By Mike Torpey on 2018-09-23 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Mercedes-Benz E 350
D 4MATIC All-Terrain
PUMPING up an estate car may not be the most original move - but it still offers a string of benefits.
While sales of SUVs continue to go through the roof, they're not for everyone - nor do they necessarily make the most sensible choice.
And if you want that crossover convenience in a luxury vehicle that can confidently cope with some light off-road work then they don't come much better than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain.
Body-styling features like black wheel arch covers and side skirts plus a three-part bumper at the rear with some robust load sill protection make the All-Terrain stand out, otherwise it shares all the elegance of the regular E-Class Estate.
The difference is that selecting the car's All-Terrain driving programme raises the chassis by 20mm - and it can be engaged on the move at up to 20mph.
With all-wheel drive also part of the package it means that those days of being towed off sodden showgrounds or racecourse car parks are effectively over.
In fact rocky fells and steep drops apart, there's not much the big Benz can't manage - rutted farmyards, muddy fields and woodland tracks all negotiated with ease.
Mercedes has kept things simple with this model too. There's no choice of engine, just a single 3.0-litre diesel coupled with a 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system and nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Strong, swift and silent are the words that best sum up this turbocharged V6, which is smooth to drive and feels beautifully engineered.
Carting a pair of mattresses and three large containers to the tip came as easily to the Merc as gobbling up the miles on the motorway, all completed to an average fuel return of a half decent 32 miles per gallon.
Switch the drive select into Sport mode weights up the steering and throttle a touch but for the most part driving in the Comfort setting is pretty much ideal.
And for those needing to pull a trailer or caravan there's a towing capacity of 2,100kg braked and 750kg unbraked.
Move inside and the E 350 d is a picture of opulence, especially with the test model's ivory leather upholstery.
It comes as standard with a full suite of safety innovations along with the German brand's Premium Plus equipment line including powered memory seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, keyless entry and start, multibeam LED lights and Burmester surround sound.
What's interesting is the ambient lighting strip which may have a disconcerting purple hue during daylight but it turns to a very effective bright blue at night.
You also get two 12.4-inch dashboard screens, that appear as a long display containing the digital and infotainment options, plus a pin-sharp reversing camera.
Cabin space is vast and access to the boot comes via a powered tailgate which automatically retracts the load cover as it opens to reveal a cavernous baggage area with a separate storage well beneath.
If that's still not sufficient you can press some buttons to flip the split-folding rear seats completely flat.
Of course a model of this capability and prestige doesn't come cheap, a couple of options taking things north of Â£60,000.
Mercedes-Benz E 350 D 4MATIC All-Terrain
Mechanical: 258bhp, 2,987cc, 6cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 9-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 41.5
Insurance Group: 43
C02 emissions: 132g/km
Bik rating: 37%
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles
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