• Diesel gets good mileage
  • Roomy but not huge
  • Muscular performance (ML63)
  • Some key items cost extra
  • Nice, but dull, to drive
  • No third row available

By Automobile Magazine

What's New for M-Class in 2014

The ML sees no major changes for 2014. The sport styling package, formerly offered only on the ML550, can now be had on the ML350...
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Vehicle Summary

The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the brand's mainstay SUV. The M-Class was originally conceived with the U.S. market in mind, and it was the first Mercedes built at the company's then-new factory in Alabama. The M-Class is now in its third generation, and it's still built in Alabama largely to the same formula. The execution, however, is much improved, and the model range has expanded to include a diesel, a V-8, and an AMG version, along with the six-cylinder standard model.

Overview

The base M-Class is the ML350 with rear-wheel drive. It's powered by a smooth and capable 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. 4Matic (four-wheel drive) is optional. The ML350 is all the M-Class that most buyers will need -- optioned up to their personal tastes, of course. Personally, we'd start with leather, as MB-Tex (vinyl, really) is standard.

Next up is the ML350 BlueTec diesel. 4Matic is standard here, as it is in all M-Class models save the ML350. The BlueTec 3.0-liter V-6 is rated at 240 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. This is a very well-mannered diesel, quiet and fairly smooth. It even feels peppy, unless you put your foot all the way into it. The diesel's advantage, of course, is fuel economy. The BlueTec gets 20/28 mpg (city/highway) versus 17/22 mpg for the gasoline ML350 4Matic.

If performance is a priority, then you'll be more interested in one of the eight-cylinder M-Class models. The ML550's 4.7-liter twin turbocharged V-8 spins out 402 hp and 433 lb-ft of torque. That's a big jump over the six-cylinder models, and it chops the 0-to-60-mph time by more than two seconds, to 5.3 seconds. Even though the ML550 is quick, however, it's really not sporty. The steering is very light and easy, and the M-Class is more about comfort and isolation than anything having to do with driver involvement. The one version that at least makes a claim to the latter is the ML63 AMG. It starts, of course, with more power, which comes from AMG's 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8. That characterful beast makes 516 hp and 518 lb-ft, chopping the 0-to-60-mph time by another half second, to 4.8 seconds. An available performance package ($6550) ups the output still further, to 550 hp and 560 lb-ft, and comes with a higher top speed of 174 mph. The AMG is also loaded up with standard equipment, including special performance gear such as a recalibrated suspension (with sport and comfort modes), twenty-inch wheels, and high-performance tires.

Key Competitors

  • Acura MDX
  • Audi Q7
  • BMW X5
  • Land Rover Range Rover Sport

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