Diesel and ur­ban dust

Benz’s SUV has im­pec­ca­ble man­ners, city or coun­try

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

con­nec­tiv­ity. Op­tions in­clud­ing key­less en­try and ig­ni­tion, sun­roof and power-op­er­ated rear tail­gate, push the as-tested price to $106,000.

The 3.0-litre turbo diesel puts out 190kW/620Nm, driven through a seven-speed auto and all four wheels. Af­ter slight hes­i­ta­tion, the driv­e­train smoothly shoves the two-tonne Teu­ton for­ward with se­ri­ous pur­pose.

There is lit­tle scope to make a big, boxy SUV at­trac­tive but Mercedes-Benz has suc­ceeded in mak­ing the lat­est (larger but lighter) in­car­na­tion of the ML a lit­tle prettier. The big bull-nose that’s be­com­ing a sta­ple of the three-pointed star brand is prom­i­nent on the new ML, soft­ened a lit­tle by the xenon/ LED lighting at the front.

There are 690 litres of boot space (2010 litres with all the seats folded) to get the fam­ily’s gear stowed be­fore get­ting the Merc dirty. This is not out of the ques­tion, given the 208mm of ground clear­ance— and that’s be­fore you tick the of­froad pack op­tion box.

The US-built SUV has im­proved in qual­ity. The ride is rea­son­able around town, though the 20-inch low-pro­file tyre pack­age trans­mits ruts and bumps a lit­tle more than ideal, and the steer­ing is feather-light.

Get it away from the sub­urbs and the ML’s helm gath­ers a bit more heft as speeds in­crease and it can be hus­tled along at an in­de­cent rate when re­quired. Coun­try road man­ners have im­proved— it’s still just shy of theBMWX5 for steer­ing and han­dling but it’s much closer.

Off the bi­tu­men, its man­ners largely mir­ror the sealed sur­face ex­pe­ri­ence, with sec­ond-rate dirt not de­ter­ring the 350. This is where it makes up ground on the Beemer, as it feels more likely to go fur­ther into the scrub with­out get­ting flus­tered and knocked around.

Un­less your heart is set on theAMG­model and you don’t even look side­ways at a dirt road, this is the pick of the lit­ter.

Ahead by a big bull nose: Merc’s M-Class SUV is a top seller

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