Last year, a Mercedes engineer named Jürgen Eberle got ahold of a Mercedes E-Class All-Terrain, and let his childhood off-road fantasies run wild, installing portal axles and monstrous meaty tires to create what is now called the E-Class All-Terrain 4x4². It’s pure madness.
AutoExpress reports that the 4x4² version of Mercedes’ Audi Allroad started out as a standard E-Class All-Terrain with a little 1.5-inch suspension lift and some extra body cladding. But then Eberle decided to throw in portal axles, a technology also found in Mercedes’ absurd G500 4x4² and even more ridiculous 6x6.
Of course, the portal axles in the E-Class All-Terrain 4x4² are very different than those under the G-wagon, with the former has a multi-link setup all the way around instead of the latter’s solid axles.
This means the suspension doesn’t just look like big metal tubes with gearboxes bolted to their ends (or integrated into the knuckles). Instead, there’s still a multilink setup with air suspension (the geometry had to be heavily reworked from stock, and it actually uses struts from the GLC SUV); here’s a look at how CV axles at each corner mate to the gearboxes on the knuckles:
The purpose of the portal axles is ground clearance, and holy crap does this thing have a ton of it. The standard All-Terrain comes from the factory with six inches between its belly and the dirt; the 4x4²? Over 16 inches. For reference, that’s more ground clearance than a HMMWV or a Mercedes G500 4x4².
Auto Bild says that results in approach and departure angles of 35.8 and 35.6 degrees, respectively, and a breakover angle of 31.7 degrees. On top of that, the jacked-up wagon concept is rated to wade nearly 20 inches of water. These are all stellar figures even among the most hard core off-road vehicles.
But it’s all a big lie, really, because despite the high ground clearance and the 31-inch tires, the E-Class All-Terrain 4x4² doesn’t come with a low range gearbox, it doesn’t get locking differentials, and the independent suspension setup doesn’t appear to have nearly enough flex to keep those tires on the ground for maximum traction. Just look at this wheel lift off the ground because of what looks like a slight incline:
The concept off-road wagon also doesn’t get the diesel engines that are the only options in the standard E-Class All-Terrain (n the off-road world, diesels are highly desirable for their low-end torque), instead spinning its tires via a 328 horsepower, 3.5-liter turbo gasoline V6 from the E400 wagon. AutoExpress says there’s “no shortage of torque,” though, so maybe diehard off-road fans can forgive the lack of an oil-burner under the hood.
Regardless, even if it’s not going to outdo the G-Wagon on rocks and rutted trails, that ground clearance is impressive, and the nearly eight-inch wider track—cradled by enormous carbon fiber fender flares—looks incredibly mean.
Here’s a video showing some off-road footage of this beast (if you speak German, you’ll get a lot more out of this):
And another with the head engineer (again, in German).
Right now, the E-Class All-Terrain 4x4² is just a concept, and there’s a decent chance it will remain that way, even if Mercedes does have a reputation for putting bonkers, off-the wall off-roaders into production.
I hope I’m wrong.