Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350

Posted on 22. Apr, 2012 by in Auto News

While Lexus usually gets credit for pioneering the car-like luxury SUV, the 1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class actually beat the RX on the market by a yearUnlike the car-based RX, the original ML was too much a truck and not enough a quality vehicle. Significant changes were made to the 2006, and also in this model year. In the third iteration, the 'Bama built Benz is now what it should have been from the beginning?

The 1998 ML320 was so clear-styled fascia were not even raised-body color that several Korean knock-offs looked more. In 2006, the exterior was a big improvement, suitable with the sophistication and detail to a $ 40,000 + vehicle. It was also much more attractive. The 2012-Shell selects the sophistication up another notch, but it is not as nice. Mercedes-Benz's current design language and less full of liquid, and 2012, the chunkier front fenders throw off the proportions. Here is a sleek snout to the competitors who have a motor package before the axle. But does it matter? The same criticism applies to all Mercedes-Benz 2008 + redesign, but in any case, the public reaction was very positive.

The 2012 ML inside do not seem much like an upgrade until you jump on him in a 2011th Then the new interior will seem much firmer, refined and simply beautiful, even with MB-Tex (ie vinyl) on the seats. It does not hurt that many people confuse MB-Tex for standard-grade leather, it fails to crack. The second generation of the Interior itself was a huge improvement over the original downright cheesy, so that the ML has come a long way in this area.

The 2012, the exterior dimensions are almost identical to the 2011, while the interior dimensions are actually solid, with an inch less headroom inch-and-a-half less shoulder room, and three-and-a-half inches in total less legroom. The original M-Class was about as spacious as the new (and even offered a child-sized third row as an option), although it is less than eight inches long and three inches narrower. Why the 2012 is so much less space efficient? Maybe to improve the safety and pour the vehicle with the bank-vault solidity people expect from a Mercedes (but was missing from the original ML). The availability of GL for those who want more space could also play a role.

But the official specs can deceive. From the driver's seat, the 2012 actually seems like a far larger, more spacious vehicle. Credit a more distant windshield, a massive instrument panel, and other, more subtle tweaks to the interior design. Rear seat room is easy enough for adults. One thing has not changed: Mercedes seats remain stronger than the luxury car norm.

For some reason, Mercedes had the odd idea that people (was "crossover" is not in the dictionary) as their first modern SUV SUV used. So they gave body-on-frame construction and a standard two-speed transfer case. BoF went away, and the low range gearbox was optional with the 2006 redesign, disappearing in the United States for the year 2012. The 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine has direct injection this year for a power bump from 268 to 302 hp. Good thing as empty weight is 250 pounds. With a powerful 4753 The off-road-ready original weighed a quarter-ton less. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic transmission, and (unlike the smaller GLK) all-wheel drive is standard.

Given the typical mission midsize SUVs, the V6 feels much more powerful, and also sounds good at high speeds. Despite the increasing power and weight, EPA ratings are actually a little over 16 city / 21 highway to 17/22. The 215-hp 1998 it was only 15/20. Nevertheless, these incremental improvements in fuel economy. For better numbers, get the 240-hp (455 lb-ft, vs. 273) Diesel (what 20/27 mpg is) or wait for a more efficient gas engine.

Perhaps because of its more uniform weight distribution and stiffer damping, the ML feels balanced and poised as a Lexus while gliding down the road about as smoothly and quietly. Some German cars continued to pound on the road imperfections. Also shod with low-profile 19-inch rubber is not one of them. But like most other Mercedes, the ML is no mistaking for a driver's car. Its ultra-light controller communicates nothing. A $ 5,150 Dynamic Handling package (not on the tested vehicle) includes rel adjustable air suspension, adaptive dampers and active stabilizers. This undoubtedly reduce body roll and maybe even give the ML a sportier feel. But they also tend to be problem areas in Mercedes equipped (based on the responses to the True Delta Car Reliability Survey) and a ML with them are not the children in the school or home goods much faster from the mall.

Created the Mercedes M-Class, especially for the American market, and you know what happened, the German cars, if they are developed with the Americans in the eye. But at least the SUV less build was reflected in a lower price. The all-wheel-drive 1998 ML320 undercut the $ 34,545 base sticker that a rear-wheel drive E320 wagon of $ 12,500. Very strange when you consider that Detroit was on SUVs addicted because they were for much higher prices than station wagons could be sold. Over the years, M-Class prices have risen faster than prices, the E-Class ML350 now starts at $ 49,865. This seems justified because materials and workmanship are now about equal between the two lines. The SUV still costs about $ 7,500 less than the car. Add $ 3,200 for a premium package nav, a reversing camera, auto-dimming mirrors, and memory for the driver includes. A Lexus is about $ 7,500 less, a BMW X5 is about the same (to True Delta car price comparison tool based).

For Mercedes-Benz, seems the third time be the charm. The 2012 redesign removed the M-Class's subpar by their origin. Also on the already much improved second-generation model in comparison sees the new and feels substantial and sophisticated. Now optimized for on-road driving, the ML outhandles the Lexus RX, while driving good like this. Exciting? AMG without power under the hood, not in the slightest. But perfectly pleasant and very much what buyers are looking for in this segment. The BMW X5 and Infiniti FX are more fun to drive. The ML outsells both together.

Eric Wheeler at Mercedes-Benz of Novi (MI) provided the vehicle. He can be reached at 248-426-9600.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.