Diesel and urban dust
Benz’s SUV has impeccable manners, city or country
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