The Mercedes Benz M-Class is the SUV range from the German car maker. The initial M-Class was introduced 13 years back, in the year 1997. Now in its the 3rd generation, code named W166, the M-Class was recently launched in the Indian market. And shunning its subtle sophistication, The New Mercedes-Benz ML Class has got brawny, bigger and meaner.
Mercedes India has hit back at the competitors by bringing the latest generation ML-Class to India within a few days of its European launch. This strategy goes a long way in telling the buyers and the competition, how serious Mercedes is about the Indian market.
We drive this rugged unstoppable beast, the New Mercedes–Benz ML350 CDI and bring to you the this first-hand experience with the machine, read on to find out how good…or bad, it is. To find out how good it really is, read on.
Road presence is the first thing that you notice about the New Mercedes ML 350 CDI, the respect and dominance that it demands is unmatchable. In comparison, the older Mercedes ML was a lot less subdued in this aspect.
The New Mercedes ML is longer and now stands at 4804mm as opposed to 4781mm. The width too has been increased and now stands at 1926mm as compared to the earlier 1911mm. The height of the New ML-Class has been shortened to 1796mm as compared to the previous 1815mm. The wheelbase remains intact at 2915mm.
The first 100 ML 350 CDI has the default AMG package on it and are coming in as all CBU (Completely Built Units) units. Upfront, you have the all new nose on the New ML 350CDI. This new grille houses three horizontal slats with chrome on it. The Mercedes Benz 3 pointed Star monogram sits in the middle of the grille. The Mercedes Benz logo too has gone a slightly bigger.
The front grille now looks much bolder and gives the ML a very aggressive face. The front bumper is much more rounded and pronounced. The LED strip day time running light in white glow gets bigger and longer in dimension. The air dam gets a honey comb grill while the lower bumper benefits from an chrome finish body cladding, that is impressive to see head on. The head lamps on the New ML 350 CDI are larger and more prominently backswept in design as compared to the older ML headlamps. The bonnet gets soft crease on it that merges with the air intake vents placed on it.
Adding on to the looks of the SUV, The wheel arches and fenders get the rounded flare making them look bulky and muscular. A side body crease runs throughout, starting from the fender and to right across the waistline, just ending near the rear door handle. The wing mirrors get a double strip LED turn indicators while the windows get a blacked out frame where the lower frame gets a chrome strip.
The step board is in aluminium finish with good grip on it. The New ML350 CDI runs on 265/45 R20 tyres mounted on 5 spoke AMG alloys. The New ML 350 CDI is a bit shorter in height than the older ML and this makes the side profile look sportier.
An aluminium roof rail increases the side profile beauty. The 3rd window fixed glass is not at a steeper angle like in the older ML. The rear profile on the New ML 350 CDI is much louder, larger E-Class like tail lamps with LED turn lights inbuilt.
The tail lamps are not only larger but also are stretched in design. The rear bumper has gone larger and like the front bumper, the lower bumper gets the chrome scuff plates. These plates in the front and rear come handy when off roading, as they save the bumper from hitting any uneven terrain. The boot lid can be electrically opened and closed at a press of a button. The ML 350 CDI comes with a standard electric Sun/Moon roof.
Overall, The New ML 350 CDI has a mean and aggressive exterior styling. The New ML 350 looks much larger and impressive from every angle when compared with the older ML. The build quality is more than just impressive, while the New ML350 being a CBU, however, we are keen to see the build quality on the CKD ML that would be built in India.
If you have seen the older Mercedes cabin you would realize the difference. To get a completely unbiased and a thorough comparison, we invited a friend Amit who already owns a 2011 ML350 CDI, to check out the new ML 350. Amit was highly impressed not only by the new bolder exteriors but was taken aback when he entered the cabin. Things are very different in here.
A new 4 spoke multi-function steering that is electrically adjustable for height and reach comes in with much metal detailing and semi wood finish on grip feels striking as compared to the older ML. The speedo console retains the round dials but gets much more brushed aluminium linings around it.
The speedo is calibrated to 260kmph. The multifunction display sits between the speedo and RPM. The ignition remote port is placed on the right hand side of the steering. The dash is covered in hand stitched leather covering, while a thick strip of wooden garnish runs across the dash.
The centre console now has the AC vents in rectangular shaped vents while the older ML came with round shaped vents. A 17.8inches color display screen is placed between the AV vents.
You get a 10GB internal hard disk to store your music, playback audio-video. A 3 zone Climate Control unit with round control dial is placed prominently on the centre console. You can select from 3 air flow modes – Focus, Diffuse and Medium.
You get features such as Active Parking Assist with Parktronic, Attention Assist, nine airbags, ECO start-stop (the engine is shut down when not needed and comes back to life when you tap the throttle), a new COMAND dial, voice-operated Linguatronic controls, Thermotronic . The off-road mode, hill-descent control and the Eco mode buttons are placed just below the music system.
The center console unit gets closable storage space inside it along with the USB and AUX port hidden inside. The front seats are fully electrically adjustable for height, reach, tilt angle, headrest and also come with heating option. You get pure leather Desino seats as standard on the CBU ML350 that is initially sold here. The wood inserts and leather padding continue on the doors while the roof gets black finish.
The rear seats get 3 adjustable head rests along with a centre foldable armrest with cup holder. The rear passengers get an individual climate control with 2 vents in the door pillars and 2 vents placed between the front seats. The seats are well contoured and cushioning is on the harder side and supports and enhances the comfort level to high standards. You get the ambient lighting in amber colour that shined in the door handles and other panels in the cabin.
The cabin of the New ML 350 CDI is very large with loads of head, shoulder and knee room available. The build quality is typical Mercedes and quality is to highest level. Even with such comfortable cabin space in the New ML 350 there is 690liters of boot capacity that can be increased to 2010 liters with the rear seats folded down.
Engine – Transmission – Suspension
The Mercedes-Benz ML350 CDI comes powered by a 3.0-litre CRDI V6 diesel engine. This huge CDI engine makes 255bhp @ 3600RPM and hits out a earth shattering 619Nm of torque between the 1600 to 2400RPM.
This monster engine is mated to the 7G-Tronic Plus 7speed automatic transmission. You can judge the power of this 3.0 liter engine which is very quick and can propel this 2 tonner to the 100kmph speed mark in about 7.4seconds. At idle it is next to impossible to realize if the engine is running and you would be easily fooled that under the hood is a petrol engine. Shift to the drive mode using the unique shifter on the right side behind the steering and the 255bhp of power is unleashed. The power delivery is highly refined and throttle response is instant.
The suspension setup can be set in comfort and sport mode. While in sport the set up stiffens up and better handling is experienced. The steering feedback is very light as compared to the older ML. The New ML is much stronger while cornering and its abilities in handling tricky road conditions are much better now. The mighty ML 350 CDI is a brisk operator on rough roads and hilly stretches. (No wonder they say, “Best of Nothing”)
The New ML 350 CDI irons out the bad roads and offers a very high quality of ride quality to its occupants. The 7G-Tronic Plus transmission shifts flawlessly and the ratios are intelligently picked. The ride quality at low city pace is also ironed out . The 4-Matic all-wheel drive system intelligently keeps the ML350 CDI planted at all speeds and terrain that it may be put on, plus you get air suspension that lifts the car up to add to the already good ground clearance. If the vehicle is lifted and driven at speeds of 80kmph, the system automatically lowers the vehicle to the normal height. Perfect, should we say…!
The Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI comes with a long list of safety features. The ML 350 comes fitted with 9 airbags, Attention Assist, Active Parking Assist, Pre-Safe apart from others.
What the older Mercedes-Benz ML350 lacked, the latest generation ML350 CDI makes amends for and that too in a big way. The New ML350 is a much better looking robust SUV, refinement level is much higher, rock solid build quality, the handling is much better, comfort level and equipment level is higher, off roading abilities are largely improved and if you buy the ML 350 CDI now you get the AMG package included in it. The New Mercedes-Benz ML 350 CDI is a much better overall package if you are out looking for a luxury SUV.
The Mercedes – Benz ML350 CDI is priced at Rs.66 lakhs Ex Delhi for the AMG Package.
The Mercedes-Benz ML350 CDI competes with the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, VW Touareg.