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2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2015

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a force to contend with in the midsize luxury SUV segment. Offering engines ranging from a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder diesel to a 518-horsepower twin-turbo V8, with a regular V6 and a twin-turbo V6 slotting in between, the M-Class has one of the most diverse lineups in this class. The interior of the M-Class is distinguished by its high-quality, well-crafted look and feel, with cutting-edge technology features for shoppers so inclined. Purposeful styling cues and sumptuous upholstery give the cabin an air of real opulence, solidifying the M-Class's position as a benchmark SUV among upscale brands.

What's New for 2015?

The ML350 BlueTEC and ML550 have been discontinued, replaced by the ML250 BlueTEC (with a smaller 4-cylinder diesel) and the ML400 (with a twin-turbo V6), respectively.

What We Like

Well-damped ride; richly appointed cabin; firm yet cosseting seats; wide range of engines; impressive turbodiesel fuel economy

What We Don't

No third-row seat; relatively ponderous handling

How Much?

$49,225-$99,325

Fuel Economy

Every M-Class model comes standard with a 7-speed automatic transmission. 4MATIC all-wheel drive is standard on all but the ML350, which starts with rear-wheel drive and offers 4MATIC as an option.

The ML350 gets its power from a 3.5-liter V6 producing 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive and 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.

The ML250 BlueTEC offers a 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine rated at 200 hp and a generous 369 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.

The ML400 boasts a brawny twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy drops to 18 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

The ML63 AMG gets its power from a massive 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 518 hp (or optionally 550 hp with the AMG Performance package). Predictably, there's a price to pay at the pump, since the AMG model returns a paltry 13 mpg city/17 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is available in four variants: ML350, ML250 BlueTEC, ML400 and ML63 AMG.

The base ML350 ($49,225) is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 producing 302 hp. Standard highlights include an adaptive suspension with adjustable settings, LED exterior lighting accents, a sunroof, a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood inlays, power front seats, synthetic leather (MB-Tex) upholstery, Bluetooth and the COMAND infotainment system with a 7-inch central display screen and a knob-based interface.

Opt for the ML250 BlueTEC ($50,725), and you'll get a similar equipment roster along with the diesel engine.

The ML400 ($63,825) pours on the power with its twin-turbo V6, and it adds standard niceties including power-folding auto-dimming mirrors, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory settings, Harman Kardon premium audio and a navigation system with voice controls.

The ML63 AMG ($99,325) gets you a grunty twin-turbo V8, an AMG body kit, 20-in wheels, an adaptive air suspension with active roll resistance (AIRMATIC), performance brakes and sport front seats. The AMG model's optional Performance package adds more power and torque along with a carbon-fiber engine cover.

Options are plentiful and pricey, as expected from Mercedes. Notable extras include a panoramic sunroof, tri-zone climate control, Multi-contour front seats with extended power adjustments and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Safety

In addition to its solid construction, the M-Class protects occupants with 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, advanced stability control, a driver drowsiness monitor and 9 airbags (front, front-side, rear-side, full-length side-curtain and driver-knee). The front seats have active head restraints to minimize whiplash in a crash.

Additionally, the standard mbrace2 emergency telematics system features automatic collision notification, roadside assistance and a stolen vehicle locator.

Optional technologies include blind spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic emergency braking.

In government crash tests, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class earned the top 5-star rating in all test categories. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the M-Class its top rating of Good across the board.

Behind the Wheel

The ML350 displays strong, uniform power delivery throughout the rev band, while the ML250 BlueTEC launches enthusiastically from a stop but fizzles a bit at the top end. The ML400 adds a serious dose of passing power, while the ML63 AMG is just bonkers. On typical American roads and highways, the interior remains nearly silent at speed, and the ride is smooth thanks to the adaptive suspension with its adjustable dampers. Although handling lags behind luminaries such as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, the M-Class's steering is well weighted, and there's a general sense of stability and control.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 BMW X5 -- Comparable to the M-Class in price and equipment, the X5 is more of a driver's car with a stronger emphasis on handling dynamics.

2016 Porsche Cayenne -- Offering the most engaging driving experience in this class, the Cayenne has a relatively cramped interior, but its materials quality is first-rate.

2015 Lexus RX -- The best-selling RX has clearly inspired the direction of the M-Class over the years, and it's not a stretch to call the RX a bargain-priced M-Class substitute with better resale value.

Used Land Rover Range Rover -- Land Rover's certified pre-owned (CPO) program can get you into a plush, fully warrantied Range Rover for about the same price as a loaded ML400, and once you drive the Rover, you might not want to go back.

Autotrader's Advice

The high-powered M-Class models are tempting, but our pick is the ML250 BlueTEC. It costs about the same as the base ML350, and its fuel economy and torque are superior.

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2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader