The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been a collection of comfortable, powerful, plush, executive-quality rides since the designation debuted in 2001. The coupe, sedan, and wagon are all smart choices.
But ask yourself: Are they ridiculous enough?
The All-Terrain Version
Following the worldwide trend of SUVs and lifted wagons, Mercedes introduced an All-Terrain version of its E400 Wagon. It got an air suspension that increased its ground clearance to 6 inches. It got bigger tires, wider fender flares, and rugged body cladding. It became a little more macho, but did it go far enough?
Mercedes engineer Jürgen Eberle didn’t think so. He didn’t want to just go off road. He wanted to go off the rails entirely.
The Big Brothers
When you see the three-pointed star logo, you probably think of luxurious yet reserved solid German machines that are responsible choices if you can afford them. You might not be aware of some of the brand’s nuttier projects.
The G63 AMG 6×6² is an audacious six-wheel drive urban attack vehicle built to frighten elephants. It has 37-inch wheels and can navigate nearly 40 inches of water. Its twin turbo V8 can launch the 4-ton vehicle to 60 mph in under six seconds. It’s not polite and restrained.
Mercedes also builds a G500 4×4². It’s a 4.0-liter turbo V8 G-Class jacked up to the extreme, sharing portal axles and a bad attitude with the 6×6 monster.
You’re accustomed to axles that deliver power to the center of your wheels. The only way to increase your ground clearance is to get bigger wheels and tires. Portal axles engage the wheels at the top. A reduction gearbox communicates torque to the wheels. This setup positions the axle and differential several inches higher.
The E-Class All Terrain, G63, and G500 all use these axles. The E-Class’ ground clearance shoots from 6 inches to 162. That’s more than its big brother G500.
What Else is Nutty?
One look at the E-Class 4×4², and you’ll think it’s the Hot Wheels version. Eberle raised the suspension, bolted on 31-inch beadlock tires, and added giant carbon fiber fender flares. The track is now 8 inches wider. It has an approach angle of 35.8 degrees, a departure angle of 35.6 degrees, and a breakover angle of 31.7 degrees. It can almost climb a wall, and it can definitely drive through 20 inches of water.
It still shares a lot with the stock E-Class Wagon, which is a good thing. It gets power from a 3.0-liter V6 that delivers 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. The interior includes plenty of soft leather, rich wood, and quality finishes you expect from Mercedes. It was named “Best New Car” and “Best Executive Car” at the Fleet World Honours.
At this point, the E-Class All Terrain 4×4² is strictly a concept. It lacks lockable hubs, low range gears, a true off-road suspension, or massive diesel power. Will you see it at a showroom near you? Mercedes has done crazier things. Ever seen a Unimog?