What is it?
The third generation of Merc’s luxury SUV is now established in UK dealer showrooms. Dismiss large bruisers such as this at your peril, as they’re big business. Mercedes reckons it has sold about a million examples of the M-Class to date, despite serious competition from German and British rivals. This new M-Class aims to retain its predecessor’s comfy demeanour while being a little bit kinder to the environment. Yes, even the mighty AMG is greener than before...
The core of the M-Class range is diesel-powered. The ML 250 CDI, a four-cylinder first in an ML, is very good, but we’d still encourage you to try out the 3.0-litre V6- engined ML 350 CDI. It’s a peach, with 258bhp and a mass of torque to make light work of the heavy Merc. It’s remarkably quiet and the seven-speed auto is a perfect partner for it. And then there’s the fearsome 5.5-litre V8 biturbo AMG. 525bhp means 0-60 in 5.5 seconds: as sensational as it sounds.
While the BMW X5 still leads the class in terms of agility, the new M-Class is much sharper than before. However, how sharp it is depends somewhat on the Active Curve Control system, which is optional – as is the Airmatic air suspension. They’re both needed to get the best from the car, as it then adapts to the road surface quickly. Other than that it’s as comfortable as it ever was, thanks in no small part to the luxurious cabin.
On the inside
Mercedes-Benz makes sure the M-Class is comprehensively equipped as standard, with dual-zone climate control, leather seats, a thumping stereo, Bluetooth, electric seats, a reversing camera and more airbags and safety acronyms than you can shake a stick at. In terms of ambience, the new car uses the company’s latest tactile switchgear and offers buyers plenty of colour and material choice. There’s loads of space for passengers and their luggage too. The ambience within is as nice as any of its Merc stablemates - and that’s not always something that’s been true of the M-Class...
You expect a certain (i.e. high) level of running costs when you plump for a big SUV. They’re generally heavy on fuel, tyres and brakes, while emitting a lot of CO2 and costing a fair whack to insure. Nothing new here, though the new M-Class is significantly more fuel efficient than its predecessor. So much so that the ML 350 CDI is ‘only’ in Band I for road tax (it was Band L previously) and it returns over 39mpg. The ML 250 CDI is even better, averaging nearly 45mpg and even the AMG can return nearly 24mpg. Depreciation is expected to be slow, too.