2011 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, with reviewers noting it drives just like the gasoline-powered M-Class -- and blows it away with its great fuel economy.
- "Aside from a squishy brake pedal, the ML pours itself down the road with a refined and luxurious demeanor." -- Car and Driver
- "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
- "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 turbodiesel V6 engine. The new ML450 hybrid comes with a 3.5-liter V6 supplemented by a pair of electric motors. Altogether, its powertrain is rated for a maximum of 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 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 is a mixed bag for the M-Class. According to the EPA, the ML350 achieves 16/20 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 and hybrid models increases fuel economy substantially. The diesel-powered ML350 BlueTEC is rated at 18/25 mpg. The ML450 hybrid gets 20/24. These ratings are among the best in their class, but you can still do better and pay less.
The Lexus RX Hybrid is 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.
If you don’t want a hybrid, you can still save money and fuel by considering the Lincoln MKX. It has a higher base fuel economy rating of 19/26 (which incidentally matches the M-Class diesel model’s rating).
Handling and Braking
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a smooth, solid feel but its power steering system 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.
- "Aside from some low-speed impact harshness over most bumps, M-Class models are admirably comfortable and rewardingly composed." -- 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