2012 Mercedes ML350 Bluetec review
Not that the ML is an off-roader in anything other than looks, with poor ground clearance and no traction enhancing aids beyond its four-wheel drive system and standard stability control. This isn’t definitely the sort of vehicle you’d use to attack a ploughed field – for that, Mercedes offers the mighty G-Wagen.
What’s it like to drive?
Good in parts. The new ML feels pretty similar to the second-generation version it replaces. It’s certainly not a car that ever disguises its size or bulk – it never feels anything less than big or heavy, and it’s fair to say it’s not the sort of vehicle that enjoys being hustled along a demanding road.
The stability control system – which in common with many SUVs can’t be fully deactivated – takes a particularly dim view of any kind of slippage, positively slamming on the brakes when it detects any sort of traction failure.
At normal speeds the ML is a decent enough drive. The steering is accurate, body control is generally good and the engine’s unceasing wave of torque gives it a turn of pace that’s capable of causing a fair amount of surprise to other vehicles. The ML is also whisper-quiet at motorway cruising speeds. Sadly, bumpy roads seem to catch it out with an oscillating ride likely to turn passengers green.
How does it compare?
It’s not as sharp a steer as the BMW X5, but there’s still lots to like about the ML’s recipe of pace, space and comfort. Mercedes is also now offering an ML250 with a 200bhp four-cylinder diesel engine that’s claimed to be capable of 44mpg, and which is £3000 cheaper.
|Engine||2987cc V6 turbodiesel|
|Max power||255bhp @ 3600rpm|
|Max torque||457lb ft @ 1600rpm|
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From the October 2011 Issue of Car and Driver
Before the recession, Mercedes-Benz had no trouble selling 34,000 MLs in the U.S. each year. For 2011, the company’s best-known SUV is back on track to hit 30,000 sales. Right now, in fact, ML sales are up 14.5 percent. “It puts us in a funny position,” confesses Mercedes U.S.A. president and CEO Ernst Lieb. “We’re spending millions to replace a car that remains a huge profit center.” It’s like replacing Yankee Stadium’s hot dogs with, say, toaster waffles. Are you sure you want to mess with a good thing?
That’s nonetheless what Mercedes is doing with its third-gen M-class, which, we hasten to add, resembles wieners and waffles only in its ability to cause customers to queue up. The first to arrive is the ML350 4MATIC, powered by a new, direct-injection 3.5-liter gas V-6 producing 302 horsepower (an increase of 34). It will be partnered with the ML350 BlueTec 4MATIC, motivated by a redesigned 3.0-liter V-6 turbo-diesel making 240 horsepower (an increase of 30). Base price for the gas ML is $49,865, and the diesel, now accounting for 13 percent of sales, fetches an additional $1500.
This new ML is about an inch longer and a half-inch wider, and it squats 0.8-inch lower than before. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat has grown seven cubic feet.
The baseball bat of a turn-signal/wiper stalk thankfully has been moved to the 10-o’clock position on the steering column, and its cruise-control function has been relegated to a second stalk at 8 o’clock. Unfortunately, you’ll still find yourself flicking at the column-mounted gear selector whenever you desire wipers. It’s annoying.
On road, we drove a gas-powered ML350 with the Dynamic Handling package. That $5150 option includes the Active Curve System (ACS), which decouples the anti-roll bars both off-road and during straight-ahead freeway slogs. We never felt it coupling or decoupling. We never felt it doing much of anything, to tell the truth, although body motions were satisfactorily controlled in the hills. But body motions were also satisfactorily controlled in a non-ACS ML we sampled, and that one didn’t max out at a cosmically startling $73,055. As the ML negotiates turns, you can still feel huge lateral load transfers, and the seats’ weak bolsters further suggest that this SUV might possess grand ambitions, but handling is not among them.
We’ll tell you one thing: This new ML is spectacularly quiet, subjectively as quiet as, say, a Lexus LX570, thanks to high-insulation glazing and additional sealing. And the ML pretty much matches the Lexus’s memorably cushy ride, too. Suspension travel feels endless; road nastiness is filtered to a fine fare-thee-well. Unfortunately, highway textures and slip angles are likewise filtered out of the light steering, as if such information might be an affront to the driver. The brake pedal isn’t doing much talking, either. At least interstate tracking is flawless.
The seven-speed transmission’s upshifts and kickdowns are supremely gentle, and engine roar is reduced to a velvety hum seemingly emanating from an adjacent ZIP Code. Fit and finish are of a quality that should make assembly workers in storm-smacked Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, proud. For two riders, back-seat legroom is excellent, kneeroom superb, headroom vast.
We nosed an ML350 BlueTec diesel off-road, through sippy holes, bogs, and ugly ruts. Over hill and dirty dale, the long-travel suspension, the silky dampers, and the rock-solid platform conspire to improve the experience. You’ll find that the road-biased M+S rubber, however, is not your ally in the mud. The diesel engine definitely is an ally—it’s among the most velvety oil-burners ever installed in a passenger car. No clatter, no soot, no odor, no tactile evidence to reveal its baser origins. The driver notices only a slightly delayed throttle response, an added half-second of laziness at step-off.
Eight-cylinder MLs will arrive in the first quarter of 2012. Two-wheel-drive models will follow, as will a more off-road-biased version with a terrain selector and a two-speed transfer case.
Mercedes says the new ML is only a few pounds heavier than its forebear, but the vehicle feels massive, a little slow-witted, and somewhat resistant to course corrections. If you’re looking for driving gratification or personality, well, it will have to derive from the M-class’s luxurious fittings and from its soothing soundlessness. Ten minutes after climbing out, you’ll remember the awesome stereo more than any dynamic merits. Sometimes progress smells like waffles.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
BASE PRICE: $49,865-$51,365
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter diesel V-6, 240 hp, 455 lb-ft; DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6, 302 hp, 273 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 114.8 in
Length: 189.1 in
Width: 75.8 in Height: 70.7 in
Curb weight: 4900-5150 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 6.9-7.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.2-15.8 sec
Top speed: 130 mph
PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (MFR'S EST):
EPA city/highway: 17-20/22-25 mpg
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First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 4MATIC
Mercedes Proves That More is MoreMercedes-Benz M-Class Full Overview
Mercedes would have you believe it practically invented the modern luxury SUV segment back in 1998 with the first-generation M-Class. That may be debatable, but the M-Class is an undisputed major sales success for the brand, selling 1.1 million units worldwide over the past 13 years. For the 2012 model year, the M-Class enters its third generation, and while revisions may appear subtle, they are aimed at keeping this luxo-ute at the top of its game.
Helping to do just that are two new V-6 engines. The base engine is Mercedes' 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6, which produces 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque -- improvements of 13 and 6 percent over previous figures. Fuel economy is rated at 17/22 city/highway mpg, also stronger figures than the outgoing model. An extra $1500 will net buyers Mercedes' slick new turbocharged 3.0-liter BlueTEC diesel mill, producing 240 horsepower and a substantial 455 lb-ft of torque. That's money well-spent. While Mercedes claims acceleration figures are similar for the two engines (and towing capacity is identical at 7200 pounds for each), the diesel is the superior fuel-sipper, boasting an EPA rating of 20/25 mpg city/highway and a theoretical range of more than 600 miles per tank (a smaller, European-market, four-cylinder diesel option is said to be capable of roughly 900 miles per tank). At launch, all 2012 M-Class models feature 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive, though a future front-wheel drive V-6 version will be released in late 2012.
Fortunately for the M-Class, the new engines don't have much more mass to push around. The 2012 version is stands about ¾ inches lower, it's a half-inch wider and just 1-inch longer than its predecessor while only weighing 22 pounds more than before. The wheelbase remains the same, though track was widened by a half-inch in front and a full inch out back. Significant weight savings measures were taken to ensure that engineers could pack more standard content into the vehicle without breaking the scale. Specific weight targets were assigned by vehicle planners to keep mass low. Five pounds here, 250 grams there -- it all adds up. Aluminum was employed for the fenders and engine hood (both previously steel), and also for several suspension components. A magnesium cockpit crossmember and increased amounts of high- and ultra-high-strength steel were also specified.
Although engineers may have looked to the design of a Coke can for weight-saving measures, they didn't want the new M-Class to share its acoustic properties. Thicker windshield glass, new door seals, and sound-absorbing panels conspire to make this the quietest-riding M-Class yet. At freeway speeds, road noise is largely subdued and wind noise only becomes slightly urgent when speeds approach triple digits. Couple the isolated ride with the excellent optional 610-watt, 14-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo, and the M-Class becomes a very comfortable place to rack up the freeway miles.
Since most M-Class vehicles see duty as family transporters, Mercedes sought to make the ML a very safe place to accrue mileage. A total of nine airbags line the cabin, while attention assist and hill-start assist are standard equipment. A blind spot monitoring system and a lane departure warning system are available, with both offering passive and active notice, from a slight vibration in the steering wheel to actual braking and steering interference to bring the ML back in line should warnings be ignored. Both systems work well and can be deactivated if desired. Also on offer is Mercedes' Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control system, which will help brake the ML to a stop in panic situations as well as maintain proper distance to leading vehicles.
MB's styling department has chosen to go evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The front gets the new stout, upright family grille, the waistline has been raised, a larger roof-mounted spoiler has been fitted, and new 19-inch wheels are standard. What hasn't changed is the angled rear C-pillar that current owners identified as a defining M-Class element. Combined with the Benz's reduction in height, engineers say the new bodystyle results in improved aerodynamics and a drag coefficient of just 0.34.
The interior of the new ML 350 is rich and well-trimmed. Soft-touch materials abound, from the dashboard to the window sills, and so do premium accents. Mercedes has beefed up the standard equipment list for the third-generation car, meaning all ML 350s get eucalyptus wood and aluminum trim, heated and eight-way-adjustable front seats, one-touch up-down front windows, a power sunroof, and a power rear liftgate. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, cruise control, and an integrated garage door opener also make the list. The latest generation of Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system is present, with a 7-inch screen and optional rear-view camera and hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic information. We also like the new controls layout, which feels comprehensive without being button-heavy. Responding to customer feedback, engineers switched the position of the cruise control and multifunction control stalks for easier operation, a design touch we appreciated.
We had the opportunity to drive the diesel and gasoline versions of the 2012 ML 350 on the open highways and winding mountain roads of western Montana. Our diesel tester was lightly optioned, with the standard Agility Control adaptive damping, and it proved to be both quiet and refined. Power from the diesel mill was adequate from a standstill, but the engine really shines with the turbocharger on boost at freeway speeds. Passes on narrow two-lane highways were confident, and the revised 7G-Tronic automatic transmission shifts down quickly and smoothly, skipping as many as four gears at once (steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are also fitted for manual control). The 3.5-liter gasoline engine was also impressive, revving smoothly to redline with a somewhat louder exhaust note than the diesel, but feeling considerably less punchy when getting on with it. Mercedes expects the take rate for its diesel engine to grow with the third-generation M-Class.
We also found the ride to be both quiet and comfortable, with good driver ergonomics and excellent visibility for a vehicle of this size. We were less impressed with the new electro-mechanical steering, which was well-weighted for an SUV, but felt a little vague. Brake feel also left a little to be desired, with more dive under heavy use than we would have liked with the standard suspension.
We came away impressed with two optional features fitted to our gasoline-powered ML 350. Advanced Park Assist works with the Parktronic system and the M-Class' new electro-mechanical power steering system to automatically parallel park the vehicle with minimal need for driver input. The driver rolls slowly past a suitable parking spot and pushes a button on the steering wheel when prompted by the display. The M-Class then adjusts the steering angle while the driver operates the accelerator and gear selection to enter the parking spot. We tried the system ourselves and witnessed others doing the same and each time it performed without fail.
We also loved the optional Airmatic adjustable air suspension, which uses air bladders in place of conventional coil springs. The system allows ride height to be raised for off-road conditions and automatically lowers the vehicle slightly at high speeds to improve both aerodynamics and stability. Airmatic also includes a dynamic damping system that adjusts rates to match present road conditions, and offers a Sport setting that hydraulically connects the two-piece front and rear anti-roll bars and stiffens damping rates to limit vehicle roll on winding roads. Left in Comfort, the anti-roll bars are disconnected and damping rates are softened for improved ride quality.
The 2012 ML 350 launches this September in gasoline and BlueTEC diesel V-6 configurations at base prices of $49,865 and $51,365, respectively -- both virtually unchanged from 2011 models. Come the first quarter of 2012, Mercedes will launch a more powerful M-Class with the new 4.7-liter V-8 found in the 2012 CLS sedan. We also were told by engineers that both hybrid and AMG versions will be available eventually.
|2012 Mercedes ML 350 4MATIC|
|DRIVETRAIN||Front-engine, AWD , 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINES||3.5L/302-hp/273-lb-ft DOHC V-6; 3.0L/240-hp/455-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT||5100 lbs (MT est)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||189.1 x 84.3 x 70.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.3 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17-20/22-25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||169-198/135-153 kW-hours/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.88-1.02 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||September 2011|
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Mercedes-Benz ML350 2012 Review
We turn the spotlight on the car world's newest and brightest stars as we ask the questions to which you want the answers. But there's only one question that really needs answering -- would you buy one?
What is it?
This is the upmarket diesel Benz ML, generation three of the big US-built SUV. It's new from the wheels up with more kit, more room, better drive feel, luxury - everything.
This one goes for $99,900 - of which 17 grand is GST and Luxury Car Tax. If Benz could have squeezed 0.3 litres/100km more out of the engine, there would have been less LCT.
What are competitors?
BMW X5, Audi Q7 and now diesel Infiniti FX.
What's under the bonnet?
A wonderfully punchy 3.0-litre, V6 turbodiesel with variable nozzle turbo. Drive is permanent all wheel drive through a seven-speed auto. An AdBlue tank feeds urea into the exhaust to minimise emissions.
How does it go?
Like a train. There's 190Kw/620Nm available from low in the rev range to give performance on par with a big petrol V8 - with four cylinder fuel economy. Competent off road too.
Is it economical?
Amazingly so - rated at 7.3-litres/100km. It gives a range of over 1000km from the 93 litre tank.
Is it green?
Extremely - passes Euro 6 regulations not due for implementation until 2014. Extensive fuel/emissions reducing technology like friction optimised bearings, decoupling ancillaries, low friction axle drives, low rolling resistance tyres. Eco stop/start.
Is it safe?
Five star with a bullet thanks to clever technology like lane keeping assist, blind spot warning, reverse camera, pre-safe collision preparation, attention assist.
Is it comfortable?
Similar luxury feel as big S-Class and E-Class Benz sedans. Minimal noise, vibration, harshness. Plenty of luxury kit, killer audio, leather, electric assistance left, right and centre, clever lighting package, rake adjust rear seats, big multi-media screen.
What's it like to drive?
Impressive, especially the get go from that turbodiesel engine - whoosh. Has a more sporty nature than expected, decent handling, quite nimble for a 2.0+ tonne SUV.
Is it value for money?
Would be if you could avoid the tax element. Fairly generous standard equipment, 20-inch alloys.
Would we buy one?
Absolutely...luxurious family vehicle, goes like the clappers, looks classy and uses minimal fuel.
Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec
Price: from $99,900
Warranty: 3 years roadside assist
Engine: 3-litre, 6-cylinder turbo-diesel, 190kW/620Nm
Transmission: 7-speed sports auto, constant 4WD
Thirst: 7.3L/100Km, CO2 192g/km
2012 review ml350
.MotorWeek - Road Test: 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec
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