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What the Mercedes-Benz M-Class can do, and what it's actually used for, aren't always the same thing, but that's life for a luxury SUV. The M-Class possesses a degree of off-road ruggedness that most owners will never explore, instead choosing to treat it as a minivan replacement, hauling kids from school to soccer practice.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class receives two new engines, replacing the six-cylinder diesel with a four-cylinder, and swapping out the ML550's twin-turbo V-8 for a twin-turbo V-6 called ML400. The M-Class offers many of the same comforts, infotainment, connectivity, and plush luxury features you'll find in the brand's top sedans, like the S-Class--as well as some features that help it standout against other utility vehicles.
The current M-Class looks more aggressive than past models, but without straying too far from the familiar shape. Inside, it's soft and sedan-like, with swooping curves and sculpted lines making up the instrument panels, center stack and the seven-inch display for the latest version of M-B's COMAND interface.
Although the look plays off-road capability, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class drives like a luxury sedan most of the time, with a smooth, refined character behind the wheel. Powertrains are strong and responsive; handling is secure; and roadholding is confident.
The 302-hp V-6 engine remains the M-Class's base gas option; it's the latest version of the brand's 3.5-liter, 60-degree V-6, and it's very smooth, providing just enough power and torque for this SUV. New for 2015 is the ML400, which uses a new 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 making 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It ostensibly supplants last year's ML550 4Matic, although the output numbers aren't quite as high.
Another 2015 change effects the BlueTec diesel model; it's now called ML250 and is powered by a four-cylinder turbodiesel, which replaces the ML350 BlueTec and its V-6. The smaller engine is short on power like most diesels but makes up for it with plenty of torque and should return great fuel economy, especially on the highway.
Again topping the range is the ML63 AMG, which comes with a 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 making 518 hp and 516 lb-ft. Other upgrades include five-spoke, 20-inch AMG wheels, and if you opt for the AMG Performance Package you'll have 550 hp and 560 lb-ft.
Some customers will still expect the off-road ability to be here, so Mercedes-Benz hasn't dumbed that down too much or lightened the M-Class' towing or basic trail ability. The 4MATIC system's electronic, stability-system-linked 4-ETS torque distribution can send nearly all engine torque to whichever single wheel can use it. The suspension is also remarkably versatile for a combination of on-road use or off-roading. Opt for the off-road package, and you get an automatically detaching sway-bar system, which provides more wheel travel off-road while keeping the ride and handling civil the rest of the time. Air suspension is available, as well. Tow ratings range up to 7,200 pounds.
Seating in the M-Class is about on par with that in other luxury SUVs its size. Taller adults can sit in back, in the outboard positions, though it's still a bit of a squeeze to fit three across. Cushions are well contoured, and the front seats especially are like we expect from Mercedes, with all-day support built in. Rear seatbacks are also now adjustable for rake, and there's more than 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. With the last generation of the ML, Mercedes made considerable advances in refinement and materials, bringing the cabin appointments and ride quality up to par with that of the brand's sedans. In this new third-gen version, it's even better—especially the way everything fits.
Some features include a heated or cooled cupholder that can heat up to 141 degrees F. And there's an iPad docking station—positioned between the front seats and in view for rear passengers—that will be available first in this product but will soon be available for all Mercedes-Benz models. A night-vision system is among the standalone options, as is an Advanced Park Assist system, which helps steer the vehicle back into a parallel-parking space as the driver controls the accelerator and brakes.