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Mercedes-Benz M-Class ML350 2011 Review

Meaty looks and pleasant town manners make the ML 350 a perfect private school ride.
ADVERTISING agency BBDO Singapore pushed the envelope with a local TV ad that tugged at the religious beliefs of Singapore's community. It basically states that if they buy an eco-friendly Mercedes-Benz "Blue Efficiency" ML model, then nature will one day thank them. Doubtless Mercedes will thank them too, but that's
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ADVERTISING agency BBDO Singapore pushed the envelope with a local TV ad that tugged at the religious beliefs of Singapore's community. It basically states that if they buy an eco-friendly Mercedes-Benz "Blue Efficiency" ML model, then nature will one day thank them. Doubtless Mercedes will thank them too, but that's not the issue.

Blue Efficiency is the umbrella theme for Mercedes models made with a nod to the environment and covers everything from fuel-efficient engines to low-rolling resistance tyres and sealing body gaps to reduce air drag.

Other companies are doing similar things and the result is measurable reductions in fuel use and toxic exhaust emissions. Cleverly, it makes this 2.2-tonne, 4.8m long SUV average 9.8 litres/100km - the same as a 3.6-litre V6 Commodore with the six-speed auto. It makes a big dent in the argument about "fuel guzzling" 4WDs on our roads.


True, I can't afford this. Regardless, the sub-$100,000 price for this upmarket AMG-enhanced SUV with stylish 21-inch wheels and chrome embellishments is pretty darn good.

Get the right colour and it's a good looker, drawing a critical eye and, in comparison with its predecessor, is subjectively more imposing than the delicate BMW X5. Basically, the Merc says: "Look at me, I'm rich."

The feature list is reasonable, with an eight-speaker six-CD unit with iPod, USB and Bluetooth. There's also a three-way split rear seat, park sensors, trip computer and leatherette (man-made leather) upholstery.


The constant all-wheel drive is overseen by layers of electronics to control wheelslip, heavy braking and any unexpected, unwarranted and unfortunate change of vehicle direction.

There's active dampening (the air springs are controlled by computers) that complements the electronic stability control and limits body roll.

Foward motion is by a revised 3-litre turbo-diesel that - if you pick your moment - has plenty of urge while the seven-speed auto can be manually operated by steering-wheel paddle shifters.


The first ML was an instant hit but alongside the second generation, looks very dated. Kids who once played in the sandpit with Tonka toys and Hot Wheels will relate very well with the ML because in the style department, it's just a grown up version. Only in the lack of forward vision (which is why the park sensors are standard) does the ML fall down. The rest is pure Teutonic function with a bit of flair.


These guys have been making cars for 125 years and don't skimp on safety. The ML has eight airbags, a five-star crash rating, Pre-Safe accident anticipatory system and the full suite of primary safety gear that includes stability control, brake assist and traction control.


For all its good looks and bling, this isn't an exciting ride. The emphasis is more on strength and solidity on the road and there's little of the sparkle in the way it drives in comparison to the BMW X5 or Volvo XC90. Most of this is attributed to the conversation between the engine and gearbox - it's like me talking to the wife, comprising misheard words, faulty pronunciation and lots of mid-sentence pauses.

Once you overcome the lag on acceleration, the Merc settles down nicely. It's a fuss-free cruiser and when treated gently will eat the kilometres in near silence and with a very compliant ride.

At idle it's a bit gravelly and will remain audible under hard acceleration. The seven-speed auto is beautifully smooth but the placement of the gearshifter on a right-hand steering wheel stalk is awkward and can be mistaken as an indicator lever.

Mercedes has a steering feel that takes a bit of familiarisation. Initially it feels vague but it's actually a positive system that has more power assistance than the comparable BMW, for example. But its turning circle is quite tight and well suited to the city.


Big, easy on the fuel, safe and even friendly once you get used to its foibles, it's a durable prestige wagon that is unlikely ever to been seen off the road.


Price: $98,330
Warranty: 3 years, unlimited km, roadside assist
Resale: 64%
Service interval: 20,000km or 12 months
Economy: 9.8 l/100km; 177g/km CO2
Safety equipment: eight airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 165kW/510Nm 3-litre turbo-diesel
Transmission: 7-speed manual
Body: 5-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4818 (L); 1911mm (W); 1884mm (H); 2915mm (WB)
Weight: 2185kg
Tyre size: 265/40R21, space-saver spare.

Pricing guides

Based on 35 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

ML350 (4X4) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $19,500 – 27,170 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML350 (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML63 AMG (4X4) 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $32,200 – 42,130 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML63 AMG (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML300 CDI (4X4) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $16,700 – 23,320 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML300 CDI (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML300 CDI Grand Edition (4X4) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $16,500 – 22,990 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2011 ML300 CDI Grand Edition (4X4) Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist


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