DER MEISTER !
Mercedes-Benz is back with a bang in the SUV world, with this third generation of the M-Class. And if ever you are still wondering what the title is all about, well it simply states the obvious ; it means : THE MASTER ! This ML350 sets new benchmarks and is set to become the undisputed king in the high-end SUV segment.
There is no actual sense of ‘deja-vu’ when we look at this new ML. Still, we should be able to remember the first time we ever saw the M-Class. It gets easier if you are a movie buff, as the first appearance of the first generation of the ML was in 1997 (one year prior to its commercial launch) in Spielberg’s ‘The Lost World – Jurassic Park’. So yes, now you can picture it as in how that Merc SUV was fighting the mud while trying to pull the huge trailer off the cliff until the T-Rex came along! At the time the M-Class was coded W163-series (less iconic than ‘M-Class ‘ right?) and was the first Mercedes to have ever rolled off the production line outside Germany and it made a pretty good impact on the public around the world.
In those days, the M Class faced some criticism in terms of its lack of comfort (something we would never expect from any Mercedes model). What Mercedes did : was to invest more money in the new plant and launched the second generation of the M-Class in 2005. A very good model, but still, even the second generation did not have that x-factor or special thing that…well makes the M-Class THE MASTER you see ? But this time around, Mercedes-Benz got it right in the bull’s eye with the third generation !
Mercedes-Benz really had to get this one spot on, as its other German rivals have been doing really great with the X5 or other Q7. Spot on is what they did ; you just have to look at it and say to yourself or out loud : « Mercedes-Benz did it ! » So primarily it was clearly the look that was getting in the way. But no more shall it be such, as this new ML is one of the most handsome if not the most handsome SUV on the market. This one really makes a statement simply with its looks : behold as I send not as sheep but as the pack leader amidst the wolves ! Even if it is shorter in height compared to the previous ML, this new one has got a massively aggresive front, with a high raised hood sitting on the beautiful chromed grille with the prestigious 3-pointed star logo on it. The expressive front bumper accomodates the LED daytime running lamps, with the headlights further adding to the class with the intelligent light system that subtly brings to forth the line of the vehicle. The two vents on the hood are an insight to what lies under the bonnet. The overall styling and stunning lines of the new M-Class make for an impressive presence and set standards with excellent aerodynamics.
We should note that when we talk about the statements this new M-Class makes in terms of look, we are not talking about the « screaming out loud » kind of thing, we are talking about a styling that is neat enough and well resolved, if a little conservative. Who cares about the younger « swag » audience ? This is a car about class and the gentleman who knows what he wants : refinement. Still if you want the same refinement to be a bit spiced up, you can then opt for the AMG Exterior Sports package that gives the new M-Class an even more irresistible look.
Inside, the ML is a spacious machine with a distinguishing aura of tactile quality and material sumptuousness. In lavishly equipped models, its standards in material specification and finish approach those of a current Range Rover even. So to get anywhere close to the Range, you will have to splash out on the equipment and interior design options. The cabin in itself is quite a masterpiece as standard. As you get in, install yourself comfortably in the seats and fall in love with the ergonomics, the soft touch, the ambient tones and the spacious interior. The steering wheel and electrically adjustable seats settings will make sure you get the right driving position, almost tailor made for you. The driving position in itself is top-notch, in terms of how high up you are sitting. Sitting higher up means seeing further ahead. And you better be watching as the M-Class is not only a big car, it even feels big !
We already said that to make the most of the M-Class, you will need the whole list of equipments, and they do come at a hefty price tag, but then again if you are out to buy an M-Class, you won’t have much trouble upgrading your option list to suit yourself. The whole instrumentation panel is easy on the eye, and the on-steering wheel controls further helps. The on-board computer and main controls are accessed via the iDrive inspired knob. This may be the only downside of the M-Class as it is not the most user-friendly access. On the other hand, you will have a great number of practical storage slots, thanks to the American style gear lever on the steering wheel that offers more space in the center. Entertainment console provides CD, Bluetooth and media interface for iPod, USB and auxiliary audio.
We just cannot talk about the M-Class without talking about its safety features. It has like a gazillions of them ! The new M-class has one of the most comprehensive arrays of safety equipment in its vehicle segment. Standard safe driving assists include the Attention assist, whereby the computer warns the driver as soon as it detects signs of increasing inattention or drowsiness. Sensors analyse driving behaviour and can detect deviations from a previously determined, individual driver profile. The car is also equipped as standard with seven airbags: windowbags over both rows of seats, airbags and sidebags for the front-seat occupants as well as a driver kneebag. You can further opt for the optional Driving Assistance package.
The optional extras are numerous, and you can choose from the night view Assist plus, large panoramic sliding sunroof and other assists that will add aesthetic touches as well as driving ones in the likes of the Active Parking Assist Plus with Parktronic (the car will park itself with you simply having to gauge the brake levels). Even if the ML is more of a “move over you poor people” kind of car, it still cares for pedestrians with its active bonnet as standard. This system can reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians or cyclists in the event of a collision.