Here’s a quick refresher in M-classification. The original Mercedes ML, the W163 was launched in 1997. It got a face-lift in 2006, renamed the W164, which was longer and wider than the outgoing M-class. Significantly, it was built on a steel monocoque chassis rather than the body-on-ladder frame of the earlier car. It’s been on sale in India since 2007.
The new W164 is not all that new – a minor facelift and an interior upgrade freshen up this big Merc. AutoCar (April ’09) takes a road test…
Mercedes-Benz is very good at making their old cars look absolutely new by just making some minor changes and tweaks to their cars. With the ML, the designers have created an aggressive-looking car, with dramatically cut wheels arches prodding from the body and a recessed area between the wheels, not unlike that of an X5’s. There are also AMG-style vents on top of the bonnet, a lightly re-styled bumper, along with more traditional off-roader cues such as an imitation sump-guard and sills. Overall, the effect is extremely positive.
The OM 642 motor in the ML320 CDI is similar to the one in the E280 CDI salon – a 3.0-litre quad cam V6 diesel, making 234bhp and 54.5kgm of torque – sufficient to haul the car to 100kph in a very impressive 8.1 seconds. It’s impressive because the car weighs over two tonnes.
The ML is suspended by double wishbones at the front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Mercedes Airmatic air suspension is standard on Indian cars. It features Auto, Comfort and Sports modes, lowers the car automatically by 15mm at high speeds, and raises the car 80mm for off-road driving at the touch of a button. The car also features permanent four-wheel-drive, Merc’s 4ETC traction control and Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR). The Mercedes also has an optional ‘Off-road Pro’ package, which comes with a low range transfer case and locking differentials giving the ML real off-road prowess.
On the road, in the suspension’s ‘Comfort’ mode, the ride is slightly lumpy at low speeds but as soon as you get to moderate and higher speeds, the suspension even out the road beautifully. Set it in ‘Sport’ mode and you’ll be surprised by the relative ease at which you can hustle the big Merc down a twisty road.
Coming to the interiors - what’s new is the steering wheel, the paddle shifts and the bigger screen for the audio system. The front seats are comfortable and wide, the cabin is built out of quality materials and the colours used are appealing.
To sum up the new M-class is nothing truly radical. It looks nice but there’s nothing to make you look as second time. It seats only five and its off-road potential is largely untapped without you adding options. It doesn’t have the driver appeal of the X5 or the sheep presence of the Q7. The M-class however scores because it does so well the things that make or break these cars, namely on-road ability, a brilliant, refined diesel engine and a comfortable ride. It’s a finely judged compromise ends AutoCar (April ’09).
|At A Glance
Price: Rs. 78 lakh(on -road, Mumbai), Power: 234bhp @ 3800rpm, Torque: 54.5kgm@1600-2400rpm, Acceleration: 0-60kph – 4.01s, 0-100kph – 9.10s, Top Speed – 215kph, Fuel Efficiency: City – 5.1kpl, highway – 10.5kpl, Overall – 7.8kpl
For: Ride, refinement and space, Against: Some essential equipment missing