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Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 Review

Will Aussie buyers accept a small capacity turbodiesel in a car the size of the new Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV? If they're smart they will because the 2.1-litre, turbodiesel, four cylinder in the new, third generation ML250CDi kicks out a handy 150kW of power coupled with an astounding 500Nm of torque or pulling power.

The downsizing trend is a sensible approach to future motoring because smaller high output engines offer the same or better performance with vastly improved fuel economy and lower emissions.

Other benefits include less weight and materials with a smaller engine and easier packaging freeing up precious space for additional equipment and passengers or luggage.

There is a growing trend to reduce size in every aspect of the motor car driven by many factors including affordability, needs, practicality, running costs and environmental concerns.

TECHNOLOGY

The 2.1-litre turbodiesel is already in Benz C and E-class passenger cars. The step up to a 2.1 tonne large SUV seems a big ask but the engine makes light work of the task propelling the M-Class with amazing fuel economy rated as low as 6.0-litres/100km.

This is in the realms of a small hatchback and gives a theoretical touring range of 1500km on a tank. The engine uses BlueTec (urea injection) technology and high pressure to optimise efficiency and it drives all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission with engine stop/start for further fuel economy gains around town.

Electric power steering makes an appearance together with engine internals optimised for efficiency and auto stop/start. Weight has been controlled by component size and weight reduction.

Mercedes-Benz ML cuts a smooth 0.32Cd aerodynamic rating. There's selective damping on the base model's suspension and sport mode to firm up a number of functions. Noise and vibration is minimised by various means and safety technology abounds contributing to a five star crash rating.

EQUIPMENT

"Options" is the name of the game with M-Class because plenty will be available. But the standard car is well equipped offering comfort and convenience features expected from a new gen' model.

Media connectivity for example is comprehensive and there's ample luxury for the predicted entry level purchase price of around $80,000. Options include the On and Offroad package similar to Land Rover's terrain response that optimises the vehicle for any driving environment. Plenty of other tricky stuff is available.

MODELS

We will eventually get five MLs starting with the ML250CDi and ML350CDi (3.0-litre V6) turbodiesel and the ML350 (3.5-litre V6) an ML500 (4.7-litre V8) petrol models with direct injection. An AMG version is scheduled further down the track.

DRIVING

The base 250CDi impresses with its performance, refinement and feel. It's good in all environments. The engine has plenty for any situation and though still audible at some speeds, is almost imperceptible inside the cabin. We were pleasantly surprised by ML's sporty feel, sharp cornering and strong brakes. Much better than the previous model and ride quality is luxury car standard.

VERDICT

Not sold on the new look and infact prefer the old model's more assertive stance but the new ML will offend nobody and probably appeal to most. It's an impressive drive, uses bugger all fuel and (almost) goes like the clappers - quite impressive for such a large, practical wagon.

MERCEDES-BENZ ML250CDi

Price: from $80,000 (est.)
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety: 5 stars (est)
Engine: 2.1-litre, 150kW, 500Nmd
Body: 5-door wagon
Weight: 2150kg
Transmission: 7sp auto, all-wheel drive
Thirst: 6.3L/100km, diesel, CO2 175g/km

Pricing Guides

$27,919
Based on 43 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$19,995
Highest Price
$51,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ML350 (4x4) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $24,640 – 30,470 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML350 (4x4) Pricing and Specs
ML63 AMG (4x4) 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $46,490 – 51,990 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML63 AMG (4x4) Pricing and Specs
ML300 CDI (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $19,995 – 28,990 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML300 CDI (4x4) Pricing and Specs
ML300 CDI Grand Edition (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $24,888 – 28,800 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML300 CDI Grand Edition (4x4) Pricing and Specs