New Car: 2012 Mercedes M-Class

Now in its third generation, the Mercedes-Benz M-class is refining the Mercedes SUV experience, rather than reinventing it. The 2012 ML is the same basic size and shape as before, but the platform—shared in part with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee—is new, and the vehicle gets significant upgrades in efficiency and style for 2012.

The exterior appears sleeker and more sculpted, while the most obvious difference in the interior is a switch from round air vents to rectangular, the former now reserved for Mercedes’ sports-car lineup. (It’s worth noting just how similar the instrument layout is to the Grand Cherokee’s.) A big increase in quality and design can be felt inside. A large swath of either wood or metal-look plastic sits before the front passenger, while the driver gets a meaty-feeling steering wheel flanked by new stalks for the transmission, wipers, and cruise control. (The cruise-control stalk, thankfully, has been moved from M-B’s usual placement on the upper-left of the steering column to a lower, more-conventional position.) Attractive open-pore wood is on the options sheet.

At launch, Mercedes will offer two familiar six-cylinders, while the new twin-turbo 4.7-liter V-8 will follow later. Both V-6 models will be badged ML350. The direct-injection 3.5-liter gas engine produces 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, increases of 34 and 15 over the outgoing gas V-6; while the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel in the BlueTec is now good for 240 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, up 30 hp and 55 lb-ft. A switch from pressed-in cylinder liners to a spray-on coating in the diesel reduces both weight and friction. Both engines come coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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