The Mercedes-Benz M Class is all-new for 2012, bringing with it fresh new styling, more powerful yet frugal engines, and a lot more luxury.
The vehicle retains its upscale-family status-symbol quality, and with a pricetag starting below $50k we think it’s great value for money too.
The engine lineup has been completely updated, with the base 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivering 302 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. The engine works well with the seven-speed automatic transmission it comes matched to, happily running up and down the revs as you move about town or the highway.
For the green-minded SUV buyer, Mercedes is once again offering a diesel option on the M Class. In the latest 2012 model you get a new BlueTec turbodiesel engine delivering 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. The horsepower number may not seem all that impressive but when diesels are concerned it’s torque that matters, and in the M Class the oil-burner will allow you to 'waft' up to speed easily (without downshifts) on the highway and cruise effortlessly near triple digits, all while getting great mileage.
Our choice, however, would be the high-performance ML63 AMG model. The uber-SUV gets AMG’s popular twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 as its power source, which in its latest tune develops 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Not only does this output represent a 15 horsepower and 44 pound-feet leap over the outgoing ML63, gas mileage is improved by as much as 33 percent, according to the automaker.
But if you’d prefer to stick with the regular M Class, you’ll be happy to know that the driving experience is good. The electromechanical steering is one of the better setups we’ve tested and doesn’t suffer from that dead on-center heft that the steering in some former Mercedes models do. You'll find handling secure and confident, and the variable-ratio rack is handy for parking.
And while the M Class is pretty to look at, it’s also got quite a lot of utility. The tow rating is a respectable 7,200 pounds and the advanced 4Matic all-wheel drive system's torque distribution setup should keep you out of trouble if you decide to go off-road. Just don’t think you can suddenly go boulder-hopping in the M Class.
As mentioned, there's a ton of luxury items inside the M Class. Some of the standout features are a heated or cooled cupholder that can heat up to 141 degrees F, an iPad docking station, and an Advanced Park Assist system, which helps steer the vehicle back into a parallel-parking space as you control the accelerator and brakes.
For an in-depth look at the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M Class, including a look at its styling, performance, quality, and safety, head over to our sister site The Car Connection for the full review.