Ride, Handling and Braking – Its a given that an SUV of this size is not going to be a handler but evolution has worked in favor of the W166. It now features better ride and handling characteristics. Body roll is evident and is bound to be there if you are lugging more than 2 tonnes but its controlled and the handling is more predictable now. The AIRMATIC suspension can be toggled into Sports and Comfort as per the requirement. The M-Class offers a complaint ride in the comfort mode with the suspension absorbing most of the bumps. In the Sports mode, the suspension stiffens up and the gearing gets more aggressive. The ride gets more stiff but at the same time does not make the passengers uncomfortable. You can chuck the car into tight corners and it does reasonably well as compared to the previous generation model. Our test car was shod with 20-inch AMG alloy wheels which did their bit in improving handling and stiffening up the ride marginally.
Steering is light at low speeds and weighs up nicely as you speed up. Even at high speeds the steering offers sufficient feedback. The brakes seem do a good job to stop this mammoth SUV, however there is fair amount of play in the brake pedal and it takes time getting used to.
When you are off the tarmac there are a variety of assists available for off-road driving. The 4MATIC permanent all wheel drive system distributes 50:50 power to the front and rear wheels, which is ideal for off-road use. There is a button on the center console which activates the ‘Off Road Driving Programme’. This programme customizes engine performance, automatic transmission, anti-lock braking system, electronic stability programme and electronic traction control system to suit the terrain making it very easy to navigate. DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation) is standard and ground clearance can be increased, wherever required, by the flick of a button.
Power delivery is linear and the M-Class does feel quick with the torque being available right through the rev meter.
Performance – Under the hood of the ML 350 CDI lies a 2987cc V6 power plant which produces 258 BHP of peak power at 3600 RPM and a massive 620 Nm of torque between 1600 – 2400 RPM. It will stop the clock at 7.4 seconds on a 0 – 100 km/h dash. Fuel efficiency is better by 28 percent as compared to the earlier generation vehicle inspite of having an extra 34 BHP and 100 Nm torque over the previous model, thanks to numerous blueEFFICIENCY measures and aerodynamics. Mated to this engine is a 7G-TRONIC Plus automatic gearbox which has Direct Select Lever for gear selection. This gearbox is smooth and the gear ratios are sorted for every kind of speed and terrain, however if you are in a hurry, you might find it a tad bit lazy at times. Paddles can be used for some extra fun. One can expect an overall mileage of around 9 kmpl. NVH levels are good with hardly any noise creeping inside the cabin. The engine note does get audible post 3000 RPM.
Head over to the next page below, to read the conclusion and specifications of the new M-Class.