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Mercedes ML350 CDI review (2012 onwards)
Model: Mercedes ML350 CDI Sport
Bodystyle: five-door SUV
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
Date of test: August 2012
What is it?
There's something refreshingly honest about the way the Mercedes M-Class drives. While most SUV rivals head down the sporting, lifestyle route with dynamics that offer car-like reactions in a high-rise package, the ML is more traditional in its 4x4 approach.
We're testing the most powerful diesel, the ML350 CDI, which starts at £48,490 and comes in 'Sport' trim. Don't let that moniker fool you, though.
Where does it fit?
The Mercedes M-Class range starts with the four-cylinder 250 CDI and tops out with the monstrous ML63 AMG for those with shares in BP. The ML350 CDI sits in the middle and offers the best blend between performance and economy.
Rivals come in the shape of the BMW X5, Range Rover Sport and Volkswagen Touareg, the latter being most aligned in character to the Mercedes.
Is it for you?
You'll either love SUVs or hate them. Those that do appreciate them will relish the ML's abilities as a versatile all-rounder, combining the exquisiteness of a luxury car with acres of space for family needs and go-anywhere ability.
What does it do well?
The M-Class is a relaxing car to drive. Get used to its lolloping nature and you'll key in to enjoying a more soothing way of travel. That isn't to say the ML350 isn't fast: with 258hp and 457 lb/ft of torque it doesn't take long to shift its two-tonnes-plus bulk and the low-down muscle endows it with supreme flexibility.
What doesn't it do well?
But where a BMW X5 is focused on agility, the M-Class is geared more towards a comfortable drive. The body leans in bends and the steering is less accurate and precise than its rivals, which accentuates the car's tendency to roll around. If you want a more car-like driving experience, you'd be better off buying a BMW X5.
What's it like to live with?
If you can get over the proliferation of buttons in the cabin, the M-Class is wonderfully appointed, with plush materials surrounding every nook. Standard equipment is impressive with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, Bluetooth hands-free, sat-nav, 'artificial' leather seats and an AMG styling kit on this Sport model. Despite a relatively impressive standard spec, our test car came with a further £15k worth of options, dramatically raising its list price from £48,490.
Inside, the M-Class is huge, with rear seats that will seat three tall adults without their knees rubbing against the front seats, with plenty of headroom thanks to the M-Class' tall profile. The boot, too, is like a black hole offering 690-litres of space with the seats in place to 2,010-litres with the rear seats down. With all this space available, Mercedes should really incorporate two fold-down rear seats into the boot to make this a seven-seater to rival the BMW X5.
How green is it?
This is a heavy car, weighing just over two tonnes, so it is never going to be the greenest of propositions despite the diesel engine. If you're tip-toey careful with the accelerator pedal you might see 39.2mpg but expect mid-30s as a more realistic figure. Emissions of 189g/km are a fantastic result for such a big engine, and betters the efforts of BMW's X5.
Would we buy it?
The latest Mercedes M350 CDI is vastly improved, with better fuel economy and emissions, acres of space - perfect for families - and plenty of standard kit. Remember to rein yourself in from spending too much on the options list and the M-Class is a great choice.
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