Talk about transformation. The new Mercedes-Benz M-class is so far removed from its predecessor there’s little use comparing the two directly. It’s so good we think it could go straight to the top of its class.
The new car’s taut shape and more sporting profile cut the drag co-efficient from 0.40 to a class-leading 0.34. Underneath the sharp bodywork there have been many changes, including a switch from a ladder-frame chassis to unibody construction, new driveline combinations, plush new materials and the latest in four-wheel-drive technology.
When it hits UK showrooms in the autumn, there will be a choice of three different engines: a 3.5-litre V6, a 5.0-litre V8 and 3.0-litre V6 common-rail turbodiesel. The 3.5-litre V6 tested here kicks out 272bhp and 258lb ft of torque at 2400rpm. Mated to Mercedes’ excellent 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox (standard on all models), it propels the ML 350 to 62mph in 8.4sec and on to a top speed of 140mph.
Mercedes has replaced the traditional gearlever with a column-shift, freeing valuable stowage space in the centre console, and paddles on the rear of the steering wheel allow manual changes.