A middle-of-the-pack mid-sizer.
The ML350 BlueTec’s turbo-diesel engine boasts impressive output numbers and respectable fuel economy but is crippled by a narrow band of usable thrust. The engine is laggy on the low end and wheezy in the upper registers, so passing requires forethought and attention to what gear you’re in. The traditional gasoline V-6 responds much more quickly and has a broader torque peak near the top end, which makes it far more enjoyable to drive. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the V-8 models, either. Regardless of engine, all M-class models use a seven-speed automatic transmission that shifts smartly and quickly. The top-tier AMG model is fortified with a standard air suspension, adaptive dampers, and an active antiroll-bar system. With the exception of the ML63 model, handling is merely mediocre for the M-class. The 5000-pound ML takes its time to change direction and settle into a turn. If you’re buying for comfort, however, the ML delivers a smooth and quiet ride that stands up well to what its rivals offer. The M-class makes a number of concessions to American frivolity, with optional heated and cooled cupholders, hands-free parallel parking, and available iPad docking stations for rear-seat passengers. The ML offers seating for five, but Mercedes representatives say a third row is in the works.
new for 2013
The M-class was new for 2012 and is now available in a full range of variants for 2013: rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, gas V-6 or diesel V-6, and two wickedly fast V-8 models. The new off-road package makes any non-AMG M-class trailworthy, with air springs, a two-speed transfer case, a differential lock, and six transmission settings.
ABS; front, side, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; traction and stability control; driver-drowsiness warning; and tire-pressure monitoring are standard. Automatic high-beams, swiveling headlamps, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keep assist are optional.
Excellent ride quality
Smooth, spirited V-6
Diesel has narrow power band
No third row
Base Price Range: $50,675–$97,005
DRIVE: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
TRIM LEVELS: ML350, ML350 BlueTec, ML550, ML63 AMG
BODY STYLE: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
ENGINES: 3.0L turbo-diesel V-6, 240 hp, 455 lb-ft
3.5L V-6, 302 hp, 273 lb-ft
4.7L twin-turbo V-8, 402 hp, 443 lb-ft
5.5L twin-turbo V-8, 518 hp, 516 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 103.2 cu ft
CAPACITIES: Towing 7200 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 36.2/71.0 cu ft