2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec First Look and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 17 July 2011
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The 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec is all new, with a look that harkens back in many respects to the first-generation M-Class introduced in 1997.  That car launched the mid-sized luxury SUV segment that year and it was also the first SUV with electronic stability control standard.

The second-generation M-Class, introduced in March 2005, used unibody construction which gave it a more car-like ride, and this is continued in the latest version.  Just like the previous models as well as the R-Class and GL-Class, the new M-Class is built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which opened in 1997 specifically to produce the first-generation M-Class.

The new, third- generation M-Class is understated and elegant, with sleek, sophisticated lines and a front fascia that comes directly from Mercedes-Benz’ current design language.  Key design elements include the prominent hood and grill, the swept-back headlamps, the unique C-pillar design, and the top rear exaggerated spoiler (which is functional).

In terms of overall size, the new M-Class is an inch longer, half an inch wider, and three-quarters of an inch lower than its predecessor.  It also has improved storage capacity and a power liftgate is now standard.

INSIDE THE MERCEDES ML350 BLUETEC

The new ML350 BlueTec is all-new inside as well.  High-quality materials abound and attention to detail is evident everywhere.   The center display is now larger (7”), and Mercedes’ engineers neatly addressed a problem with the placement of the steering wheel stalks in earlier models, making them more accessible and visible.  The turn signal stalk is now at 10 o’clock and the cruise control is at 8 o’clock.  This sounds trivial but it was far too easy to hit the wrong stalk in the older cars.

Mercedes moved the seat controls to the door and this is one move I’m not a fan of.  While this makes the controls far more visible, it also means that the driver or passenger is reaching forward, not down, while making adjustments.  My hand instinctively reached down to the side of the seat to make adjustments each time I entered the vehicle but someone driving the car full time should get used to the positioning.  My only other complaint in the interior is the overuse of aluminum trim, especially in the center stack.

Mercedes’ Comand cockpit controller has been updated with two favorites buttons, making it more user friendly (for example, you can program them for favorite destinations, such as the office or grandma – although for security reasons, I would not recommend programming your home location as a favorite).  A really cool (literally) optional feature is cupholders that heat and cool.

The steering wheel frames the instrument cluster without obscuring any information and a new 4.5” display between the speedometer and tachometer provides navigation instructions, trip computer functionality, and other useful information.  It is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel that provide scrolling and selecting functions and information.

Other new features include Bluetooth audio streaming, LED daytime running lights, 19” aluminum wheels, heated front seats which are eight-way power adjustable, and aluminum roof rails.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec Safety and Engine

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