Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz M Class in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Good performance on all surfaces
  • Quality finish
  • Good fuel economy

Cons

  • Solid ride
  • No manual gearbox in latest generation
  • Rear legroom isn’t great
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model Review

Brought into production as a replacement for the G-Class, the original M-Class was introduced to the market in 1997 and was a more modern approach to the mid-size SUV market. It brought a new dimension to the Mercedes range and was the first ‘modern’ Mercedes SUV – i.e. SUVs now under the ‘GL’ umbrella.

By today’s design standards, the first M-Class now looks quite dated but since the second model, they have looked rather smart but not necessarily ground-breaking.

With the second generation came a sharper finish, improved technology and more efficient engines, while also bringing a hybrid model to the market after the Mk II was facelifted in the middle of its life cycle.

 In the guise Mk III, the M-Class was modernised further and also lengthened to offer more interior passenger space. But in 2015 the M-Class name was rescinded and replaced by the GLE to align with the new Mercedes SUV nomenclature for the mid-generation update in 2015.

Latest Model

The third generation of the M-Class – or ML as it was more commonly known – was released in 2012 with more efficient and environmentally friendly engines as well as a more streamlined design to improve fuel usage.

More safety systems were also added to help the driver avoid incidents and reduce the likelihood of a low speed accident, as well as the addition of active bonnet to protect pedestrians in the event of a crash.

It also gained the BlueTec technology for the diesel models, which helps reduce harmful emissions with the help of AdBlue.

But with the change to the GLE, there is currently no ‘new’ M-Class on the market, so you will find models from 2015 as the last M-Class models available.

 

Value for money

As the M-Class was last available in 2015, you will be able to find some good quality used models for much less than the original starting price of £48,190.Although it may not be as up to date as the new GLE, there isn’t much real difference between the two and despite a few minor cosmetic tweaks, they look pretty much the same.

Although it may not be as up to date as the new GLE, there isn’t much real difference between the two and despite a few minor cosmetic tweaks, they look pretty much the same.

With only extra safety technology and marginally improved off-roading capabilities, you may find that the final M-Class model is in reality as good as a GLE.

You can get a top-end AMG Line model for less than £40,000, and one such example is a 2014 version that has only 18,700 miles on the clock and is available for £35,000.

In AMG Line trim, this ML-350 comes with cruise control, park assist camera with parking sensors, climate control, panoramic glass sun roof, climate control, satellite navigation, full infotainment system and heated front seats – to name but a few of their accessories. It shows there’s plenty of good quality options – even in a two-year-old car – and if the new GLE models are too expensive for you at £51,290, then it could be worth giving use ML models a look over.

 

Looks and image

To be fair to the M-Class it isn’t bad to look at – it’s been designed very well and looks quite smart – but it isn’t what you’d call ground-breaking either and that may not be appealing to the SUV/crossover demographic like other models might be.

To be fair to it, the M-Class is probably the best proportioned Mercedes SUV, with the smaller GLC looking a bit squashed while the top-end GLS looking quite ungainly and a bit too big for its boots. The M-Class and subsequent GLE both look sharp, well-proportioned and – with slightly larger alloys than standard – well-settled on its chassis.

Despite being quite a large car, the M-Class handles very well indeed and is well-balanced through the corners thanks to a good suspension setup. The optional Airmatic air suspension with adaptive damping systems improve the ride and control even further, as they combine to reduce body roll and help you keep control.

The standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system is great to help with grip in all conditions, and it helps particularly well off-road as it cleverly distributes the torque around the chassis for optimal traction. You get the seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox and that clicks nicely along without too much sluggishness.

With the well-engineered standard suspension, increased dimensions and adaptable ride control, final generation ML models are very comfortable indeed – although rear legroom isn’t the best in its field.

The refinement and overall finish of the model however is very good and does actually outstrip many of the Mercedes fleet in terms of overall comfort. Wind and road noise is well supressed also and it cruises well on long drives, but at slower speeds the suspension can suffer and be very harsh, which means through town it can feel a bit crashy.

Space and practicality

Something that you won’t be lacking is space and only the Range Rover Sport can boast a larger boot space than the ML. The 690-litre rear load space is great for families as you can pack plenty in, and if you need to lower the rear seats – which fold flat – then you get over 2,000 litres of space and that can’t be ignored.

There are plenty of extra spaces and cubby holes for extra pockets of storage around the cabin. Also passenger-wise, you can easily accommodate five adults in the gargantuan interior space and it proves how well the ML is packaged.

It doesn’t have an official safety rating from Euro NCAP, but Mercedes in the last couple of decades have built up a superb reputation for safety and that continues in the M-Class. With multiple standard and optional pieces of safety equipment and the very sturdy and secure body, the ML will be an incredibly safe choice for you to choose.

Fitted with pre-safe systems that prepare occupants for an impact, ABS, hill start assist, traction control and skid control, you can be assured by the high level of safety on offer in the ML.

 

Engines

In the final generation, Mercedes fitted the ML with two BlueTec diesel units for the standard model, while the ML63 AMG model came with a 5.5-litre V8 petrol that produced a whopping 525bhp – but is a bit ridiculous to buy and run. The ML250 model came with a 204bhp, 2.2-litre diesel unit, while the more powerful ML350 came with a 3.0-litre, 258bhp V6. Both engines are paired with a seven-speed semi-automatic gearbox with Eco start/stop and 4Matic all-wheel drive.

 

Running costs

Even with its pretty extensive size, the ML does well for fuel economy as the ML250 can return 48mpg and emits 163g/km CO2 – which for an SUV isn’t too bad. The more powerful ML350 emits more at 189g/km CO2 and has a higher fuel usage also at 39mpg.

Under the new road tax laws, you will have to pay £450 for road tax as all models new were worth more than £40,000. Insurance groupings are between 40 and 41 for ML250 models and group 45 for the ML350.

Things to look out for

Despite their good reputation, Mercedes has a surprisingly poor reliability history and the ML was no exception in that. Even more worryingly the majority of those recalls and incidents came in the last decade, including accelerator pedals being impeded, tailgates lifting inadvertently and the transmission locking at speed.

These were all serious issues, but ones that could be easily rectified and were sorted more likely than not. It is worth checking the car’s history every time just in case.

Rivals

As modern rivals are starting to leave the ML behind, only contemporaries will be a likely rival for the final M-Class, including the BMW X5, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport and the previous generation Audi Q7. Other models that are close include the Volvo XC90 and the Lexus RX.

Trims Explained

In its final guise, the M-Class only came with two trim levels for the normal model – SE Executive and AMG Line – which may leave you with limited choices. But even from SE Executive spec the ML came with plenty of good accessories for the driver.

SE Executive

With the SE Executive you get active park assist with Parktronic system, intelligent headlight system, electrically-folding mirrors, leather interior trim, privacy glass, electric windows, Comand Online infotainment system, Thermatic automatic climate control, split folding rear seats, electrically-adjustable front seats and 19-inch five-spoke alloys.

As well as four-wheel drive, a four-spoke multi-function steering wheel and a raft of safety features, SE Executive does offer plenty of useful accessories.

AMG Line

In the AMG Line spec, ML models didn’t come with much extra but it got an Easy-Pack powered tailgate, Direct Steering system, AMG body styling, 20-inch AMG alloys, Sport front seats, sports multi-function steering wheel and leather door panels.

You also get sports brakes and sport pedals with this trim line for improved performance.

Summary

  1. If you like the model, it is now the GLE Class
  2. Limited trim levels
  3. Rivals are more up to date
  4. Had some reliability issues
  5. Emissions are not up to modern standards
  6. Good on and off-roading
  7. High running costs
  8. Lots of space compared to rivals
  9. Affordable used models
  10. Lots of safety equipment

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