Chocks away. A giant hangar at an old wartime airfield in Wiltshire was the location for the introduction of the new M-Class
Seeing a long line of Mercedes’ where Spitfires were once housed was a somewhat ironic timewarp. The way the hangar dwarfed the MLs added emphasis to the changes made to the car. For the first time in five years it has undergone a revamp that tones down its visual bulk, makes it look a bit less bling and adds a raft of new equipment. It is a decade since the ML first went on sale, the first Mercedes car to be built outside Germany. It is made in Alabama, southern USA. The diesel engine line-up is unchanged in the new ML, with three on offer. The two V6s, the 280 CDI and 320 CDI, are both three-litre units with different power outputs (190 and 224bhp) and will jointly account for 90 per cent of sales. The 420 CDI is a four-litre V8. Minor revisions to the engine management system have slightly improved economy, and trimmed CO2 output.
Styling changes include a new radiator grille, headlamps and bumpers, larger door mirrors and dark-tinted rear lights. Inside there are better seats and upgraded trim, a new steering wheel with paddle shifts for the gearbox, and updated connectivity. The front seats are heated, and have four-way electric lumbar support. The standard kit list now includes Parktronic front and rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate, automatic dimming exterior and rear-view mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth and aux-in connectivity. The ML still can’t disguise its height and bulk when you drive it fast on a winding cross-country route, but it is a civilised car of its type with an absorbent ride and good refinement.
The redesigned seats are a worthwhile improvement, and feel more comfortable and supportive than in the previous off-roader. Mercedes laid on a modest off-road course to showcase the new car’s talent over rough ground. In reality, very few owners ever subject a car like the ML to coarse terrain, but off-road credibility is still an essential part of its appeal. The car’s permanent all-wheel-drive and 4ETS electronic traction control system work very well, and a handling course laid out on the airfield’s ancient runway confirmed its stability in a sudden lanechange situation and under emergency braking – when the hazard warning lights automatically activate. Electronic aids fitted as standard include Downhill Speed Regulation, Hill Start Assist and off-road Anti lock Braking System.
Four out of five current ML buyers are male, average age 50. Mercedes hope that the revamped model will woo a few more younger buyers. A slight price rise is compensated by an equipment boost. The best-selling SE version is £250 dearer than the old model, but has £2,100-worth of extra kit fitted as standard.
ON SALE: NOW RANGE STARTS AT: £39,735 FOR ML 280 CDI SE
- Price: £39,735
- Engine: 2987cc, V6, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 7-speed automatic
- Max Power: 190bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 325lb ft at 1,400-2,800rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 3,500kg
- Combined Consumption: 30.1mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 246g/km (G)
- 0-62mph: 9.8secs
- Max speed: 127mph
- Insurance Group: 17