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New models - Mercedes-Benz - M-class - ML250 BlueTec

Mercedes chops $4380 from base M-class

Frugal SUV: The entry-level Mercedes-Benz ML250 BlueTec diesel is more economical than a Toyota Corolla.

Four-cylinder M-class to help drive down entry price of new luxury Benz SUV

Mercedes-Benz logo19 Jan 2012

MERCEDES-BENZ will throw down the gauntlet to its competitors in the fast-growing luxury 4x4 market by cutting two cylinders and $4380 from its M-class SUV entry model when the new third-generation range arrives in April.

Previously only available with V6 diesel or petrol V8 AMG powertrains with prices starting from $85,780 (plus on-road costs), the new range will introduce four-cylinder diesel power courtesy of the 2.2-litre direct-injection twin-turbo engine introduced on Mercedes passenger cars.

This will create the $81,400 ML250 BlueTec, undercutting rival BMW’s cheapest X5 (the $92,100 xDrive30d) by a whopping $10,700, and Audi’s $90,500 Q7 3.0 TDI by $9100.

The four-cylinder Benz will also help to bridge the gap to smaller and cheaper BMW and Audi SUVs – the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 – that range between $62,000 and $75,000.

Ultimately, Mercedes will gain its own compact SUV dubbed GLC, based on the same compact platform as the upcoming B-class hatch and A-class small car.

Until then, the ML250 BlueTec will serve as Mercedes’ most affordable 4x4.

4 center imageAlthough the ML250’s engine is significantly smaller than the V6 diesel of the current entry-level ML300 CDI, it is claimed to produce the same power – 150kW at a slightly higher 4200rpm – and identical peak torque – 500Nm, although over a narrower band, 1600-1800rpm.

Acceleration is said to be 0.7 seconds slower, at 9.0 seconds from zero to 100km/h.

The biggest gain will be in fuel efficiency, where the new model is said to achieve an outstanding 6.4 litres per 100km on the combined test cycle, compared with the old ML300 CDI’s 9.5L/100km.

This also makes the big Benz more fuel efficient than a Toyota Corolla.

Mercedes says this fuel efficiency should make the new model good for more than 1400km with the optional 93-litre fuel tank.

CO2 emissions have been slashed from 249 grams per kilometre to just 168g/km.

The smaller, more hi-tech engine is said to contribute more than a third of the fuel savings, with other major gains coming from idle-stop – now standard on ML – and the latest version of the seven-speed automatic transmission.

Aside from its new-found thrift, the new ML250 BlueTec also meets the toughest Euro 6 exhaust emissions standard, hence the BlueTec nomenclature.

The remainder of the M-class range will remain under wraps until the formal launch in April, but expect it to include the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 ML63 shown at the Los Angeles motor show in November, probably arriving in Australia about June.

The new M-class is roughly the same size as the current model, with the same 2915mm wheelbase, but cloaked in an entirely new skin to go with its new powertrain.

According to information released by Mercedes-Benz Cars Australia at this week’s launch of the flagship sportscar, the SLS AMG Roadster, the US-made M-class range will get more standard features this time around.

These will include the Comand multi-media system – complete with internet browser, dynamic route guidance sat-nav and reversing camera – and a range of hi-tech safety technologies such as anti-collision PreSafe Brake, Attention Assist and Night View Assist Plus.

A self-parking system, 19-inch alloy wheels and electric power steering will be standard, with the latter helping the fuel-saving cause.

The luxury SUV segment is Australia’s fastest growing segment, with sales volumes soaring 20.7 per cent last year, to 27,106 units, in an overall market that fell 2.4 per cent.

Last year, sales of the ageing M-class slipped almost 20 per cent to 2077 units – 693 behind the X5, but 734 ahead of the Q7.

However, it remains one of the three-star brand’s top-selling vehicles in Australia, shaded only by the B-class (2211 sales in 2011) and Sprinter van (2248).

Mercedes M-class pricing (before on-roads):
ML250 BlueTec (a) $81,400
Other engines TBA

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