GLE 350, as well as a V8-powered GLE 580 in the US. Basically, you’ve got options.

Not so with the All-Terrain. It’s just the one engine, and you’ll pay a premium for those classier looks: the All-Terrain runs $68,650 in the US (including destination), and $80,900 CAD (without destination). This tester took a sizeable stroll down the options list, too. Total damage: $82,030 US, or around $96,100 CAD, assuming a $2,000 CAD destination fee.

SEE ALSO: 2020 Volvo V60 T8 Review: A Tough Decision

Verdict: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain Review

With the market being so SUV-obsessed, you’d have to really want the wagon life to justify that extra outlay. And if you do it, you’ll be sacrificing a good portion of the off-road ability many modern crossovers offer. You’ll be making up for that with lighter weight (less wear and tear), better fuel economy, and better handling. Better looks, too. (Why are you booing? I’m right.)

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 All-Terrain is not for everyone. But for those of us who want to keep the family wagon alive, it’s an excellent—albeit pricey—example of the breed.

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  • Smooth, smooth ride
  • Surprisingly efficient, powerful engine
  • Capacious


  • Won't actually do much off-road with those tires
  • Touch controls are a step back
  • ... I'm struggling here
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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