From £42,425
Third generation off-roader is terrifically refined, impressively frugal, big on safety kit, roomier and a better drive – both on and off road

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz M-Class
The third generation ML has proved to be the best yet

The Mercedes M-Class is luxurious and well-equipped. Shame the chassis lets it down on ordinary B-roads

  • First Drive

    Mercedes-Benz ML 250 Bluetec

    Four-pot diesel ML does enough to make you wonder if you really need the extra urge and consumption of a six
  • First Drive

    Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec

    Mercedes’ luxurious and well-manned V6 diesel ML has class, quality and comfort to spare
20 July 2011

What is it?

It says a lot about the up-market four-wheel drive competition faced by the M-class that it has been replaced after just six years. Renowned for possessing some of the longest model cycles in the industry, Mercedes-Benz has decided to call time on the second generation model a full two years earlier than originally planned.

In shortening the cycle, it hopes to better match rivals like the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg with a more advanced third-generation M-class, which arrives in the UK in April.

What’s it like?

In the metal, it looks disappointingly conservative – more like a large estate car than a full blown off-roader. But that apparently is exactly the reaction Mercedes-Benz designers are seeking.

Here in the UK, the M-class is only going to be sold with one engine, at least initially. A 3.0-litre common rail diesel will power the ML 350 BlueTec 4Matic with 26bhp more than the old ML 350 CDI at 254bhp. It will come mated to the latest version of Mercedes-Benz’s excellent seven speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox, complete with an automatic stop/start and brake energy recuperation functions, and a permanent four wheel drive system as standard.

With 457lb ft of torque – some 60lb ft more than old ML 350 CDI, the oil-burner tested here makes light work of the ML 350 BlueTec’s substantial 2100kg kerb weight.

Its best work is achieved on part throttle loads; the new Mercedes-Benz off-roader cruises at typical British motorway speed limits in a relaxed, serene and, given its considerable weight and large front area, extraordinarily economical manner. At 41.5mpg, it betters its predecessor by 9.8mpg on the combined cycle.

The improvements extend to the new M-class’s dynamic properties thanks to the adoption of a heavily reworked version of its predecessor’s chassis and double wishbone suspension, meaning that it handles with added fluidity, improved response and greater feedback.

With all that torque on tap at just 1600rpm and four-wheel drive to apportion it to each corner, the ML 350 BlueTec punches out of corners with great enthusiasm and hangs on exceptionally well when pushed hard.

Performance in the rough stuff has been extended through the adoption of a new six-stage program that comes with an optional On/Off Road Package offering everything from varying ride height adjustment to automatic lock up of differentials and a special off-road calibration for the stability control system.

A long list of merits in other areas – a truly high quality interior, superb looking instruments, nicely damped controls, commanding view of the road from the driver’s seat, spacious cabin with added shoulder room, copious luggage space, state of the art entertainment and communication systems and outstanding quality to name but a few, certainly adds to the overall appeal.

Should I buy one?

The only real drawbacks we can level at the new M-class right now are its larger dimensions, which will make it more of a handful in tight city traffic, the lack of a proper middle rear seat and the decision to sell it without a spare tyre even as an option. Not that many buyers are ever likely to venture too far away from the blacktop, mind you. Suddenly, the M-class is competitive again.

Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTec 4Matic

Price: TBA; Top Speed: 139mph; 0-62mph: 7.4sec; Economy: 41.5mpg; CO2: 179g/km; Kerb weight: 2100kg; Engine: V6, 2987cc turbocharged diesel; Power: 254bhp at 3600rpm; Torque: 457lb ft at 1600rpm

Join the debate

Comments
26

20 July 2011

[quote Autocar]It says a lot about the up-market four-wheel drive competition faced by the M-class that it has been replaced after just six years..............The only real drawbacks we can level at the new M-class right now are its larger dimensions[/quote] The larger dimensions will I doubt have little affect on sales figures as bigger seems to be better nowadays in this segment of the market. 41mpg for the diesel sounds pretty good. Look forward to seeing it tested against the old Range Rover. I'd still have the Discovery in ice white.

20 July 2011

41.5 mpg? Unbelievable!

20 July 2011

I think the current model still looks great and is far better looking than this one. However, the diesel engine tested has fantastic performance and economy. Not sure about the tester's closing quote regarding the Merc being competitive again, the current model remains competitive.

20 July 2011

I'm impressed with the new ML, and generally impressed with how Mercedes are developing. Their new cars seem to be hitting the mark, though the back end of the new ML does remind me of a Fiat Stilo Estate.

20 July 2011

[quote Autocar]

In the metal, it looks disappointingly conservative – more like a large estate car than a full blown off-roader. But that apparently is exactly the reaction Mercedes-Benz designers are seeking.

[/quote]

Well, if Mercedes want a reaction to this, I for one think it looks all the better for being styled in this way.

Impressive fuel consumption figures although I am disappointed that it has grown in size again. Did it really need to be bigger? Remember Mercedes, we don't just drive cars, we also have to park them......

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

20 July 2011

is it me or does it just look like an old SAAB 9-5 estate that's on steroids?

20 July 2011

[quote Fake Elvis]is it me or does it just look like an old SAAB 9-5 estate that's on steroids?[/quote] its just you [quote TegTypeR]Did it really need to be bigger? Remember Mercedes, we don't just drive cars, we also have to park them[/quote] unless i'm missing something i didn't see anything about the size but when i checked around its less than one inch wider than the outgoing model which hardly seems a huge issue especially when its also a lot more agile and lighter.

20 July 2011

[quote Fake Elvis]is it me or does it just look like an old SAAB 9-5 estate that's on steroids?[/quote]

+1

Without doubt

20 July 2011

"more like a large estate car than a full blown off-roader"

ugh....so it looks like what it is then, a jacked up estate with four wheel drive.

The phrase 'full blown off roader' should never in anyway be associated with an ML Merc.

20 July 2011

well they didn't exactly go overboard on images in the article so here's some more:

http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes/innovation/future/gallery/year-2012/vehicl...

sorry, not seeing the saab thing anywhere in them...

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka