First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

More of Everything, Except the Bad Stuff

Allyson HarwoodJun 13, 2011
As you can see from the images of the new M-Class, the exterior design is not a radical departure. It only takes a glance to know that this is Mercedes' SUV, but there is something...different about its attitude. The lines are crisper, the overall look more muscular. With the third-generation M-Class, Mercedes has built on what buyers already liked about the sport/utility, and worked to make it better.
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When the ML goes on sale in September it will be offered with two V-6 engines: the 3.5-liter gas or the 3.0-liter turbodiesel. Both achieve something that seemed impossible five to 10 years ago: They put out more power than before, and are more fuel-efficient. The gas engine has 302 horsepower, up 34, and 273 pound-feet, up 15. Its fuel economy is an estimated 17 city/22 highway, and both numbers are up by 2 mpg. It uses direct injection and new piezo injectors with a 2900 psi pressure.
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The BlueTec turbodiesel six has been reworked, now putting out 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, increases of 30 and 55, respectively, while fuel economy improves by 2 city mpg to an estimated 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway. The fuel economy improvements in the diesel can be attributed to a few key factors, including weight loss, and the use of AMG's twin-wire-arc spraying, a technology that reduces friction.
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Both engines are now backed by a seven-speed automatic. Mercedes wouldn't comment on whether V-8 options would be available, but at one of the displays at the M-Class unveiling, there was a 408-horsepower, 4.6-liter direct injection twin-turbo V-8, much like the one in the S-Class. We also expect a hybrid to join the lineup.
One of the designers' goals was to improve on-road driving dynamics while not sacrificing off-road capability. One new feature -- which isn't coming to the U.S. right away -- is a very cool On & Off-road Package, which has at its core multiple settings. This is much like the systems in the LR4 and Grand Cherokee: Drivers control the dial and can choose between six settings: automatic, off-road 1 (light terrain) and 2 (tougher terrain), winter, sport, and trailer.
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There's still debate about whether this system will come to the U.S. at all. One thing we do know will come is the Active Curve System, which uses active anti-roll bars said to improve comfort when driving in a straight line, and prioritize better handling when cornering. It will initially be offered as a special order feature. The M-Class also has most -- if not all -- of the safety features from the S-Class, including Lane Keeping Assist; Blind Spot Assist; Distronic Plus; and front, side, curtain, and knee airbags. In addition to plenty of active and passive safety equipment, the cabin also gets a significant redesign, with new colors, new wood, metal, and brushed aluminum details, and seats that are stylish and comfortable. There's a matte wood choice, as well as piano black details and burl wood, and the interiors we saw used amber accent lighting along the dash.
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We should have the chance to get behind the wheel of the new M-Class within the next several weeks. For now, the exterior styling changes are on the conservative side, and underneath that mostly familiar skin hides technology that looks promising.
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2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Base price $50,000-$52,000 (est)
Price as tested N/A
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engines 3.5L/302-hp/273-lb-ft 24-valve DOHC V-6, 3.0L/240-hp/455-lb-ft turbocharged 24-valve DOHC V-6
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight 4795 lb (est)
Wheelbase 114.8 in (est)
Length x width x height 189.1 x 75.8 x 69.2 in (est)
0-60 mph 7.4-7.7 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17-20/22-25 mpg
On sale in U.S. September 2011

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2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class

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MSRP: $48,300
Mileage: 18 / 24
Engine: 3.5L V6
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