There was a time when large SUVs were graded on their ability to haul heavy loads over treacherous mountain passes or traverse deserts without succumbing to the elements. Now, they’re built to be seamless, silent, cavernous carriages for the social and domestic pleasure of the middle class, and the Mercedes M-Class is no different. This means that, inside, they must exude an ambience worthy of Blohm & Voss.

Despite representing the entry-level M-Class experience, the ML 250 gets the lifestyle trick about right. It lacks the aloof, art deco spectacle of a Range Rover and the implied sportiness of a Cayenne, but Mercedes’ solemn architecture and sober colour schemes make the ML purposeful enough to compete.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The column stalks are a replacement for ones that feel like they’ve been around for an age. The left-hand one covers the wipers, high beam and indicators

The switchgear’s familiar DNA has also been scaled up to SUV size rather well, helped no end by a dashboard that bulges with broad-shouldered presence and attractive trim stitching.

Doubtless, the three-pointed star on a particularly splendid steering wheel helps to put you in the right egotistical frame of mind, and the front seats’ endless adjustability ensures that the driver can choose between perching in the crow’s nest or hunkering down.

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There’s 34mm more elbow room up front, but with one arm habitually perched on the elevated centre console, it’s the 25mm increase in the rear that is probably of more use. Mercedes doesn’t equip the ML with a properly formed centre seat, but there’s still plenty of room to play taxi to a third rear passenger.

Plenty of room for luggage, too: the boot is bigger than a Cayenne’s or an X5’s, and with the seats lowered to reveal 2010 litres of floor-to-ceiling space, its clutter capacity is only eclipsed by the Range Rover Sport and Audi Q7.

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