Full 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class receives a new hybrid-powered variant, the ML450 Hybrid. The rest of the lineup stays the same, though the ML320 Bluetec gets a mild increase of torque and a new name: ML350 Bluetec.
Believe it or not, Mercedes-Benz offers more crossovers and SUVs than any other luxury automaker. The M-Class got the ball rolling more than a decade ago, and now in its second generation it represents a middle ground for Mercedes shoppers searching for more utility and an elevated ride height. If the GLK is too small, the GL too big, the R too minivan-like and the G too pricey and paramilitary, why not try the M-Class?
The M also has the most diverse selection of engines available both within the Benz family and in its class, with a gasoline-powered V6 and V8, a hypersonic AMG-spiced V8, a clean-burning turbodiesel and a new-for-2010 hybrid. Each model is similarly equipped, so opting for a smaller, more fuel-efficient powertrain doesn't come with a luxury penalty.
Obviously, the big news is the new hybrid. Mercedes says it offers V8 power with four-cylinder fuel economy. Well, that may be technically true, but there's been so much weight added that the acceleration is identical to that of the regular V6-powered M-Class, and its fuel economy is about what you'd expect a four-cylinder to achieve when saddled with 5,200 pounds of SUV. Considering that the M hybrid returns an estimated 21 mpg city/24 mpg highway while the Lexus RX 450h hybrid returns 30 city/28 highway, it seems Mercedes hasn't exactly raised the bar for hybrid SUV efficiency.
Outside of the hybrid, however, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a compelling entry in the crowded midsize luxury SUV segment. It's a bit pricey, though, so you've got to be willing to pay for its high-class cabin, superior construction and that Mercedes-Benz name. If you're not, the cheaper Acura MDX and Lexus RX can be considered, along with smaller entries like the Audi Q5 and Mercedes' own GLK. Its similarly priced and sized rivals, the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne, both offer a bit more involvement for the driver. Overall, there are lots of options, and we suggest checking them out before choosing this middle-ground Benz.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a five-passenger midsize luxury SUV available in ML350, ML350 Bluetec, ML450 Hybrid, ML550 and ML63 AMG trim levels. Each corresponds to a different engine.
All models except the ML63 are equipped similarly with standard 19-inch wheels, a sunroof, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, foglamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats, MB Tex premium vinyl upholstery, the dash-mounted COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth, the TeleAid emergency telematics service and an eight-speaker stereo (with a six-CD/DVD changer and an auxiliary audio jack). The ML550 adds different styling flourishes and heated front seats. The ML450 Hybrid adds a gasoline-electric powertrain, slightly different styling, an air suspension and a hybrid system information display.
Options include the Premium 1 package, which includes a rearview camera, a power liftgate, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, driver memory functions, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio, an iPod interface, HD radio and 4 gigabytes of digital music storage. The Premium 2 package includes all Premium 1 equipment plus keyless ignition and entry and a Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo. The Full Leather Seating package includes leather upholstery and ambient interior lighting. The Lighting package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights, corner-illuminating foglamps and headlamp washers.
Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, a trailer hitch, running boards, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, heated rear seats and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The ML63 adds to the ML550 an air suspension and adaptive damping system, 20-inch AMG wheels, high-performance tires, upgraded brakes, AMG styling elements, the Premium 2 package, the Lighting package, front and rear parking sensors, extended leather trim, heated and ventilated power sport seats with "multicontour" adjustment and adjustable bolsters, a sport steering wheel and transmission shift paddles.
Powertrains and Performance
The ML350 is available with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (4Matic) and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard. Mercedes estimates it will go from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated to be 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear drive and 15/20/17 in 4Matic guise.
The ML350 Bluetec has a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that utilizes 50-state-legal clean diesel technology. It produces 210 hp and a prodigious 400 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic and 4Matic are standard. In Edmunds performance testing we recorded a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 18/25/21.
The ML450 Hybrid features a 3.5-liter V6, a pair of electric motors and an advanced transmission that has both fixed and continuously variable ratios. The transmission shares its general design with GM's "two-mode" hybrid systems, though in this case there are eight forward speeds versus GM's four. Total combined output is rated at 335 hp and 381 lb-ft of torque. The estimated 0-60 time is 7.8 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/24 mpg highway.
The ML550 gets all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic standard. Its 5.5-liter V8 produces 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, which is enough for an estimated 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy is 13/18/15.
The ML63 AMG packs a 6.2-liter V8 good for 503 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. It's connected to all four wheels via an AMG-tuned seven-speed automatic with manual override shift paddles. In Edmunds performance testing, its 0-60 time was a staggering 4.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is, not surprisingly, the lowest of the bunch at 11/15/12 mpg.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, traction and stability control, hill descent and ascent control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the ML350 came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, while the Bluetec stopped in 121 and the ML63 in 114.
In government crash testing the M-Class achieved a perfect five stars in all frontal and side categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave the M-Class its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2010 Mercedes M-Class features one of the finest cabins in its class, with a pleasing design and top-notch materials. Its electronics interface can be a bit frustrating, however. While the menu structure and software are the same, the M-Class doesn't feature the multifunction control knob that more recently introduced Mercedes models do. More complex functions end up being controlled by four directional arrow buttons placed out of easy reach of the driver.
Passenger room is impressive, offering more rear legroom than most of its competitors. There's no third row offered, but if you need one, you can always step up to the bigger GL-Class. With the rear seats in place, there are a total of 29 cubic feet of luggage space. When the seats are folded flat, that expands to 72 cubes, an average figure for this class of vehicle.
On the road, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is hardly a driver's SUV like the BMW X5. The steering is numb and imprecise, and while handling limits are respectable, the suspension tuning is too soft to inspire confidence in corners. But for typical buyers, the ML's familiar feel of Germanic solidity in a straight line will be reassuring. Braking performance is excellent, and the engines are generally top notch. The turbodiesel V6 could stand to be more responsive, however. We have yet to drive the hybrid, but expect the familiar eerie silence of a gasoline-electric powertrain at low speeds and even more ponderous handling, thanks to its hefty weight.
The ML63 AMG is quite simply staggering. The roaring rumble of the 6.2-liter V8 is almost worth the steep price of admission alone. The suspension, brakes and seat upgrades help make it more driver-friendly than the non-AMG members of the M-Class, but don't expect the handling prowess of BMW's X5 M or Porsche's Cayenne.