Mercedes-Benz’s midsize sport utility vehicle has been leading the class for years, while also being near the forefront of all sport utility vehicles on the market. The M-Class provides safety and security, power, and luxury, while allowing for seating for five as well as towing and hauling capabilities. Four different version of the M-Class are available, ranging from the basic ML350 to the outrageous ML63 AMG that gives up off-road capability for massive on-road power. Plenty of differences appear between the versions, but one thing they all have in common is state-of-the-art safety features and plenty of amenities and accessories inside. The ML350 BlueTec version also serves as a rare diesel sport utility vehicle, but also a very capable one that doesn’t suffer from the drawbacks of early diesels.
New For 2013
The M-Class was new for 2012 and now comes in a full range of variants for 2013: rear drive or all-wheel drive, gas V-6 or diesel V-6, and two wickedly fast V-8 models. The new off-road package makes any non-AMG M-Class trail-worthy, with air springs, a two-speed transfer case, a differential lock, and six transmission settings.
The outside of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class looks somewhat conservative, although the ML63 AMG receives extra styling that matches the exterior up with the power underneath. The front end of the M-Class appears nicely chiseled and blends into character lines that extend back to the middle of the vehicle. The angled C-pillar that leads to the back end is noticeable and seems to be the calling card of the M-Class design. The rear end borders on bland, but includes a power liftgate. Nineteen-inch wheels come standard while 20-inch wheels remain available. Running boards and a panoramic sunroof provide available features. The ML63 AMG gets a sportier appearance, with a more aggressive front bumper, larger lower grille shroud, sculpted rocker panels, and quad exhaust tips.
Interior & Cargo
Thanks to only being a five-seat midsize sport utility vehicle, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class provides ample passenger room as well as plenty of cargo space. The rear seat has legroom and headroom that rank at the top of the class, although shoulder room remains only average. Behind the second row sits 36 cubic feet of luggage space, and that increases to 71 cubic feet with the second row lowered. The design of the interior looks quite luxurious, with an upright dash that is more rounded off and softened. Two-tone upholstery comes standard, with leather upholstery available. The M-Class includes plenty of wood and metallic accents that can be combined to dress up the interior further and accentuate the design.
The interior of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class isn’t just superior in design and space, but also in standard and optional features and accessories. All accessories are powered, and the power-adjustable front seats have heat, with the option for ventilated and massaging versions. The rear seats can also add heating capabilities. Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system controls all of the audio and phone settings, such as the standard Bluetooth audio streaming, 14-speaker stereo, and DVD player. The COMAND system still needs refinement, as it is not intuitive or particularly easy to learn. A premium surround-sound system is available, along with an optional hard-drive-based navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Mercedes-Benz has constantly kept on eye on safety, and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class does not deviate from this way of life for the automaker. The M-Class includes the usual standard safety features, as well as advanced safety features that put the M-Class at the top of the class for sport utility vehicles. The M-Class combines the older Attention Assist system that alerts the driver if changes in driving behavior occur due to drowsiness, with the Collision Prevention Assist system, a system that uses radar to sense likely front collisions and alert the driver, while priming the brakes and initiating the PRE-SAFE emergency response system that tightens seat belts and closes window in preparation for the impact. Nine airbags come standard, along with traction control and stability control. The Mbrace2 connectivity system is also standard, and automatically signals for aide if a seat belt tensioner or airbag activates.
There are plenty of optional features to add on top of these standard ones. The optional Distronic Plus active cruise control system uses radar to adjust cruise control and, if necessary, can automatically stop the car if there is no reaction from the driver. A lane departure warning system is available, along with a blind spot warning system. Front and rear parking sensors and parking assist with a backup camera are also available. With all of these safety features as well as a sturdy frame, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the M-Class a rating of ?Good? in all categories as well as the groups Top Safety Pick designation.
Four different engines are available in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, but are only available on the specifically designated models. The ML350 receives a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that puts out 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, while the ML350BlueTec employs a 3.0-liter, diesel-powered, turbocharged, V-6 engine that drops to 240 horsepower but sees a massive torque increase up to 455 lb-ft. Both of these engines prove perfectly capable, but for those looking for more power, Mercedes provides the ML550 with a twin turbocharged, 4.6-liter, V-8 engine that makes 402 horsepower but only 443 lb-ft of torque. Lastly, the overdone ML63 AMG contains a twin turbocharged, 5.5-liter, V-8 engine that turns out 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The ML350 in both gas and diesel has average acceleration and great cruising capabilities, although the diesel can haul cargo easier. The ML550 turns out a reasonable straight-line acceleration up to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, while the ML63 AMG cuts it down to a time of 4.7 seconds, putting it in the range of sports cars. The AMG Performance Package can be equipped on the ML63, upping the power output to 550 horsepower and 560 lb-ft of torque.
In addition to these power numbers, the M-Class also handles very well, with the suspension keeping the vehicle nice and even in city driving while cushioning the roughness of off-road travel. Steering feels precise, although it is a bit light and doesn’t provide much in the way of feedback due to being electromechanical. The braking also feels light, although the brakes themselves prove quite powerful and bring the M-Class to a stop in a slightly shorter distance than average for the class. Even when the tow rating of 7200 pounds is maxed out, the brakes keep everything under control and the suspension keeps the vehicle from getting pushed around.
Key Competitors For The 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
- BMW X5
- Land Rover LR4
- Audi Q7