New Vehicle Mercedes ML 2012
Though similar in external size to the outgoing second generation M-Class - it’s marginally longer and wider and slightly lower - the gen-three vehicle is noticeably more spacious inside than before. Even better, it has a light and airy feel that makes it appear larger again. Again, the dash area follows the latest Mercedes’ style, with large, easy-to-read speedo and tacho directly in front of the driver and a good-sized multifunction central display screen sitting high to minimise driver distraction.
A new range of control stalks gradually being introduced throughout the Mercedes range are a feature of the new M-Class. To our fingers they don’t have the same solid feel as the long-standing older units, but we will probably become used to them with practice. Another change that will be noticed by longtime drivers of M-Class, is the replacement of the somewhat awkward foot-operated parking brake with a finger operated unit near the bottom right of the steering wheel. That is, in the same position occupied by the release lever for many years - a sensible move.
The complete 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is priced between $81,400 and $177,900. Pricing of the all-new Mercedes-Benz M-Class is impressive, with drops of several thousand dollars compared with the outgoing model, and that despite the new M-Class having significantly more equipment than its predecessors.
A full range of connectivity is offered in the new Mercedes SUV, with Bluetooth streaming, USB and even an SD card. A total of 40 Gb is used in the complex information and entertainment system that, among other things, provides Suna traffic management. Around 10 Gb is available for storage of music and similar files. At this stage only two engines are being imported to Australia due to high demand in other countries stretching the factory’s production output. These are both turbo-diesel units; a four-cylinder 2.1-litre producing up to 150 kilowatts of power and a stunning 500 Newton metres of torque; and a 3.0-litre V6 with an even more impressive 190 kW and 620 Nm.
Fuel consumption figures of 6.4 and 7.3 litres per hundred kilometres, respectively, are quoted for the two diesel engines described below. Driven carefully on country trips the ML 250 could cover 1500 kilometres between fills. These new-design diesels, working with a stop-start system, seven-speed automatic, low rolling resistance tyres, clever body aerodynamics and numerous smaller changes have pulled the fuel consumption down by an average of 25 per cent across the new model range.
Primary safety is provided by a host of electronic systems, many of them pioneered by Mercedes in the topline S-Class models, as well as daytime running lights (DRLs). Secondary safety sees the fitment of no fewer than nine airbags (including side units front and rear and a driver’s knee bag).
Over a two-day period we sampled both new turbo-diesels - the ML 250 and ML 350 - on an extended drive program set by Mercedes-Benz out of Melbourne, along the famed Great Ocean Road and in the hills behind the coast. Even the 2.1-litre engine is likely to provide enough performance for the average owner, with strong torque, and good response from both the engine and transmission. The 3.0 is there for those who like a bit of sport from their diesels. The vehicles are smooth and quiet to ride in, though we did find the ride on vehicle fitted with the 19-inch wheels and 45-series tyres a little on the jiggly side on broken bitumen roads.
The front seats are large and support well and there’s a feeling of quality and refinement in the interior that will impress all who travel within it. The thick windscreen pillars - to make the M-Class safer during a crash - blocked our view on some bends, particularly when the roads were dropping downhill and sweeping to the right. Steering is by a new electrically assisted system (part of the fuel reduction package) provides good feel and has the added advantage that the big SUV can parallel park itself should the driver so desire. Road grip is well above that likely to be demanded by the typical owner, thus providing huge levels of safety.
Buyers with a bit over $85,000 to spare can have a prestigious Mercedes-Benz on their driveway. One that’s built to a high standard - after a somewhat shaky start in the quality field in the late 1990s - and enjoy a space, comfort and safety.
The complete 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class range is:
ML 250 BlueTEC 2.2-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $81,400
ML 250 BlueTEC Exclusive 2.2-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $92,300
ML 350 BlueTEC 3.0-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $99,900
ML 350 BlueEFFICIENCY 3.5-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon: $99,900
ML 500 4.7-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon: $119,900 (due August 2012)
ML63 AMG 5.5-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon: $177,900
Mercedes-Benz ML250 (ML350)
Price: from $81,400 ($99,900)
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale: 70 per cent (est)
Service interval: 12 months/25,000km
Safety: 5 stars
Engines: 2.1-litre 4-cyl turbodiesel, 150kW/500Nm (3.0-litre 6-cyl turbodiesel, 190kW/620Nm)
Transmission: 7-speed auto, AWD
Thirst: 6.4L/100km, 168/km CO2 (7.3L, 192g)
Dimensions: 4.8m (L); 1.9m (W); 1.8m (H)
Weight: 2150kg (2175kg)