by: Mike Ginsca
The popularity of diesel fuel has greatly increased over the past few years and Mercedes-Benz is leading the charge by now offering their world renowned diesel technology in their most popular SUV.
Performance – I’ll just say it before anything else, this is not a sports performance SUV like the Porsche Cayenne GTS. It has a little bit to do with the engine but it’s mostly due to the super soft suspension.
Starting with the engine, it is a 3.0L Turbocharged V6 producing 210hp and a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque. The torque is felt at low rpms, as low as 1000, and it is just enough to accelerate the 2100kg body but the low horsepower figure doesn’t make it feel like a fast SUV once the revs build up. Also there is quite a bit of turbo lag which can especially be felt when you’re accelerating upwards on a hill. Fuel economy is exceptionally well, considering the weight of the SUV, at 13.1L/100km in city and 9.4L/100km on highway. All in all it is a smooth and quiet engine that almost feels like a gasoline engine but it is just a tiny bit too underpowered for such a heavy vehicle.
The handling is where it all falls apart for this SUV. The suspension is far too soft to be a sports SUV and when travelling through a corner at speed, the body leans over so much so that it almost feels like you’re going to be thrown out of the driver’s seat. Also the suspension cannot be adjusted via controls in the cabin like on a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5. Steering is vague and uncommunicative to the driver but on the bright side, the brakes are remarkable at stopping this heavy SUV.
Comfort – Due to the soft suspension, the ML is not a good driver’s SUV but it is a brilliant family SUV. It can iron out the harshest of city bumps and make it feel as though it’s driving on roads made of silk. The seats are also very soft and comfortable and feature nearly an endless amount of different positions so that the driver and front passenger can comfortably sit in the ideal seating position. Interior space is average compared to its competitors with seating for 5 and 29 ft³ of luggage space with the seats up. The fit and finish of the dash is typical Mercedes-Benz with a dark wood grain trim and a lot of buttons to keep you distracted for hours. The positioning of the indicator stalk and the gearshift selector could have been rethought by Mercedes engineers. The indicator was a bit lower than the 9 o’clock steering position which made it awkward to use and the gear shift selector can be easily hit while you’re turning the wheel causing the SUV to go into neutral or reverse.
Odds and Ends – Navigation, voice activated controls, Bluetooth connectivity, rear-view camera, and a Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo system are some of the electronic gadgets that the ML is stuffed with. Also if you’re feeling adventurous, the ML does have downhill assist and a locking center differential when the smooth roads are replaced by rough rocks or slippery ice.
If you’re in the market for a family oriented SUV with good fuel economy then this Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec should be near the top of your list.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.