in 2012 Luxury Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $40,720 - $44,194
Original MSRP: $48,990 - $50,490
MPG: 17 City / 22 Hwy
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2012 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.

Reviewers are pleased with the way the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class performs in their test drives. They say that both the gas-powered and diesel six-cylinder engines perform well, although some test drivers say the diesel engine lacks power during high-speed acceleration. The EPA hasn’t released fuel economy data, but the gas engine should get fuel economy that’s average for the class, while the ML350 BlueTec improves on those numbers slightly.

The auto press adds that the new M-Class handles well on twisty roads, though shoppers hungry for a sporty driving experience should opt for the Dynamic Handling Package that adds driver-adjustable suspension damping settings.

AMG, Mercedes’ high-performance arm, makes a tuned-up version of the M-Class, the ML63 AMG. This model jacks the horsepower up even higher and gives the SUV an even sportier ride. It’s reviewed separately.

  • "Thanks to more powerful V6 engines and an improved automatic transmission, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 and the diesel ML350 Bluetec hustle quite nicely." -- Inside Line
  • "Whether you choose gasoline or diesel is really a matter of personal preference - both perform well in this model." -- AutoWeek

Acceleration and Power

For 2012, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers a choice between two different engines, depending on the trim. The ML350 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The ML350 BlueTec’s engine is a 3.6-liter V6 diesel that makes 240 horsepower and puts a satisfying 455 pound-feet of torque to the ground. Both models offer a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for those who prefer to row their own gears. Rumor has it that a V8 engine will be available later in the model year, so if you have your mind set on eight cylinders, you’ll have to wait or look elsewhere. Only a few luxury midsize SUVs even offer V8 power, and those include the Infiniti FX50, BMW X5 xDrive50i and Porsche Cayenne S. None of these are cheap, with starting prices of $57,600, $63,800 and $65,000, respectively, but they’re all lauded for their surprisingly sporty handling and tarmac-assaulting acceleration.

Reviewers have mixed emotions about the two engines. While both perform adequately, the BlueTec diesel engine lacks power at higher speeds for highway passing maneuvers. Plus, reviewers say the diesel is exceptionally quiet and smooth. On the other hand, it’s more fuel-efficient than the gas-powered V6, and provides more power off the line thanks to its generous 455 pound-feet of torque. Left Lane News predicts the gas engine will get 17/22 mpg city/highway, while the diesel will get 22/25 mpg city/highway.

Speed demons looking for even more power should take a look at the Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG, another model of the M-Class tuned by AMG, Mercedes’ high-performance division.

  • "Both engines are up to the task of propelling the 4,753-pound vehicle from launch (7.3 seconds from 0 to 60 mph for either engine), but higher-speed response suffers in the diesel. Both are quick to react to a call for power at speed, but the gasoline engine is more capable of delivering. If you need more grunt, you'll have to wait for the 4.6-liter biturbo V8 model due in early 2012.” -- AutoWeek
  • "An upgraded seven-speed automatic transmission makes the best of the situation, too, serving up quick downshifts when we need them.” -- Inside Line
  • "We were a little surprised that the BlueTEC engine with its 455 lb-ft did not give us the same feeling of confidence when blazing by drivers who seemingly were just out for a Sunday drive." -- Left Lane News

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are happy with the way the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class handles, saying it drives about as well as most other tall SUVs. The new M-Class also offers a Dynamic Handling package for about $5,200, which includes bigger wheels and driver-adjustable suspension dampers. Reviewers say that the standard suspension is fine for most users, but those looking for a sportier driving experience should definitely consider opting for the handling package.

  • "Potholes and surface irregularities are absorbed by the excellent suspension without any drama, which typically means the vehicle will produce undue body roll under more athletic circumstances. Surprisingly enough, the tall-riding SUV maintains fairly flat, stable cornering." -- Autoblog
  • "Ride quality is exceptionally compliant with the standard setup of steel springs and conventional dampers, but the body roll is a bit much on the twisty downhill grades on Highway 200." -- Inside Line
  • "The regular suspension is likely fine for most drivers, but if your driving style leans toward sporty, you'll want to investigate an upgrade to the optional suspension." -- AutoWeek

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