Rugged estates are very much a la mode at the moment. Take Audi's A6 Allroad, for example, and the soon-to-go-on-sale Volvo V90 Cross Country. City slickers are feeling the call of the wild, and want to take their sleek, comfortable and technologically advanced estates off the beaten trail.
Enter Mercedes' all-singing, all-dancing E-Class All-Terrain. The 3.0-litre diesel model is yet to be homologated, so official speed and economy figures are unknown, however after test-driving it in the Austrian Alps, we can vouch that it is made of tough stuff.
In Mercedes' own words, it is the 'Swiss utility knife among estates'.
What is it?
The All-Terrain is Mercedes' all-new rugged estate, due for delivery by summer 2017.
It is effectively the fifth-generation E-Class, clad in heavy-duty plastics, with a raised ride height and boasting its 4MATIC all-wheel drive system.
Boasting a potent powertrain, smooth transmission and a host of additional off-road equipment, it is a rugged, capable estate, with the looks to boot.
What's under the bonnet?
The E-Class All-Terrain comes in two different guises: the E220d and E350d. However, the UK market will only receive the larger, yet-to-be-specified 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder diesel.
However, with the added weight of the All-Terrain's off-roading equipment, 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and air suspension, both the speed and the mpg of the new model are expected to be significantly reduced.
What's the spec like?
Within the UK, the All-Terrain is expected to be offered in one, highly specified trim.
Mercedes' reasoning behind this is that if buyers are already paying for the higher-performance engine, then they will want the trim to match.
With an estimated price of £52,000 to £53,000, it will be certainly a luxury wagon, but an adventurous and capable one at that, featuring permanent all-wheel-drive, air suspension, Dynamic Select with five driving programmes and Mercedes' nine-speed 9G-Tronic torque converter automatic transmission as standard.
The E-Class All-Terrain competes with the likes of Volvo's V90 Cross Country and the Audi A6 Allroad.
Mercedes execs estimate it will be priced from £52,000 to £53,000, putting it roughly on a par pricewise with the latter, for which prices start from £46,505.
What's it like to drive?
With its heavy off-road kit and a raised ride height, the E-Class All-Terrain could be a recipe for disaster, losing much of the finesse for which the E-Class Estate is famed.
However, it doesn't whatsoever. The car is as capable off road as it is on, with minimal body roll and low cabin and engine noise, even at high speeds.
Power is transmitted through Mercedes' delightfully smooth nine-speed 9G-Tronic torque converter automatic transmission and Dynamic Select features as standard. This offers five driving programmes, which vary engine transmission, electronic stability program and steering settings. The mode you need to know about is, of course. All-Terrain. At speeds of up to 19mph, the mode raises the car by 20mm, giving it a total ground clearance of up to 156mm. Meanwhile, the electronic stability program, active yaw control and acceleration skid control are automatically adjusted to maximise the car's off-road ability.
In the cabin, the All-Terrain's Command monitor can display a host of different diagrams of the car, displaying the suspension level, steering angle, the angle of inclination, and the accelerator and brake positioning.
This comprehensive mode allows the E-Class All-Terrain to conquer steep inclines and slippery slopes with ease.
Even on a slightly rough road, the All-Terrain excels, maintaining an impressive ride comfort thanks to its large (19-or-20-inch) wheels and air suspension configuration.
Comfort and Sport modes are also impressive, with the latter providing a sharper drive, with a much more supple suspension set-up.
AOL Cars verdict
The E-Class All-Terrain is everything an adventurer would look for, providing they have more than £50,000 to spare. But, thanks to its luxury trim, it is more likely to be seen in the city, only occasionally venturing out into the wilds in the hands of an on-holiday businessman.
The added equipment brings exceptional performance and comfort both on-road and off, and will really allow owners to make the most of whatever terrain they find themselves upon. At the end of the day there's just something exciting about a sleek estate wearing SUV shoes.
Max speed (mph): TBC
Emissions (g/km): TBC
Price: £52,000 - £53,000