Mercedes-Benz M-Class ML63 2012 Review
There's something really intimidating about a vehicle that looks, sounds, goes and weighs as much...
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The just launched all-new Mercedes-Benz M-Class demonstrates just how good the concept was when launched 15 years ago. No more so than in the styling.
In profile the new Mercedes M-Class is instantly recognisable by the shape of the swept C-pillar and the way the D-pillar is blacked out to make it seem all but invisible. At the front the changes are more noticeable, with the new, very bold face being closely allied to the sporting look of the latest range of Benz sedans.
Aimed at the American market right from the start, the German SUV is actually built in that country, the factory being situated in an area once struggling economically, but now doing very well thanks to the foresight of Mercedes. Being aimed at the Americans means the Mercedes M-Class is very much suited to Australians as well.
Though similar in external size to the outgoing second generation M-Class - it’s marginally longer and wider and slightly lower - the gen-three vehicle is noticeably more spacious inside than before. Even better, it has a light and airy feel that makes it appear larger again. Again, the dash area follows the latest Mercedes’ style, with large, easy-to-read speedo and tacho directly in front of the driver and a good-sized multifunction central display screen sitting high to minimise driver distraction.
A new range of control stalks gradually being introduced throughout the Mercedes range are a feature of the new M-Class. To our fingers they don’t have the same solid feel as the long-standing older units, but we will probably become used to them with practice. Another change that will be noticed by longtime drivers of M-Class, is the replacement of the somewhat awkward foot-operated parking brake with a finger operated unit near the bottom right of the steering wheel. That is, in the same position occupied by the release lever for many years - a sensible move.
The complete 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is priced between $81,400 and $177,900. Pricing of the all-new Mercedes-Benz M-Class is impressive, with drops of several thousand dollars compared with the outgoing model, and that despite the new M-Class having significantly more equipment than its predecessors.
A full range of connectivity is offered in the new Mercedes SUV, with Bluetooth streaming, USB and even an SD card. A total of 40 Gb is used in the complex information and entertainment system that, among other things, provides Suna traffic management. Around 10 Gb is available for storage of music and similar files. At this stage only two engines are being imported to Australia due to high demand in other countries stretching the factory’s production output. These are both turbo-diesel units; a four-cylinder 2.1-litre producing up to 150 kilowatts of power and a stunning 500 Newton metres of torque; and a 3.0-litre V6 with an even more impressive 190 kW and 620 Nm.
Fuel consumption figures of 6.4 and 7.3 litres per hundred kilometres, respectively, are quoted for the two diesel engines described below. Driven carefully on country trips the ML 250 could cover 1500 kilometres between fills. These new-design diesels, working with a stop-start system, seven-speed automatic, low rolling resistance tyres, clever body aerodynamics and numerous smaller changes have pulled the fuel consumption down by an average of 25 per cent across the new model range.
These are astonishing improvements that would have been considered all-but impossible as recently as 10 years ago. These engines, called BlueTec by Mercedes, meet the tough Euro 6 emission control requirements. Making them about five to six years ahead of Australian regulations. Well done, Mercedes. Petrol powerplants with six and eight cylinders are scheduled to arrive as soon as the Australian importer can get hold of stock from the American factory. Also in the pipeline is a red-hot AMG model, we were fortunate enough to test one in the USA earlier this year - and can’t wait to see it downunder...
Primary safety is provided by a host of electronic systems, many of them pioneered by Mercedes in the topline S-Class models, as well as daytime running lights (DRLs). Secondary safety sees the fitment of no fewer than nine airbags (including side units front and rear and a driver’s knee bag).
Over a two-day period we sampled both new turbo-diesels - the ML 250 and ML 350 - on an extended drive program set by Mercedes-Benz out of Melbourne, along the famed Great Ocean Road and in the hills behind the coast. Even the 2.1-litre engine is likely to provide enough performance for the average owner, with strong torque, and good response from both the engine and transmission. The 3.0 is there for those who like a bit of sport from their diesels. The vehicles are smooth and quiet to ride in, though we did find the ride on vehicle fitted with the 19-inch wheels and 45-series tyres a little on the jiggly side on broken bitumen roads.
The front seats are large and support well and there’s a feeling of quality and refinement in the interior that will impress all who travel within it. The thick windscreen pillars - to make the M-Class safer during a crash - blocked our view on some bends, particularly when the roads were dropping downhill and sweeping to the right. Steering is by a new electrically assisted system (part of the fuel reduction package) provides good feel and has the added advantage that the big SUV can parallel park itself should the driver so desire. Road grip is well above that likely to be demanded by the typical owner, thus providing huge levels of safety.
The complete 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class range is:
ML 250 BlueTEC 2.2-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon
ML 250 BlueTEC Exclusive 2.2-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon
ML 350 BlueTEC 3.0-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon
ML 350 BlueEFFICIENCY 3.5-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon
ML 500 4.7-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon
ML63 AMG 5.5-litre Biturbo petrol five-door wagon
Buyers with a bit over $85,000 to spare can have a prestigious Mercedes-Benz on their driveway. One that’s built to a high standard - after a somewhat shaky start in the quality field in the late 1990s - and enjoy a space, comfort and safety.
|ML500 (4x4)||4.7L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$41,360 – 48,620||2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2012 ML500 (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|ML63 AMG (4x4)||5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$49,888 – 82,988||2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2012 ML63 AMG (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|ML350 B.E. (4x4)||3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$36,300 – 43,230||2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2012 ML350 B.E. (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|ML300 CDI (4x4)||3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$28,600 – 34,430||2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2012 ML300 CDI (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
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