Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4x4 full 9 point review
You'll have no complaints about the performance from either of the diesel engines. The ML350 delivers swift, easy progress, and while the ML250 is slower, it still offers brisk acceleration and relaxed high-speed cruising. What lets the engines down is the dim-witted seven-speed automatic gearbox they're attached to. When pulling out of a junction you always have to factor in the delay between pressing the accelerator and the car moving.
Ride & Handling
The M-Class has vague and unresponsive steering that does little to inspire confidence, while its suspension lets the car's body pitch and lurch over undulating roads. You might imagine that the upside of this soft set-up would be a comfortable low-speed ride, but the M-Class feels decidedly crashy over broken surfaces unless you specify the optional air suspension.
The ML350's diesel engine is incredibly smooth, producing little more than a gentle hum in most situations. The smaller engine in the 250 CDI is a bit more clattery under acceleration, but it quickly settles to a subdued hum when you're cruising. Road noise is also well subdued, so it's a pity wind noise enters the cabin at anything above about 50mph.
Buying & Owning
The M-Class doesn't hold its value as well as the best rivals, but big discounts are available so it won't cost you a huge amount in depreciation. Fuel economy is respectable on the diesel versions, too; the ML250 is the cheapest to run, but the ML350 isn't that far behind.
Quality & Reliability
The way the cabin is constructed seems solid enough, but too many switches and much of the trim have a cheap, plasticky feel. The design of the dash doesn't help because it's starting to look dated. Mercedes also performed poorly in our last reliability survey, finishing 30th out of 38 manufacturers.
Safety & Security
There's a huge list of standard safety kit, including seven airbags, trailer stability assist, attention assist (which alerts the driver to fatigue) and a bonnet that springs up to protect pedestrians in an accident. All this helped the M-Class achieve a maximum five-star crash rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. Beyond that, the options list includes systems to help keep the car in its lane on the motorway and highlight pedestrians at night. An alarm and immobiliser should help deter thieves.
Behind The Wheel
No one will have any complaints about the M-Class's driving position, because there is plenty of adjustment to both the driver's seat and the steering wheel. The high-set position gives a good view out, too, and the dashboard is fairly simple because you control most functions by scrolling through menus using a rotary dial.
Space & Practicality
There are no two ways about it: the M-Class's cabin is huge. There's more than enough room for six-footers up front, and tall adults will be similarly happy in the rear seats, thanks to good head- and legroom. The boot is also impressively large, and split-folding rear seats that lie completely flat are fitted to every model. The only slight disappointment is that you can't specify a third row of seats.
As you would expect of such a car, the M-Class comes with lots of equipment; even entry-level SE models get an automatic gearbox, climate control, sat-nav and electrically adjustable front seats. AMG Sport models add a sporty bodykit, sports seats and an electrically operated tailgate, but they also carry a significant premium so we wouldn't bother upgrading. There are plenty of desirable (and expensive) options, including air suspension, xenon headlamps and a digital radio.