Mercedes-Benz ML-Class | First Drive Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services

2 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes-Benz ML-Class | First Drive Car Reviews | NRMA Motoring & Services
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class

Mercedes-Benz ML Class First Drive

FIRST THOUGHTS . Mercedes-Benz’s BlueEfficiency strategy sees two new state of the art engines under the bonnet of their popular ML SUV.

Combining with a range of other measures like reducing the drag co-efficient and employing weight saving measures to the driveline, the new ML 250 BlueTEC returns just 6.4L/100kms – an improvement of 30% over the old model. We drove the new diesel versions, with the AMG 55 and petrol variants due later in the year.

Externally this third generation ML is all new, with no carry over panels from the previous generation. The new model is slipperier through the air after extensive wind tunnel modelling that has seen a reduction in the drag co-efficient down to 0.32CD. Slowly the bricks on wheels are becoming more lithe through the air.

With Mercedes#39; tristar emblem prominent in the newly designed grille and the new daytime running lights, the front on the new ML has a purposeful stance. Through the flanks there are elements of the previous generation on show, like the classic C pillar design, but overall the new range has a thoroughly modern look.

Inside, the interior has been updated with finishes and treatments normally reserved for the luxury saloons in the MB stable, and the new design has increased cabin dimensions and made the ML roomier and more spacious. When you get in behind the wheel, the new contoured dashboard looks more integrated and less ‘slabby#39; than the old models. The leather steering wheel frames two large, easy to read dials for speed and engine revs.

To the left of the driver sits a high mounted display screen for navigation, audio and telephone displays and below, the familiar Mercedes Benz rotary dials for air-conditioning and heating are prominent.

The BlueTEC diesel engines are probably the least tangible of the new features for the third generation ML, but they provide the biggest changes, from a fuel and emissions perspective. Replacing the 3.0-litre, V6 diesel in the ML250 is a smaller 2.1-litre, 4-cylinder unit that debuted in the sedan range last year.

Developing 150kW@4200rpm and 500Nm of engine torque between 1600 and 1800rpm, the BlueTEC engine has the same outputs as its predecessor, but fuel consumption has been reduced significantly from 9.2L/100kms down to 6.4L/100kms. Similarly, emissions are reduced from 243g CO2/km down to 168g CO2/km and the new engines are Euro 6 emission compliant.

The other Blue TEC diesel in the ML350 is the same 3.0-litre, V6 but has undergone a transformation to make it more powerful and frugal as well. Power has increased from 170kW to 190kW and torque increased from 540Nm to 620Nm between 1600 and 2400rpm. Combined fuel consumption has dropped from 9.5L/100km down to 7.3L/100km, a figure lower than the less powerful previous gen ML300 CDi.

Emissions have improved for the revised engine and are now 192gCO2/km. Like the 4-cylinder the new engine is Euro 6 compliant.

Prices for the new range start at $81,400 for the ML250 BlueTEC, and the ML350 BlueTEC is $99,900. Both come to the market cheaper than the outgoing models, and the ML250 is $9000 cheaper than rival Audi#39;s Q7 3.0TDI and nearly $11,000 cheaper than BMW#39;s X5 xDrive 3.0D.

Standard features for the ML 250 include 19in alloy wheels, Mercedes#39; COMAND multimedia system incorporating Satellite navigation, a single disc CD player, Bluetooth and AM/FM audio, and for the first time in an ML class, internet access. Included is a reversing camera, nine airbags including a driver#39;s knee airbag and Mercedes#39; Presafe accident avoidance system.

The ML350 gains ‘real leather#39; upholstery, 20in alloy wheels, heated front seats with driver#39;s memory, a mirror package that includes a self-dimming function, and electric folding seats.

Mercedes-Benz ML-Class

The ML 250 can be optioned up with an ‘Exclusive Package#39; for an additional $10,900. Features include larger 21in AMG alloy wheels, Airmatic suspension and AMG body enhancements, heated front seats, privacy glass, and a mirror package. If you like, you can trawl through the extensive options list and choose from a multitude of trim combinations, wheel packages and high end audio packages.

You can#39;t help feeling that the new ML is one big battleship with its high, commanding seating position and expansive front glass giving you a perfect view of the surrounding traffic. On paper the diminutive 2.1-litre diesel engine#39;s size would seem at odds which such an imposing SUV, but 500Nm of engine torque from just above idle soon dispels any doubts over the ML#39;s performance. Matched to a superb 7-speed automatic transmission the baby of the range performed sweetly as we drove on the freeway towards Geelong with plenty left in reserve for overtaking.

When needed, the 4-cylinder engine revved to its 4200rpm limit without becoming noisy or intrusive inside the cabin. I was left wondering how much better the larger engined ML350 could be given the 250#39;s impressive display.

During a drive of the ML350 up through the Otway Ranges the extra torque was useful, and the 350ML accelerated from corner to corner with much more purpose, underscoring its 1.6-second 0-100km advantage over its little brother.

The chassis has been completely redesigned and the new range handles the twisty stuff more adeptly than the old model, which felt more at home in the suburbs than out on the open road. The new range uses a system named Active Curve System, which the ML electronics control to limit the amount of body roll when driving. It effectively decouples and then recouples the stabiliser bars depending on road conditions.

Driving straight ahead, the system is decoupled providing improved ride comfort, and when cornering the system progressively recouples to reduce body roll and improve handling. And unlike other systems, the Active Curve System is fully automated so the driver doesn#39;t have to adjust or choose a specific drive mode.

Verdict

The new engines offer compact SUV levels of fuel consumption – always one of the Achilles heels of larger premium SUVs. More contemporary styling, better chassis dynamics and sharper pricing make the new ML diesel range a more appealing option than ever before.

Mercedes-Benz ML-Class
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class
Mercedes-Benz ML-Class

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