MERCEDES-BENZ ML 300 REVIEW
VEHICLE STYLE: 4WD Wagon
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo-diesel V6
Outputs: 140kW / 440Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed tiptronic automatic, permanent 4WD
Official fuel efficiency: 9.8 L/100km
On test fuel efficiency: 11.1 L/100km
CO2 emissions: 260g/km
Mercedes-Benz revamped its M-Class range earlier this year, adding the AMG Sports package to the options lists of all models in the range.
The ML 300 CDI may be the base model in the M-Class line up, but with the AMG Sports package it comes with a high-roller image at a sub-$100k price.
- Quality: Typical Mercedes solidity here. Everything feels rock solid, the climate control switchgear being the only exception.
- Comfort: All seats give great support, and even the rear centre seat is roomy enough for adults. Both front seats are electric.
- Equipment: The AMG Sports package adds adjustable air-suspension and 21-inch alloys. As standard, there are auto-on headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, a trip computer, dual-zone climate control, foglamps and iPod integration.
- Storage: Boot space measures 833 litres with the rear seats up, and a generous 2050 litres with them folded flat.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The ML 300 CDI may look like an off-roader, but its on-road behaviour is more car-like than its appearance suggests. The steering is light and the torque-laden (and surprisingly rev-happy) diesel makes short work of moving the 2185kg ML around town.
- Refinement: The 3.0 litre turbodiesel V6 might sound faintly truck-like at idle, but it disappears once revs build. Meanwhile, the 7-speed automatic is buttery-smooth.
- Suspension: Road noise from the low-profile 21-inch rubber isn't intrusive, but the air suspension feels a little firmer than the conventional coil spring setup. With multi-link suspension at both front and rear, the ML 300 CDI handles very well considering its size.
- Braking: Braking hardware consists of discs front and rear – vented at the front, solid at the rear. They slow the big ML down easily, although we never worked them hard enough to induce fade.
- Off-road: An optional off-road pack is available for serious four-wheel driving, and includes adjustable air suspension, front, centre and rear differential locks, a dual-range transfer case and underbody sump guards.
While few would be inclined to venture far off road with the standard ML 300 CDI AMG Sports, it offers robust AWD surefootedness and versatility (for towing the horse-float or the dash to the snow).
- On-road: A tall ride height and good forward visibility is handy in traffic, but an 11.6m turning circle and big proportions make it a little cumbersome in narrow streets and carparks.
- ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
- Safety features: Front, side (both rows) and curtain airbags are standard, as are three-point seatbelts on all seats. ABS, EBD, stability control and traction control are also standard..
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3 year/unlimited km new car warranty, including 24-hour roadside care.
- Service costs: Service intervals for an ML 300 CDI are 25,000 kilometres or every 12 months. (Information on scheduled servicing costs not supplied.)
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- BMW X5 xDrive 30d: The ML 300 CDI's natural rival, the entry-level X5 retails for $92,100. Although more expensive than the ML, it boasts significantly more power (180kW) and torque (540Nm), and has a more modern interior. (See X5 reviews)
- Audi Q7 3.0 TDI: Costing $88,614, the Q7 is slightly larger than the ML and has a better interior ambience. With 176kW and 550Nm, it also outguns the ML for power and torque.
- Land Rover Discovery 4 TdV6 SE: With a $81,990 RRP and 180kW/600Nm coming from its turbodiesel V6, the Discovery 4 represents the best value in the segment. Not only luxurious, it's an excellent off-roader.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The M-Class is nearing the end of its lifespan, but the big Benz still has some life left in it. Costing $6900, the AMG sport package is good buying for those who want the brawny visual appeal of the flagship ML 63 AMG, without its $173,900 price-tag.
It may be showing a few wrinkles in its cabin design, but the ML 300 CDI is decent value with a premium badge.