Mercedes has unveiled its third-generation M-Class SUV. While the company has opted for gentle evolution where the latest M’s appearance is concerned, there are several technical improvements aimed in particular at improving economy and emissions. Fuel consumption is reduced by an average of 25 per cent across the range.
The main news is the introduction of the ML 250 BlueTEC 4MATIC. This features the first four-cylinder diesel engine to be fitted to an M-Class, a turbocharged 2.15-litre power unit that produces the same 204 horsepower and 500 Newton metres of torque as the 3-litre six-cylinder diesel in the ML 300 CDI model in the out-going range – but with a fuel saving of a claimed 28 per cent, and CO2 emissions in official tests of 158 g/km as opposed to 224. Other large and heavy Mercedes models are already being offered with the 250 CDI engine, including the S-Class and the sporty CLS.
As well as the four-cylinder diesel, the new M is also being offered with two larger V6s, one diesel and one petrol; the diesel is a 3-litre, badged 350, which produces 258 horsepower and 620 Newton metres, while the petrol, which has a capacity of 3.5 litres, provides 306 horsepower and 370 Newton metres. Fuel savings, compared with the predecessor models, in official tests are 24 per cent for the diesel and 25 per cent for the petrol.
Among the other measures aiding efficiency are the adoption of Mercedes’ 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission, a start/stop system, the use of lightweight materials and construction methods – which also help crash safety - and an exceptional drag coefficient for an SUV of 0.32.
All models in the initial third-generation M-Class line-up have four-wheel drive, a contrast with the current approach taken by most other manufacturers who are offering SUVs with two-wheel drive as a fuel-saving measure – although Mercedes doesn’t rule out the possibility of producing two-wheel drive M-Classes in future. The transmission of the new car is controlled via rotary controls that bear more than a passing resemblance to Land Rover’s Terrain Response System and Jaguar’s rotary gear selector.
Another area that has received a lot of attention is the design of the interior, which takes a further step away from the rather utilitarian style of the first-generation M-Class, and towards the plusher style of Mercedes’ luxury saloons. Customers who order the COMAND Online system will enjoy in-car Internet access for the first time; full access is available when stationary, while a range of tailored Mercedes apps can be used on the move.
Mercedes has sold 1.2 million M-Class cars since the first-generation model was launched in 1997, and claims the highest loyalty rate in the premium-SUV market.