The first of the new third generation Mercedes-Benz SUVs has just arrived in Ireland and with the added attraction of an 11 per cent price reduction on the outgoing model. It is the second of three new models to be launched here this year. Coming in the wake of the new B-Class, the M-Class links a strong off-road heritage to the comfort of a luxury premium saloon.
This model has been given a new look while remaining instantly recognisable as an M-Class. New front lights and grille, as well as a centrally mounted three-pointed star, give it a fresh new face.
Inside it is more spacious and comfortable with more elbow room, and a new dashboard and upholstery. It has a good standard specification as well as an optional high-tech infotainment system.
Equipped with permanent four-wheel drive and new 7-G Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, the M-Class is powered by a choice of some new engines. There is one petrol and two diesel units that Mercedes-Benz says deliver fuel economy some 25 per cent better on average than the model it replaces.
Here in Ireland the version most likely to appeal is the 204bhp ML250 CDI BlueTEc 4-Matic, which has a price tag of €71,060 ex works. The road tax for this version is €481, which Mercedes-Benz says makes it a benchmark in the premium large SUV segment.
Powered by a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine, it delivers power similar to its predecessor while consuming 28 per cent less fuel, a claimed six litres/100km or 48.08 mpg, and also lower CO2 emissions (158g/km ). It has a top speed of 210km/h (130 mph ) with a 0-100km/h (0 to 62 mph ) time of nine seconds.
A second diesel — the new 3-litre, V6, 258 bhp ML350 BlueTec 4-Matic is also frugal, delivering a 24 per cent reduction in consumption with lower emissions (179g/km ) despite a 27bhp increase in power. Top speed is 224km/h (139 mph ) and 0-100km/h is a faster 7.4secs. This version comes on the market at €76,140 with road tax of €677.
With entry level prices for the ML250 and ML350 reduced by 11 per cent and 13 per cent respectively, and with low emissions and correspondingly low road tax Mercedes-Benz believes that SUV owners now have good reasons to remain within the segment.
Though Ireland will be a diesel-only market, a new 3.5-litre, V6, 306 bhp, ML350 BlueEfficiency petrol version can be had on order.
Notable features of the new M-Class include a new on/off road package that provides six transmission modes, depending on road conditions. Air suspension, anti roll stabilisation, adaptive damping that moves from firm to soft, electric steering, and a tightest-in-its-segment turning circle combine to boost driving pleasure.
A full suite of safety features includes a comprehensive range of airbags and warning systems, drowsiness detection and tyre-pressure monitoring, adaptive brake lights, electronic brake assist, and numerous other standard and optional items already familiar from the C, E and S-Class ranges. Amongst these are pre and post-safe systems that significantly reduce the impact of an accident and help protect occupants from further impacts.