Driven: Mercedes ML350 CDI

Mercedes has made the new ML faster and greener than the old version, we put the 41mpg ML 350 CDI diesel through its paces

Evo rating
Price
from £45,000
  • Decent to drive, greener than old version
  • Lacks driver appeal of best rivals

What is it?

The third generation of Mercedes’ large SUV, which is an all-new car despite its familiar looks. Highlights include more power, better fuel economy and various driving aids aimed at making it handle better. 

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to have every issue of evo delivered straight to you. You'll SAVE 39% on the shop price, and get evo for its original cover price for a whole year!

Technical highlights?

The M-Class sits on a new platform that will also underpin the next-generation GL. It features double wishbones and standard ‘Airmatic’ air suspension with Comfort and Sport modes. Merc will also offer the option of a clever system called ‘Active Curve Control’ which uses anti-roll bars that decouple when not cornering, allowing for decent body control in the twisties but extra compliance on straights. 

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

In the unlikely event that you’re looking to buy a lifestyle SUV for actual off-road use, the ML comes with an optional pack that includes six-setting stability control, lockable diffs and hill descent control. 

What’s it like to drive?  

Hushed. We tried the 255bhp 3.5-litre V6 diesel-engined ML350 CDI – set to be the best-seller – which stayed impressively muted in the cabin, even under hard acceleration. The new ML350 has an extra 27bhp and 59lb ft over the outgoing model – the torque peak is now a towering 457lb ft. All that twist makes the ML impressively rapid, despite a 2100kg kerbweight. 0-62mph takes 7.5 seconds and – thanks to the 7G ‘Tronic Plus’ seven-speed auto – it’s never short of overtaking urge.

The official economy figure is impressive, too, the ML350 CDI scoring 41.5mpg compared to the old car’s 32.5mpg. CO2 emissions of 179g/km are also very respectable for something this size and shape. Eco measures include a subtle start-stop system you barely notice in operation.

And what of this ‘Active Curve Control’? The ML never feels less than its size, but it stays composed in corners and has more grip than you would expect. The system definitely improves responses in the cars it’s fitted to. Praise must also go to the electric power steering system – it may not be very communicative, but it’s precise, accurate and well-weighted.

How does it compare?

Advertisement - Article continues below

It’s horses for courses. If you want an agile and involving large SUV, then you’re likely to still be drawn to the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. But the ML is a strong all-rounder, offering a rapid, comfortable driving experience and shading its older rivals on quality, too. 

Prices haven’t been relased yet, but you can expect the ML350 CDI to kick off at around £45,000, which is competitive for the class.

Anything else I should know?

Excitement comes later in the form of the new ML63 AMG, which will use the same all-new 5.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 as the recently launched E63 AMG. An entry-level 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel with 204bhp is also set to join the line-up, and Mercedes has confirmed a hybrid version will follow later. 

Specifications

Engine2987cc V6 diesel, turbocharged
Max power252bhp @ TBC
Max torque454lb ft @ TBC
0-607.4 seconds (claimed 0-100km/h)
Top speed139mph
On saleApril 2012
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/mercedes/202762/volkswagen-golf-r-vs-mercedes-amg-a35-business-class-hot-hatchbacks-face-off
Mercedes

Volkswagen Golf R vs Mercedes-AMG A35 – business class hot hatchbacks face-off

17 Jun 2020
Visit/mercedes/202756/mercedes-amg-to-launch-new-eturbo-tech-on-next-generation-performance-models
Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG to launch new eTurbo tech on next-generation performance models

17 Jun 2020
Visit/aston-martin/202655/mercedes-amg-boss-to-take-control-of-aston-martin
Aston Martin

Mercedes-AMG boss to take control of Aston Martin

26 May 2020
Visit/mercedes/202269/2021-mercedes-amg-gt73-4-door-hybrid-spied-testing
Mercedes

2021 Mercedes-AMG GT73 4-Door hybrid spied testing

20 Feb 2020
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/bmw/m4/22869/new-2020-bmw-m4-throws-off-more-disguise-ahead-of-reveal
BMW M4

New 2020 BMW M4 throws off more disguise ahead of reveal

BMW’s next M4 coupe promises much, but will it deliver? Here’s everything we know so far
7 Aug 2020
Visit/bugatti/21646/new-bugatti-divo-deliveries-begin-ps44m-hypercar-hits-the-road
Bugatti

New Bugatti Divo deliveries begin - £4.4m hypercar hits the road

The very first examples of Bugatti’s Divo hypercar have rolled out of its Molsheim HQ gates
7 Aug 2020
Visit/news/20376/scuderia-cameron-glickenhaus-004s-order-books-open-for-674bhp-three-seater
News

Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus 004S: order books open for 674bhp three-seater

Announced in 2017, the road-legal Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus 004S is now set to enter production later this year
6 Aug 2020
Visit/best-cars/15315/best-cars-to-buy-for-ps20000-evo-garage
Best cars

Best cars to buy for £20,000 – evo garage

The evo team pick their favourite used performance cars
4 Aug 2020