A luxury midsize SUV fabricated by Mercedes Benz, the M-Class was first launched as in 1998. Over the years, this sporty vehicle became popular in the US and Mexico. On the basis of its size it is positioned between the smaller GLK Class and the bigger GL Class – it also shares its platforms with these cars. Between 1999 and 2002, the M class was manufactured by Magna Steyr in Graz Austria for the European market. After this, the production process was shifted to the United States plant in Alabama. Since 2012, this Mercedes variant is also assembled at plants in Pune, India and Wanaherang, Indonesia.
The M Class is now in its third generation. While the works for this model had begun in 2006, the refreshed, re engineered variant was launched in late 2011. Not all Mercedes SUVs are a part of the line-up for India and since the G-Class is super expensive, it is the M Class that rivals against the BMWs and Audis to woo the luxury SUV buyers in India.
And this Merc seems to be a multi-tasker. Its road presence, cabin space, engine refinement and performance combine to make it a brilliant SUV package. It is a well engineered, attractive car that is also priced competitively against its German rivals.
With its larger dimensions and sharp styling, the new M Class looks very appealing and more dynamic than its seemingly conservative predecessor. The large chrome grille with the Mercedes star looks smart over the aggressive front bumper. Along with this, the AMG style vents on the bonnet, an imitation sump guard and window sills make it a striking SUV while it also carries its elegance inherited from the Mercedes Benz family.
The dramatic wheel arches and the long creases have been carved pretty well for a sporty side profile. At the rear, the long tail lamps remind you of the elegant saloon E Class. There is a small aerodynamic diffuser in the rear bumper. The third generation M Class is wider and longer than its older siblings. It is impressive and reflects its luxurious class with top-notch build quality.
This German origin SUV is fabricated around a steel monocoque and it largely has steel panels but the hood and front wings are built with aluminium. The diesel motor’s power drives all 4 wheels with Mercedes’ 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system. You can also go for a 6 stage off-road package that is optimised with varying ride-height adjustments, automatic diff locks and a custom off-road calibration for the stability control system. The M Class has an electrically assisted power steering unit and adjustable air suspension. Also, the spare wheel is fitted beneath the trunk floor and that saves space.
Step into the cabin and you feel that the M Class does wear refinement on its sleeve. The leather and wood trim dashboard has an exquisite finish. With metal cap buttons and micron perfect fit, the fascia looks even more elegant and luxurious. Aluminium inserts and polished wood put in an extra touch of class while the illumination and leather seats exude that sporty feel in this Merc. The luxurious appeal of cabin is also enhanced by waterfall lighting on the dash.
There is ample legroom and all seats have good thigh support. You get a capacious glovebox and the cabin has practical pockets and cubby holes to hold your knick knacks. A third row of seats is missing in the M Class but then the boot has space of 690 litres and the middle row can be folded to create more.
The range of comfort equipment is wide – you have climate control air conditioning, cruise control, electrically adjustable seats, a six CD player, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, electric steering adjustment and self-dimming mirrors. On the safety front, there are not 6, not 8 but a total of 9 airbags in this SUV. It comes with electronic stability program, anti lock braking system and traction control.
You can choose between two standard variants when you go for the M Class:
(i) ML 250 CDI with 2143 cc - 4 cylinder inline, common rail, twin turbo diesel engine coupled with 7 speed automatic gearbox. This churns out 203 bhp of power and 51 kgm of torque.
(ii) ML 350 CDI with 2987 cc - V6 cylinder turbo diesel coupled with 7 speed automatic gearbox. There is 255 bhp of power and 63.2 kgm of torque in this motor.
The price ranges from Rs 46.6 lakhs to 56.9 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi). A limited edition of 350 CDI was also launched for Rs 66 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi).
This midsize luxury SUV has received the IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ award for wonderful performance in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and seat/head restraint evaluations. Earlier, the ML 320 avatar of M Class became Motor Trend magazine`s Truck of the Year for 1998 and was selected as the 1998 North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show, Detroit, in January 1998. It has been given the World Car Award in March 1999, voted by an international jury of automotive journalists in Geneva
And that`s not all. It also won first place in the “Luxury Crossover SUV” category and was referred to as the most ideal vehicle for Americans based on a study conducted by Auto Pacific- a California-based automotive research and consulting organisation.
Throughout its three generations, the M Class has displayed its strengths as an outstanding, refined and high performing SUV. The latest model continues to carry on the legacy of the German automaker with its solid build quality and unflustered cruising forte.