Full 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review
What's New for 2013
For 2013, a rear-wheel-drive ML350 model debuts along with the new mbrace2 telematics system, collision prevention assist, an optional off-road package and new front seats with massage functions.
Go anywhere in style. That pretty much sums up luxury SUVs, and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a fine example of this concept. With the addition of a new off-road option that adds serious terrain-taming equipment, "anywhere" just got bigger.
That new off-road option includes a two-speed transfer case and an adjustable ride height suspension, both of which give the M-Class extra capability in the dirt. But truth be told, we suspect few M-Class owners will actually ford streams or blaze trails through the wilderness. No, they're more likely to challenge the "civilized" urban jungle. And for that, the ML will still work out just fine.
With a variety of engines that range from adequate to dominant, there seems to be an ML to suit every taste. It starts with the base V6 in the ML350 and then moves up to the turbocharged V8s in the ML550 and ML63 AMG. There's also the diesel-fueled V6 in the ML350 Bluetec that returns 23 mpg combined. Of course, being a Mercedes, the M-Class has an impeccably designed and assembled interior that bathes occupants in top-notch materials and features galore.
If you're shopping for a luxury crossover SUV, you won't be wanting for choice. The 2013 BMW X5 offers comparable luxury, power and feature content, yet also has a third-row seat, something the Mercedes lacks. If performance is a high priority, the sportier 2013 Porsche Cayenne is likely a better choice. It's also worth noting that the Acura MDX, Lexus RX and Volkswagen Touareg are all quite nice and undercut the M-Class on price.
Then again, if making a stately entrance is important no matter where you want to go, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is sure to satisfy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a five-passenger midsize luxury SUV available in ML350, ML350 Bluetec, ML550 and ML63 AMG trim levels.
The ML350 and ML350 Bluetec are equipped similarly with standard 19-inch wheels, a sunroof, a power liftgate, foglamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power/heated front seats, reclining rear seats, premium vinyl upholstery, the COMAND electronics interface, Mercedes' mbrace2 telematics system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker sound system with HD radio, a CD player and USB/auxiliary jacks.
The ML550 adds 19-inch AMG wheels, running boards, a trailer hitch and rear seat side airbags. Other than the wheels, all of these items are available on the 350 trims.
Adding the Premium 1 package will get you a rearview camera, power-folding mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory functions, double sun visors, a navigation system, a 115-volt household power outlet, satellite radio, an iPod interface and a six-CD/DVD changer.
The Lighting package includes adaptive bi-xenon headlights. The Lane Tracking package includes blind-spot warning and lane departure warning and assist. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control (with active PreSafe braking) to the contents of the Lane Tracking package. An On/Off-Road package includes an adaptive air ride suspension, a two-speed transfer case, a six-mode terrain selector and underbody skid plates.
Individual option highlights include a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, a night vision camera, triple-zone climate control, full leather seating, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, multicontour front seats with massage functions, a rear seat entertainment system, two-tone leather upholstery and different cabin accents (metallic and wood).
The ML63 AMG gets a twin-turbo V8, active roll stabilization, stronger brakes, AMG-tuned suspension and steering, 20-inch wheels, special leather upholstery, sport seats and unique styling elements inside and out. The Premium 1, Lighting and Lane Tracking packages are standard as well. The AMG Performance package raises engine output and adds a higher top speed. Also optional are 21-inch AMG wheels along with most of the other trims' extra equipment.
Powertrains and Performance
The ML350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels, with 4Matic all-wheel drive available as an option. In Edmunds performance testing, an ML350 4Matic went from zero to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is average for its class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined for both rear- and all-wheel-drive models.
The ML350 Bluetec has a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that utilizes 50-state-legal clean-diesel technology. It produces 240 hp and a prodigious 455 lb-ft of torque. 4Matic all-wheel drive is standard for this and all higher-trim models. Mercedes estimates that it will go from zero to 60 in the same time as the gas ML350, but fuel economy improves to 20/28/23 mpg.
The ML550 gets a 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says it'll hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 14/20/16 mpg.
The ML63 AMG gets a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. The AMG Performance package bumps this engine up to 550 hp and 560 lb-ft. Mercedes says the ML63 will hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds in its standard form, while the Performance package knocks a tenth of a second off that. Fuel economy stands at 13/17/15 mpg.
Standard safety features for all 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class models include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, hill-start assist and hill-descent control, active front head restraints, the mbrace2 telematics system (smartphone integration and Web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services), a collision warning system, PreSafe (it anticipates an imminent crash and automatically takes measures to better secure occupants), front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.
The optional Lane Tracking package includes blind spot warning and lane departure warning. Paired with the adaptive cruise control system is an advanced PreSafe system that automatically applies the brakes when a collision is imminent.
In Edmunds brake testing, an ML350 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in 114 feet, which is outstanding for such a heavy vehicle with all-season tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class features an upscale cabin and seating for five. The more rounded dash design reminds us more of the distantly related Jeep Grand Cherokee in its appearance than its squared-off Mercedes siblings, but that's more of an aesthetic critique. The COMAND interface works well and allows the driver to easily select the car's more complicated infotainment options without making simpler commands too difficult.
Passenger room is impressive, as the M-Class offers more rear legroom than most of its competitors. There's no third row offered, though. With the rear seats in place, there is a total of 36 cubic feet of luggage space. When the seats are folded flat, this expands to 71 cubes -- an average figure for this class of vehicle.
Though the acceleration numbers of the gas and diesel V6s are similar, there are two distinct personalities here. As expected, the turbodiesel V6 provides strong low-end grunt, which tapers off as the revs climb. The gas V6 takes the opposite tack, feeling a bit soft off the mark but giving a more potent higher-rpm rush. If you want more power or just the status of the numerically higher badge, the turbocharged ML550 and ML63 AMG will happily oblige. Both models are exceptionally quick. No matter which ML you choose, braking performance is strong and reassuring.
On a winding road, the Mercedes-Benz ML350 tends to roll a bit when pressed, but the ride is compliant without being floaty. The all-electric steering system is a bit of a disappointment, however, as it's overly light and doesn't provide the sort of subtle feedback we've come to expect from Mercedes-Benz. The ML63 is better in this regard, as you would hope from such a high-performance machine.