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#11

in 2010 Luxury Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $23,959 - $30,221
Original MSRP: $45,700 - $56,750
MPG: 16 City / 21 Hwy
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2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Mercedes M-Class is a smooth driver, with reviewers' only complaints centering on the slightly numb steering. The 50-state diesel model receives lots of praise because it doesn't drive or sound like a diesel. The new ML450 hybrid receives similar praise, as reviewers note that it drives just like the gasoline-powered M-Class and gets great fuel economy.

  • "These vehicles lean more in fast turns than the sportier Acura MDX or Porsche Cayenne. Straight-line stability is great, but these wagons are too tall, weighty, and top heavy to be truly agile. The steering is impressively linear and accurate, though its effort in turns can feel too heavy. Strong stopping control is augmented by outstanding brake-pedal modulation." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Aside from squishy brake feel, the ML's road manners are predictable and hard to criticize, albeit a bit deliberate." -- Car and Driver.
  • "We burst out onto the West Side Highway, and the ML450 felt pretty much like a standard M-class." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "On the roads of Manhattan, the ML450 proved itself to be one of the most refined systems we've driven yet.” -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The ML350 features a 3.5-liter 268-horsepower V6, while the ML550 comes with a 5.5-liter 382-horsepower V8. The ML350 BlueTEC features a 3.0-liter 210-horsepower V6 turbodiesel engine. The new ML450 hybrid comes with a 3.5-liter V6 supplemented by a pair of electric motors. Altogether, its powertrain is rated at 335 horsepower. All models come with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Most reviewers agree that the ML350’s base engine is adequate enough. It can be sluggish on hills, but test drivers don’t recommend opting for the more powerful V8 model unless you plan on towing. They say the hybrid and diesel models also have good power.

  • "The AWD ML350 delivers plenty of smooth power around town and on the highway, though it can feel labored climbing long grades. The ML550 furnishes noticeably more thrust, but unless you tow heavy loads, it may be overkill." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The ML450 is indeed very quiet, as it's running solely on the electric motor, at least until about 12 mph, when the 3.5-liter V-6 kicks in unobtrusively. You see what's happening in the powertrain via a graphic interface in the navigation screen; once the picture of the engine goes from gray to white, you know that the gasoline engine is in operation." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Because even greenies get pissed sometimes, the ML450 includes a launch-control function that M-B says will sling the hybrid ute to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15.8." -- Car and Driver
  • "The ML350 BlueTEC that I drove delivered seamless power without a bit of noisy clatter or oily stink. Whether driving around town or at highway speeds, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference in refinement from a gas engine." -- Arizona Republic

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is a mixed bag for the M-Class. The base model’s ratings are about average for the class. According to the EPA, the ML350 achieves 16/21 mpg city/highway with two-wheel drive and 15/20 with all-wheel drive. The V8-powered ML550, however, is rated at 13/18 mpg, which is quite low for the class.

Opting for the diesel model increases fuel economy substantially. The diesel-powered ML350 BlueTEC is rated at 18/25 mpg. The EPA has not yet rated the new ML450 hybrid, but Mercedes estimates it will achieve 21/24 mpg -- about 30 percent better fuel economy overall than the ML350. These ratings are among the best in their class, but you can still do better and pay less.

The Lexus RX Hybrid costs $12,000 less than the ML450 Hybrid, and it’s rated at 32/28 mpg city/highway. It has less horsepower than the M-Class (295 versus Mercedes’ 335), and the engine can sometimes be sluggish -- but the savings in fuel and money might be worth it.

Handling and Braking

The Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a smooth, solid feel, but its power steering receives mixed reviews. A few test drivers find it too numb. Standard on all models except the base ML350 is a 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system. It costs about $2,500 extra on the base model.

  • "Aside from some low-speed impact harshness over most bumps, M-Class models are admirably comfortable and rewardingly composed. The available air suspension has Comfort, Sport, and Automatic settings. It's uncomfortably choppy in Sport, and the other modes have little evident effect on comfort or control." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The performance of the brake system in the ML was particularly impressive, showing absolutely no signs of transitioning between friction and regenerative braking. Even during light braking at low speeds coming to a stop, the ramp out of regenerative braking could not be detected." -- Autoblog
  • "Test drives on twisting mountain roads showed the M-Class to have quick steering with Mercedes' slightly heavy, but reassuring, feel." -- MSN
  • "ML handles well, particularly for a tall heavyweight, but I found the steering to be vague and numb, especially straight ahead at highway speed." -- Arizona Republic

Next Steps: 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

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