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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - M-class - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

Mercedes-Benz logo23 Oct 2008

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

WITH sales down almost 25 per cent in 2008, Mercedes-Benz Australia is hoping that the introduction this month of a facelifted model will stimulate sales of its big M-class SUV.

The sales slump for M-class is in line with the rest of the Benz line-up and could therefore be said to be caused by the increase in the Luxury Car Tax, but the reality is that M-class sales have been down for the past year so this model refresh arrives just in time.

M-class has been a strong addition to the Mercedes-Benz family worldwide, but the second-generation W164 model that was launched in April 2005 has had to withstand a plethora of new arrivals in the premium SUV segment.

Mechanically, the all-wheel-drive M-class remains unchanged (although fuel economy has been improved by an average of 0.4L/100km) and the five-model line-up continues, with prices increasing (over and above the LCT increase) by between $255 and $3022, as we reported early last month.

However, there are some significant feature adjustments through the range to temp buyers, along with exterior changes that were first revealed in official photographs seven months ago and which include larger exterior mirrors.

Subtle front-end styling changes include stepped headlights, a reshaped bumper and larger radiator grilles with three black louvres, while the rear features darkened tail-lights and twin oval tailpipes, which can be changed for the square outlets that are standard on V8-engined models.

Interiors feature a new four-spoke multifunction steering wheel design with standard shift paddles, some new materials, redesigned seats with four-way lumbar support and optional new two-tone dashboards.

Benz’s new generation of telematics provides numerous improvements, including integrated iPod connection allowing control from the steering wheel and displays on the instrument panel and the centre console display. And audiophiles can select an optional Harman Kardon surround-sound package that offers some 12 speakers with a total output of 610 Watts.

Riding on new 17-to-20-inch alloy wheels and with standard seven-speed transmissions, the M-class range opens with the 140kW/440Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel ML280 CDI, which gains five-spoke 18-inch alloys, an upgraded infotainment system with a five-inch colour monitor and Bluetooth connectivity.

The 3.5-litre 200kW/350Nm V6 petrol ML350 and 3.0-litre 165kW/510Nm V6 diesel ML320 CDI variants also ride on bigger wheels and gain the latest COMAND APS interface that adds DVD navigation, an SD card slot, 4GB hard-disc, 6.5 inch colour monitor and Linguatronic voice activation.

Buyers of the 285kW/530Nm 5.5-litre petrol V8-powered ML500 now get a wood/leather steering wheel and an electric glass sunroof as well as 20-inch alloys while the flagship ML63 AMG, which is still powered by a 375kW/630Nm 6.2-litre petrol V8, is now distinguished by chunkier front and rear air dams and a chromed (simulated) underguard, as well as an enlarged radiator grille.

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