Motoring: Mercedes; Jaguar; Ferrari

THERE’S a common theme to this week’s Motoring which was largely by accident than design but it serves as an indication as to where high-end manufacturers think the market is heading.

In years gone by, the off-road vehicles sector was the preserve of specialist manufacturers such as Land Rover or Jeep. Then the Japanese thought they would steal a slice of the action with brilliant vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Mitsubishi Outlander.

However, these days virtually every manufacturer worth their salt has an SUV somewhere in its model range.

Many of these models don’t even resemble clunky utility vehicles and are more akin to regular saloons or hatchbacks.

In the executive and luxury markets, it seems the traditional SUV is no longer enough to turn buyers’ heads.

The latest offering comes from Mercedes-Benz, which has beefed up its E Class estate and added ‘All-Terrain’ to its name.

Mercedes E Class All-TerrainKeen to steal the school run from Volvo and Audi, the All-Terrain is said to be able to tackle routes where conventional estates have to give up, largely due to greater ground clearance and the company’s patented 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system.

Taking a leaf out of the Scandinavian (by way of China) playbook, the All-Terrain features slightly more rugged styling than the traditional estate, while flared wheel arches also give it a more aggressive stance on the road.Mercedes E Class All-Terrain

The E-Class All-Terrain makes its world premiere at the Paris Motor Show 2016 at the beginning of next month. The first cars will arrive in the UK from spring 2017, while pricing and specification will be announced early in the New Year.

Here’s what Mercedes marketing director Ola Källenius had to say.

“No E-Class has ever been as versatile as the All-Terrain. The new model combines a striking look in SUV style with the intelligent space concept of the estate. This is coupled with lots of innovative safety features and the multi-award-winning E-Class interior.”

British rival Jaguar caused a lot of raised eyebrows when it revealed three years ago it was considering moving into the crossover market.

Many buyers were puzzled. The consensus seemed to be, why bother when your cars as so good and you’ve Land Rover as a stable mate.

Well the F-Pace has put any concerns people may have had well and truly to bed.

The new Jaguar F-PaceSince its launch earlier this year it has taken the market by storm, becoming the brand’s fastest ever seller – beating even the popularity of the entry-level executive, the XE.

If proof were needed of its capabilities then look no further than its latest accolade.

The Northern Group of Motor Writers – a notoriously difficult body to impress – has named it 2016 Northern Car of the Year.

In doing so it pipped the Volvo’s all-terrain offering, the XC90 into third place, which only serves to reinforce its durability as the Volvo has long been seen as the benchmark for the segment.

The award comes with a typically Northern trophy – a miner’s lamp.

Eyebrows were similarly raised in 2011 when Ferrari went against type and unveiled its FF four-wheel-drive grand tourer – its first venture into the all-wheel-drive sector – at the Geneva Motor Show.

Ferrari GTC4Lusso TFive and a half years later, the Italian manufacturer is using next month’s Paris Motor Show to give the debut to its new GTC4Lusso T (left), the first four-seater in Prancing Horse history to sport a turbo-charged V8 engine.

Although the car will be familiar to FF owners, it is said to be the forerunner of a whole new GT concept by Ferrari, which is aimed at owners seeking a car that is sporty and versatile, but suitable for everyday use.

The new GT is said to effortlessly marry elegance, comfort and sportiness with the kind of driving dynamics delivered through a combination of rear-wheel-only drive, four-wheel steering and a lighter overall weight, together with a 46:54 weight distribution towards the rear axle.

The car’s 3.9-litre V8 turbo is the latest evolution to emerge from the engine family that was nominated the 2016 International Engine of the Year.

For those seeking a less-aggressive journey, the V8 turbo’s characteristics are said to suit day-to-day driving in an urban environment without compromising on the brand’s traditionally powerful soundtrack and acceleration.

Ferrari say the GTC4Lusso T’s dynamic control systems have been specifically calibrated to boost responsiveness to commands. In particular, the 4WS (rear-wheel steering), which is integrated with Side Slip Control (SSC3), is said to be more responsive when entering and exiting corners, thanks to the rear wheels steering in the same direction as the front ones.  

The GTC4Lusso T’s styling is reminiscent of the FF’s shooting brake coupé, but is said to be more streamlined to provide a fastback-like silhouette.

The cabin melds distinctive Ferrari styling with the luxurious elegance expected of a four-seater GT.  The GTC4Lusso T also features the marque’s unique Dual Cockpit architecture, designed to enhance the driving experience for both driver and passenger. It also incorporates the latest infotainment system complete with an impressive 10.25ins HD touchscreen monitor.

No details yet on pricing.

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