Auto review by Veeno Dewan

The popular Mercedes-Benz M-Class is redesigned into its third generation for 2012, with new styling, a new direct-injection 3.5-litre gasoline engine, and revisions to the diesel engine for improved efficiency and performance. Mercedes have sold shed loads of this premium SUV and it is not surprising given the high quality they have always possessed. For 2012 the V8 and performance ML550 and ML63 AMG models are not available for now. Instead the M-Class arrive as the ML 350 4MATIC, with 3.5-litre V6, and as the ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC, with 3.0-litre Turbodiesel making 240 horsepower.

The new exterior redesign looks very good with a more prominent fascia. The resulting look is less blocky and more aerodynamic with well integrated flowing lines. Our tester was the diesel equipped ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC equipped with the seven-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel drive as used on both models.

The ML arrives with 19-inch alloy wheels, Thermatic automatic climate control, AMG exterior styling package, power-adjustable Artico-upholstered heated seats, garage door opener, rearview and driver’s side auto-dimming mirrors, power-folding exterior mirrors, LED taillights and daytime running lights, ambient lighting with three colour choices, power-adjustable leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, rear side airbags, power sunroof, tire pressure loss warning, navigation system, CD/MP3 stereo with ten-gigabyte music storage hard drive, SD card slot, and Bluetooth interface for wireless audio streaming and hands-free phone operation illuminated vanity mirrors, anti-theft alarm system, cargo cover, poplar wood trim, Smart Key remote, privacy glass, heated windshield washers, and smoker’s package.

Available options include parking guidance, rearview camera, panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, power liftgate, and leather upholstery and bi-xenon headlamps.

Interior wise, the ML350 is as hushed and awesome as a bankers vault. Sumptuous high quality leather seats and trim dominate and you can choose from Eucalyptus wood trim, dark poplar wood, aluminum and matte-finish ash wood to customize the interior. Cargo capacity behind the rear seat has increased seven cubic feet.

Interior legroom, headroom and shoulder room both front and rear is excellent.

Standard features on the M-Class include eight-way power heated front seats, a sunroof, a 100-watt audio system with eight speakers arranged in pairs, dual-zone automatic climate control and a power liftgate.

A seven-inch screen display displays entertainment options. Mercedes’ iDrive-like COMAND system is also standard. Option packages also offer such expansive luxuries a rearview camera, power-folding exterior mirrors and a navigation system. heated and cooled cupholders, an 830-watt Harman/Kardon audio system and an ambient light system with three different light color settings.

For those who want more a Dynamic Handling Package, which includes an air suspension system that aids both on and off-road use as well as the Active Curve System that helps negate body roll by tightening up the anti-roll bars in heavy cornering. 20-inch alloy wheels are also added in this package.

Mercedes have always been renowned for safety and the ML offers nine airbags including two-stage front air bags, a knee air bag for the driver and pelvic air bags which together with curtain and side air bags to provide extra protection for front occupants in heavy side-impact collisions.

Also noteworthy the “ATTENTION ASSIST” system that can alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness, a steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. As soon as the system senses possible drowsiness it triggers an audible warning and a “Time for a Rest?” message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster. With a 3.5-liter V6, the gas-burning ML350 puts out 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.

Our ML350 BlueTEC was powered by a 3.0-liter diesel V6 is a jewel. 455 lb-ft of torque is very impressive with horsepower at 240. The slick seven-speed automatic is very smooth with precise defined shifts. Handling is not sporty-like given the weight and size of the ML. And it needs care in tight parking lots and urban areas.

This new ML is amazingly quiet with a softly sprung and light steering. At speed the transmission’s upshifts and kickdowns provide seamless acceleration. The diesel engine is also a revelation with its quiet, clatter free operation. Only a teeny delay in throttle response almost imperceptibly betrays its diesel roots.

Fuel consumption for the Bluetec diesel is estimated at City: 10.5 L/100 km Hwy: 7.3 L/100 km.

To sum up the ML is extremely popular and sought after by smart buyers and it is not hard to see why given its quality, amazing and fit and finish. The three pointed star badge says it all really. Highly recommended.

2012Mercedes ML 350 4MATIC BlueTEC priced from $59,400