First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
More of Everything, Except the Bad Stuff
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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|