Strengths and weaknesses:
- fuel economy
- interior layout
- options can drive price up quickly
Blue TEC a solid solution
The pace of automotive development never ceases to amaze me.
A good example is that of Sport Utility Vehicles over the last five years. Economic and financial pressures seem to target the biggest and most luxurious of the vehicles that some like as daily drivers. These SUVs seem to fit Canadian lifestyles very well, just look around at the number of them you see. To survive as a successful SUV these days, you have to be on the leading edge of development in order to conform to today’s tough standards of public acceptance.
One manufacturer on which you can always count to be at the forefront of development is Mercedes Benz, and its ML350 Bluetec is a shining example of what can be done these days.
I was awakened to just how different the ML350 Bluetec is when after one day of driving I look down at my average fuel consumption figure of 8.8 litres per 100km.
I was shocked. I’d expect that figure from a sub-compact, not a 2,235 kg SUV. I expect that from a gutless wonder that has an inline four cylinder engine capable of about 100 hp, and a 0-100 km/h time measured with a calendar, not from a 210 hp 24-valve V6with a massive 400 lb.-ft. of torque, that will power the mid-sized SUV from a dead stop to 100 km/h in just over eight seconds.
Fuel economy alone makes the ML350 Bluetec an acceptable SUV for today’s times. But it’s much more than just good fuel economy.
Inside, there is a host of standard features such as a 10-way power adjustable driver seat, along with heated front seats.
The driving experience in the ML350 Bluetec is one of its strengths. Being a diesel, one of the main concerns is engine noise. Four out of five people who listened to it idle at a coffee shop couldn’t tell it was a diesel, which tells you just how quiet it is from the outside. Inside, I still believe that Mercedes has some of the quietest interiors out there, and the ML is no exception.
The ride quality is very good, and I have to add that the dampening on the ML350 Bluetec is one of the major factors. The test vehicle has the standard independent front and rear suspension (but you can upgrade to the Airmatic air suspension for $2,000) which keeps the ML350 Bluetec smooth over small bumps with no chattering, yet still feels solid when leaned on in a corner.
The ML350 Bluetec is equipped with Mercedes Benz next generation Bluetec technology. The AdBlue injection (employing both the common-rail direct injection principle and a special particulate filter) makes the ML350 Bluetec one of the world’s cleanest diesel SUVs - eliminating more than 80% of nitrous oxide emissions.
Some manufacturers think the way to improve SUV fuel economy is to make the vehicles smaller and lighter, but this theory hurts the reason buyers look at SUVs in the first place. You want more room and the ML350 Bluetec comes standard with 833 litres of space when all the seats are in use; that goes up to 2,050 litres with the rear seats down. Towing capacity is a solid 3,265 kg.
With the ML350 Bluetec, you get world class luxury, safety and performance at a reasonable price starting at $58,900. And, you get the peace of mind that it will only cost you about $3.20 more in fuel costs to go 100 km in your ML350 Bluetec than it would in a Smart Fortwo.
That is development at its finest!