2011 M-Class New Car Test Drive
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a luxury mid-size SUV that's set up well for families and for client-carrying duty. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class includes a hybrid version, making it the only SUV or crossover on the market to offer the choice of conventional gasoline, gasoline-electric, or diesel power. The entire M-Class was redesigned for 2009. The ML450 Hybrid model joins the M-Class for 2010.
The 2010 M-Class includes the ML350, ML350 BlueTEC, ML450 Hybrid, ML550, and ML63 AMG. 4MATIC all-wheel drive is available on the ML350 and ML450 Hybrid.
The M-Class isn't so large that it's cumbersome or hard to park, but it comfortably seats five and carries plenty of stuff. As daily transportation, it doesn't feel like a truck, and it won't beat its driver or passengers up. Yet it has the potential for some fairly serious off-highway adventuring. Properly equipped, an ML can tow up to 7,200 pounds. The M-Class is more than powerful enough in any of its variations. And it offers the safety equipment, luxury accoutrements, style and smooth finish expected of a Mercedes-Benz.
The ML450 Hybrid features a new two-mode gasoline/electric powertrain that brings EPA City/Highway ratings of 21/24 mpg, the former better than any M-Class and the latter a match for the ML350 BlueTEC diesel. Where the diesel wins is on purchase price and towing capacity. Either may qualify for a tax credit. Either reaches 60 mph in about the same eight seconds as an ML350. The ML450 is offered only as a three- or five-year lease.
The ML350 offers a choice of rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The two-wheel-drive model is lighter, more fuel efficient, offers a lower price, the four-wheel-drive model is better for inclement weather acceleration or slippery launch ramps. Power mongers have a choice of two V8 engines, the ML550 that reaches the 0-60 benchmark in less than six seconds or the ML63 AMG's hand-made 6.2-liter that manages the sprint in less than five seconds. The AMG comes with more standard features than the ML550, and its base price is $34,000 higher.
Since it first appeared for 1998, the M-Class has helped make luxury SUVs a familiar part of the automotive landscape. The second and current generation, which arrived for 2006, is larger inside and out than the original, and also aerodynamically slipperier. M-Class offers five-passenger seating. The GL-Class offers seven-adult-seat accommodations.
The M-Class is built using car-like unibody construction with isolated front and rear subframes, a technique that emphasizes rigidity, decreased vibration and lowers weight. A double-wishbone front suspension and four-link independent rear suspension emphasize sedan-style dynamics. Yet with more than eight inches of ground clearance and electronic traction aids the M can venture further down the beaten path than most owners know or dare to. Mercedes owners will fell at home in an M-Class and appreciate the cache and engineering the Mercedes brand will find plenty to like here. Shoppers may also consider the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5, Audi Q5 and Q7, Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover LR4, and Lexus GX460.
The ML350 and ML350 4MATIC are powered by a 3.5-liter V6, generating 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class includes six models.
The ML350 ($45,700) and ML350 4MATIC ($48,200) are powered by a 3.5-liter V6, generating 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. They come with cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, automatic headlights, eight-way power seats, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, Tele-Aid emergency communication, COMAND control interface, an eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer, and 19-inch wheels with 255/50R19 all-season tires.
The ML350 BlueTEC ($49,700) is equipped similarly but powered by a 210-hp 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 with a full 400 pound-feet of torque available from 1600 rpm.
The ML450 Hybrid ($549 for 60 months or $659 for 36 months) uses a modified Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6, 275-hp gasoline engine and 288-volt nickel-metal battery pack powered electric motors for a combined system output of 335 hp and 381 lb-ft of torque.
The ML550 ($56,750) gets a 382-hp, 391 lb-ft 5.5-liter V8, more aggressive front end, moonroof.
Options include the Premium 1 package ($3,950) with a navigation system with voice-control, a rearview camera, HD Radio, Sirius Satellite Radio with Real-Time Traffic, iPod/MP3 media interface cable, power liftgate, auto-dimming inside mirror, power folding outside mirrors, memory for driver's seat and mirrors, power adjustable steering column, and a 115v power outlet. Premium 2 ($5,950) combines all of the above with harman/kardon Logic7 surround-sound with 12 speakers and Keyless Go.
The leather package ($1,750) includes burl walnut wood trim and ambient interior lighting. Heated seats and steering wheel, illuminated door sills, park sensors, trailer hitch, and a wood and leather are all available. A Lighting Package ($970) adds bi-Xenon headlamps that shine around curves, a headlamp washing system, and fog lamps. Rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,880) is also available. Three-zone climate control ($780) and 20-inch AMG wheels ($770) are available for the ML550, and an Appearance package ($970) is offered for gasoline ML350s.
The ML63 AMG ($91,050) features a 6.2-liter V8 that generates 503 hp, along with an AMG SpeedShift transmission, AMG suspension, high-performance P295/40ZR20 tires on 20-inch wheels, larger brakes, AMG instruments, premium leather upholstery, and the contents of the Premium 1 and 2 Packages. Options are fewer, and include the trailer hitch, illuminated door sills, 21-inch wheels ($1580), rear-seat entertainment, and heated rear seats.
Safety features on all models includes two-stage front airbags for the driver and front passenger, side-impact airbags front and rear torso protection, and curtain-style head protection airbags. A rollover sensor can activate both the seat-belt tensioners and curtain airbags if the vehicle senses an imminent rollover, and Pre-Safe automatically tightens the front seat belts and moves the front passenger seat to a position that can provide better protection. Side windows close to provide better support for the curtain air bags. If the system senses an impending rollover, the sunroof also closes. An Electronic Stability Program comes standard along with advanced anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. A tire pressure warning system is also standard.
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