The luxury SUV market is filled with capable contenders so can the third generation M-class really set a new benchmark in the SUV world? We find out
What is it? Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, this new M-Class is still unmistakably a Mercedes. But while it may be bigger and more powerful, in the interests of improved fuel economy and lower emissions, Mercedes have equipped the M-Class with a smaller engine than ever before.
Who is it aimed at? As a luxury SUV Mercedes are hoping to woo BMW s X5, Volvo s XC90, Audi’s Q7 drivers.
Styling? The distinctive style remains but a little nip and tuck goes a long way so changes while subtle, are effective. The lower roof now slopes down and gives it a subtly sporty appearance, emphasised by chrome strips in the front and rear bumpers while LED daytime running lights enhance the overall appeal.
Under the Bonnet? Under the ML’s bonnet is a 2.1-litre turbodiesel that’s sufficient to propel it from 0-100 kph in 9.0 seconds on the way to an electronically-limited top speed of 210 km/h.
What’s it like inside? The interior looks considerably more luxurious than before and one worthy of the three pointed star. The sloping dash and instrument cluster are all new and create a sweeping sense of space. Along with a liberal use of wood and interior trim the overall ambience is distinctly better. There is more head, leg and elbow room front and back thanks to the extra dimensions.
On the Road? Conventional wisdom suggests that a 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine wouldn’t be suitable to propel such a huge chunk of metal but on the road the 500Nms of pure pulling power and the seven-speed automatic are incredibly effective at giving an almost sporty feel to the M-Classes progress. Smooth and excellently refined it soaks up the road along with any imperfections. Take it on the motorway and it drives like a luxury saloon and while the suspension is set, more on the side of comfort rather than performance, this is exactly what M-Class buyers are looking for.
And Safety? The M-Class is well equipped with a full gamut of the latest Mercedes-Benz passive and active safety features options. Seven airbags are standard – which luckily we didn’t have to put to the test and a host of optional extras.
Options? The four-model range starts with the our test car the ML 250 BlueTEC – the most fuel-efficient SUV in its class , progresses to the ML 350 BlueTEC with a V6 diesel. One petrol engine is on offer the ML 350 4Matic Blue Efficiency. A high performance 250km/h (electronically limited) ML 63 AMG variant is also available. With an AMG 5.5 litre V8 bi-turbo engine the range topping version goes from 0-100km/h in an incredible 4.8 seconds. But sports car performance comes at a price and there is an eye watering €161,240 price tag that accompanies such speed.
How about Fuel Economy? Given its sheer bulk the Mercedes new ML range serves up impressive figures. Our test car returns an excellent 6.0 per 100km. Fuel economy and emission reduction can be partially credited to improvements to the BlueTEC diesel and also to the use of stop-start function, seven-speed 7G/Tronic Plus automatics, low- friction drives, and low rolling-resistance tyres. The M-Class is also in Band D for tax so the annual motor tax bill of €481 is well below many competitors.
Okay so the verdict? Now in its third generation, it is a big improvement on the previous one; bigger, more luxurious, better priced and most importantly more economical. The new M-Class is a high-quality and refined piece of engineering with off-road capabilities that will make you wish you had a use for them!
BMW X5 3.0d SE €78,190
Audi Q7 3.0 TDI €75,220
Why you’ll buy one? Better fuel economy; better pricing; better styling.
Why you won’t? Strictly a five seater; rivals offer sharper driving performance.
Mercedes-Benz M-Class ML250 BlueTEC 4Matic
Engine: 2,143cc, 150 kW at 4,200rpm 500 nm at 1,600 – 1,800
Max speed: 210 km/h
0-100km/h: 9.0 seconds
Emissions (motor tax): 165 g/km (€481)
Starting price: €71,060
Model price range: €71,060 (Test Car €85,220*)
No of Doors: 5
Euro NCAP Occupant: 5
Euro NCAP Child: 3
Euro NCAP Pedestrian:1
Euro NCAP Overall:5
Fuel type: Diesel
Fuel Economy (combined cycle): 6.0–6.5 l/100km
Boot Capacity Seats up (seats down): 690 litres (2010 litres)
Car Seats: 2 Isofix fittings in the rear and very easy to use
*options included Metallic Paint, AMG Exterior Sports Pack, Leather, Media Interface, Heated Front Seats, Ambient lighting.
14th November, 2012