From £29,0357
More off-road-friendly C-Class variant impresses with its breadth of ability but won't be coming to the UK
23 November 2021

What is it?

The new C-Class All-Terrain is Mercedes-Benz’s answer to the likes of the Audi A4 Allroad, Volkswagen Passat Alltrack and Volvo V60 Cross Country.

First revealed at the Munich motor show back in September, the high-riding executive wagon is intended to fill the market niche that exists between the recently introduced fifth-generation C-Class Estate and the soon-to-be-renewed GLC SUV.

The new model has been conceived along similar lines to the larger E-Class All-Terrain that has been on sale in the UK since 2017. It gains an additional 40mm of ride height over the standard C-Class Estate and upgraded four-link (front) and five-link (rear) suspension with revised steering knuckles aimed at providing greater ability on gravel, sand and mud.   

Unique styling touches signal this added off-road prowess, including a new front bumper with a reworked grille and a central plastic kickplate, black cladding within the wheelhouses and a revised lower rear bumper with a faux-aluminium kickplate.

The selection of 17in to 19in alloy wheels get bespoke designs and the standard LED headlights gain an off-road light that allows for extra-wide illumination at speeds of up to 31mph.  

The styling tweaks add a scant 4mm to the length and 21mm to the width of the C-Class Estate, at 4755mm and 1820mm respectively. All other dimensions, including the 2865mm wheelbase, remain unchanged.

So does the load capacity, which is put at a nominal 490 litres underneath the cargo blind, extending to 1510 litres when the 40:20:40-split folding rear bench is stowed. By comparison, the A4 Allroad, Passat Alltrack and V60 Cross Country offer 495, 529 and 639 litres respectively.

Reflecting Mercedes’ modest sales expectations for the C-Class All-Terrain, just two engines are being offered in left-hand-drive European markets, both already available in the C-Class Estate.

The C200 tested here uses a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol that develops 201bhp and 221lb ft and is paired with an integrated starter-generator delivering 20bhp and 147lb ft. The C200d gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel that offers 197bhp and 324lb ft along with the same 20bhp and 147lb ft of electrified boosting potential.

Both powerplants are mated to a standard nine-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox and Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel drive system, which delivers up to 45% drive to the front wheels and up to 55% to the rear.

There are five driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus), plus a coasting function provides for engine-off energy recuperation on a trailing throttle. 

Mercedes claims for the C200 All-Terrain a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec in Sport mode (the same as that quoted for the rear-driven C200 Estate) and a top speed of 144mph.

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What's it like?

There's relatively urgent acceleration when you go looking for it, thanks in part to the quick-acting gearbox, which kicks down promptly under a heavy right foot. However, the small engine has to work hard to overcome the car’s 1720kg kerb weight. As a result, there's a lot of engine noise and a rather boomy exhaust on a loaded throttle during overtaking.

More serene qualities can be had at constant cruising speeds, where the more-than-adequate torque and tall gearbox ratios combine to deliver considerably calmer and more pleasing low-rev progress. The tall gearing also helps provide the car with competitive fuel economy in Eco mode, recording an average 41.5mpg on the WLTP combined test cycle.

The C-Class All-Terrain displays similar confidence-building dynamic qualities as other Mk5 C-Class models. The steering is wonderfully accurate, pointing with precision and excellent weighting while delivering proper feel and feedback. And the four-wheel drive system ensures that grip and traction in on-road driving always remain strong.

Mercedes’ decision to engineer the new C-Class without air suspension like that offered by its predecessor means the All-Terrain relies on traditional steel-sprung underpinnings, like all of its rivals. Despite the additional ride height, spring travel remains the same as the C-Class Estate, but the suspension features unique tuning aimed at providing greater comfort in both on- and off-road conditions.

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The greater ground clearance contributes to a touch more vertical and lateral body movement, although this is noticeable only on undulating and winding roads, where you get some added pitch and greater roll angles than with the standard C-Class Estate when pushing along in Sport mode.

The ride, meanwhile, is nicely controlled. The steel-sprung suspension (with optional adaptive dampers fitted to our test car) is quick to iron out high-frequency bumps at lower speeds and provides excellent isolation of shock over broken bitumen at high speeds in Comfort mode.

It’s quite competent off-road, too: the greater ground clearance and the 4Matic system working in combination with the two dedicated Off-Road modes to provide impressive traction allow you to confidently tackle terrain that would wouldn’t consider in a rear-driven C-Class Estate.

This became apparent on the off-road course at Mercedes’ vast Immendingen testing and development facility in Germany, where we experienced the C-Class All Terrain in the sort of conditions that few prospective owners are ever likely to find themselves in.

Both of the Off-Road modes feature their own individual tuning of the electronic stability control, which applies braking force to limit spinning wheels. Off-Road has been conceived for gravel and sand, while Off-Road Plus, which also activates downhill speed regulation, is recommended for steeper and muddy terrain. Top speed in both of these modes is limited to 68mph.

The interior, which mirrors that of other new C-Class models with digital instruments and a portrait-style infotainment touchscreen, sets new standards of comfort, ease of operation and perceived quality in the class. As part of the Off-Road modes, there are new displays with information such as incline, decline and steering angle. Geographic co-ordinates and a compass are also displayed.

Accommodation is good, if not excellent, owing in part to the transmission tunnel compromising the central rear seat's leg room. Boot capacity is also rather ordinary, trailing that of the main competition.

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Should I buy one?

The C200 All-Terrain is a rather mixed bag. Its mild-hybrid petrol engine is powerful enough to propel it along with a good turn of speed, but it lacks the sort of refinement in everyday driving that you might expect of a car wearing the three-pointed star. The dynamic qualities, on the other hand, are quite appealing, providing all the precision and control of Mercedes' more traditional mid-range estate, while delivering a good degree of off-road ability as well.

Throw in a superb interior with contemporary digital connectivity and you have a convincing alternative to the A4 Allroad, Passat Alltrack and V60 Cross Country – albeit one that lacks the outright space of its rivals and, at €53,015 (£44,623) in Germany, is more expensive than the competition.  

None of this will matter to UK buyers, though. Despite producing the new C-Class All Terrain in right-hand-drive guise for other markets, Mercedes has decided not to offer it here, suggesting the C-Class Estate and GLC provide a sufficient spread of models to keep buyers happy.  

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Comments
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scrap 24 November 2021

Don't think the E-class all terrain is offered in the UK anymore. What's the point when every customer just wants the 'night edition' with 23" black wheels and 'piano black' (shiny plastic) trim?

Our European cousins just seem to have better taste than us.

Deputy 23 November 2021

I can see why MB wouldn't engineer a RHD version for low sales, sadly.  But what I can't forgive on a cold Yorkshire night is that they don't offer a heated steering wheel in the UK on most of their models, which are options in USA and Europe.  That's not a LHD issue, that's ignorant Mercedes UK product managers who clearly never drive further north than Milton Keynes..... So I'll stick with my Skoda, BMW, Porsche and Volvo options thanks.

Roadster 23 November 2021
Another version of the new C-Class that’s barely more than average and worse than many rivals in the class, even much older models.