2012 Mercedes-Benz ML Road Test Review

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Gliding along the rutted gravel road deep in the mountains of Montana, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 demonstrates a grace totally at odds with the environment. Later streaking along the highway, celebrating the rather high speed limits the state offers, it's as if the ML polishes the road before it passes over it, so smooth and quiet is our progress.

In this, the third generation of Mercedes' first mainstream SUV, they've gotten the formula absolutely correct. Yes, the first two were also nice. However, this one takes all the lessons learned from the previous two, throws out everything that could have worked better, improves on everything that worked well and is now a well honed tool for transportation and recreation.

Introduced in 1997, Mercedes claims the ML was the first luxury SUV, and while Land Rover might take issue with said statement, the fact is that first ML was quite an impressive (if somewhat unreliable) piece. In 2005, the sequel was introduced, moving away from the body on frame design and incorporating a unit body. The GEN2 ML became more spacious, more luxurious, and a better handling automobile.

This new GEN3 ML advances the case even farther by infusing it with distinct technological advances in both telematics and chassis control. Additionally, the reworked interior has improved ergonomics, making the ML both more user friendly and more pleasant to operate.

The new interior design takes the excellence expected of a Mercedes-Benz to a new plane. The fit, finish and juxtaposition of the componentry would signal luxury, even if the steering wheel were not graced with a three-pointed star. Naturally, wood and aluminum trim abound. The monitor for the COMAND system has been moved higher so it can be referred to with minimal eye movement away from the road. Bluetooth audio streaming and phone pairing are standard, as is a 10-gig music storage hard drive and an SD card slot, as well as the more traditional methods of aural entertainment.

Anyone who's ever tried to signal for a right turn in a Mercedes and inadvertently activated the cruise control will immediately appreciate the rearranging of the control stalks on the left side of the steering wheel. The cruise control stalk is now placed beneath the turn signal. Happily, our friends at MBZ tell us this change will proliferate across the entire product line.

All of that's minor compared to the ML's lane keeping capabilities though.

The new ML, when sensing an inadvertent departure from your prescribed lane of travel, will nudge itself back across the line-unless you activate the turn signal to let it know you really intend to change lanes. Additionally, its blind spot monitoring system works in conjunction with the lane keeping system to prevent you from inadvertently changing lanes when a car is in your blind spot. After the system both visually and audibly warns you of the presence of the neighbouring vehicle, the ML will similarly nudge you back into your lane of travel.

This, in conjunction with the active cruise control feature brings us one step closer to autonomous automobiles. Particularly when you consider the ML is capable of applying full braking if it senses an imminent collision. Further, the new electrically-assisted power steering system fitted to the ML gives it the ability to park itself.

Two engines are available at launch for the new ML-a 302-horsepower, 3.5-litre gasoline-fired V6, producing 273 ft-lbs of torque; and a 240-horsepower, 3.0-litre diesel V6, making 455 ft-lbs of torque. Both engines are remarkably smooth in operation. The new direct injection gasoline engine, while delivering more power than the one it replaces, runs so efficiently it doesn't need balance shafts. It also delivers a nicely sporty sound under full throttle-while pulling vigorously.

The extremely quiet diesel engine is just as smooth and defies classification as a diesel when in operation. Still, while the 455 ft-lb figure sounds really impressive, the gasoline engine was livelier from a standing start, despite giving up 182 ft-lbs of torque to the oil burner.

Regardless of the engine you choose, output is funneled to all four wheels via an all-new seven-speed automatic transmission.

Ride and handling are improved by the adoption of active sway bars. Working in conjunction with the AIRMATIC suspension system, the new bars keep the ML absolutely flat when cornering while also automatically decoupling to improve ride over rough surfaces.

Longer, lower and wider than the model it replaces, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML also offers more space, better performance and improved fuel economy. Plus, despite being more luxurious and providing significant technological advancements over its predecessor, it is expected that Mercedes-Benz Canada won't increase the price over last year's ML, which started at $62,400 for the gasoline version and $63,900 for the diesel.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Mercedes-Benz, 2012, ML, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Mercedes-Benz

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page