- Quiet, comfortable ride
- Strong, efficient BlueTec diesel
- Extensive list of tech options
- Standard Attention Assist
- Impressive handling
- Conservative exterior
- Indecisive shifts (Bluetec)
- COMAND interface
- No more non-AMG V-8 option
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class doesn't crow about off-roading: it's more concerned with things like fuel economy and in the AMG, superhero acceleration.
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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
The M-Class fits smartly in gated communities everywhere with its uncontroversial shape and sedan-like cockpit.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class carries on the same basic look of the prior two generations, although in this latest iteration it has been refined to blend the rugged concept with a somewhat wider, road-oriented stance. Although the M-Class and GL-Class share underpinnings, has more of a car-like look, while the GL reminds us more of a traditional SUV.
The 2015 M-Class's proportions will look and feel familiar. The front end is imposing, with large air dams and a broad grille, and the sides have lines and creases that extend all the way back to the C-pillars. You'll notice its prominent shoulder-line from just about any angle, as it wraps all the way to the back of the M-Class, where, perhaps, its lines are most conservative. The rear styling is handsome but a tad generic, something that plagues many SUVs of this size.
While the exterior looks tasteful, if a bit familiar, the interior of the M-Class will be a revelation even if you're trading up from a lease on a late-model M-Class. Dumping the chunky look of the former vehicle entirely, the M-Class adopts a design that's clearly influenced by the S-Class sedan flagship, with the gently sculpted lines and swooping curves of Mercedes' sedan instrument panels.
Complementing the look is a 'power dome' center stack. Top and center is a seven-inch display, flanked by air vents, which uses M-B's COMAND screen-based interface. Standout materials such as diagonal stitching for the seats add a fresh, high-class touch, and up-level models get an upholstered dashboard with stitched edges. Vinyl seats are standard on most models, while leather is an option, and you can choose from a variety of wood and trim, as well as a few color combinations for the seating.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
Moderate off-road capability and high-economy diesels are the big M-Class talking points; the ML63 AMG is an exclamation point.
Looks can be at least a little deceiving here. While the 2015 M-Class may appear tough enough to spend time off-road, it's actually happiest when it's treated like a luxury sedan. Its roadholding is confident, handling is secure, and the powertrains are willing and responsive. There's even a rear-drive version with the base V-6 for those who don't even need to pretend to have capability they likely won't use.
That base V-6 engine is the brand's latest 3.5-liter, 60-degree V-6, which we think is one of the best V-6 luxury engines. It's rated at 302 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, with a nice even powerband that makes it feel sprightly from a standing start or when pressed to pull off a quick pass. It works in concert with the seven-speed automatic transmission and sings all the way up the rev range with no rough edges.
Above that is the new ML400, which replaces the ML550 for 2015. Gone is the twin-turbo V-8 and in its place a twin-turbo six that makes slightly less power and torque—329 hp and 354 lb-ft. Though we haven't sampled it yet, we expect it to hit a nice balance between the ML350, which can feel taxed at times, and the outgoing ML550, which seemed to be almost as quick as the AMG model.
There's a new diesel for 2015, as well. The ML350 BlueTec and its V-6 is replaced by a four-cylinder turbodiesel in the ML250 BlueTec. The new engine makes 200 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, and we've found it to be nice and smooth, with enough power to keep an E-Class sedan moving, so it should be right at home here as well. If 'wafting' up to speed easily (without downshifts) on the highway, cruising effortlessly near triple digits, and getting fuel mileage that won't place a frown on the faces of your more earth conscious friends are all priorities, you'll find this model the best fit, too.
At the top of the range is the ML 63 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.
With a tow rating of 7,200 pounds, the M-Class is a very capable tow rig, too—especially in torquey BlueTEC guise.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
Comfort & Quality
Drivers are put on a pedestal in the M-Class' excellent seats; Benz leaves the third row to the bigger GL.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a luxury vehicle above all else, and materials, ride quality and comfort are superb across the board.
As you might expect in a Mercedes-Benz, the M-Class has excellent seats--well-contoured and soft, yet all-day supportive. There's space for taller adults in the second row, too, although fitting three across will prove tight. You can, however, adjust the rear seatbacks, and even with them up and in place there's more than 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind them.
The cabin experience is tight, quiet, and isolated. The standard suspension provides good comfort but also responds well when you push it in corners. There's a rather wide difference between the two modes (Comfort and Sport) of the available air suspension and adaptive damping system, which play a major part in pairing isolation and control. Comfort provides more of a traditional luxury-car ride, while with Sport you get a somewhat crisper feel at turn-in, with a little more road noise and coarseness.
Mercedes made considerable advances in refinement and materials with its sedans in recent years; and with the 2012 redesign it brought many of those improvements to the M-Class. It also addressed a quirk that's been an annoyance to some for years, repositioning the turn-signal lever from the 8:00 position to the 10:00 position.
And thanks to much-improved aerodynamics—and a spoiler at the trailing edge of the roof—the interior is noticeably quieter than prior versions of the M-Class, as well as most other utility vehicles with this kind of profile.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
The 2015 M-Class has some standout active-safety features, as well as top-tier crash-test ratings.
The M-Class, like most Mercedes-Benz products, has had a very strong safety record for years–with technologies and design going above and beyond federal requirements. The 2015 M-Class is no exception.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the M-Class its top five-star rating, with five stars in two categories and four in the rollover test.
The M-Class gets top 'good' ratings in all crash-test categories from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), along with the group's Top Safety Pick+ nod.
Active safety feature and drivers' aides are what really push the Mercedes-Benz vehicles beyond the competition. Attention Assist, which keeps tabs on driving style to help identify the signs of drowsy driving—triggering a coffee-cup icon and some warning beeps—is a standard feature on all M-Class models. The available Distronic Plus adaptive radar-based cruise control is one of the most sophisticated and unobtrusive systems of its kind on any vehicle—capable of coming to a full stop with traffic and restarting, and potentially reducing fatigue. Pre-Safe, Lane Keeping Assist, and Blind Spot Assist (all optional) all provide the sort of alerts that might make a split-second difference in accident avoidance.There's also a Collision Prevention Assist function, which uses radar to warn the driver if they're approaching a vehicle too quickly and can ready full braking power from the moment when the driver hits the pedal.
The M-Class also features a full complement of air bags, including driver and passenger front and side airbags, curtain air bags for both rows, and a driver's knee air bag. A rearview camera is optional, as is the Surround View camera system, which shows an overhead view of what's around the vehicle for true parking ease.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
Luxury features are a fine fit with the M-Class' price tag, but its COMAND interface is still kludgy.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers several different models, all of which can be equipped the kinds of options found in the brand's flagship S-Class sedan. Depending on the equipment you choose, this can be a very luxurious experience.
That said, even the standard of equipment on entry models is rather extensive. All ML350 and ML250 BlueTEC models include power heated front seats and a power liftgate--both items that are a step up in some rival models. MB-Tex vinyl seating surfaces are standard on most models, with leather at least an option.
The base audio system is acceptable, while optional Harman/Kardon and Bang & Olufsen systems provide some varied and superb-sounding entertainment, and include an SD-card slot, 10 GB of audio storage, CD/DVD compatibility, HD radio, weatherband, and Bluetooth audio streaming—as well as Bluetooth hands-free calling. There's also a USB port within the center console.
Many extras are grouped into Premium and Convenience packages, including, for instance, a Dynamic Handling Package that adds adaptive damping and an air suspension system. A Sport package adds AMG wheels and body cladding.
Standout options include a heated and cooled cupholder that can heat up to 141 degrees F. And there's an available iPad docking station, positioned between the front seats and in view for rear passengers. 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. A panorama glass roof can also be added, as can heated rear seats, front-seat ventilation, and ambient lighting.
Although it has been continuously refined over the years, we're still not all that enthused about M-B's COMAND screen-based interface, which includes a rotary/button controller, placed just ahead of the driver's right-hand armrest. There's simply too much looking at the screen required--even once you begin to remember the menu system. Thankfully it does include a couple of programmable shortcut buttons. Mercedes uses the system instead of a touchscreen in the belief that it's less distracting than poking at a display, which we generally agree with. We'd just prefer a slightly more logical setup.
2015 Mercedes-Benz M Class
A turbodiesel engine is now the M-Class' best bet for fuel economy, though a twin-turbo six is a new, more efficient V-8 alternative.
The new ML250 BlueTec should be the most efficient of the M-Class bunch for 2015, although we won't know until official EPA mileage ratings are announced.
As for the gas engines, the rear-drive ML350 tops the charts, at 18/24 mpg. Add 4Matic all-wheel drive, and the ML350 drops to 17/22 mpg. The ML400 4Matic, another new powertrain for 2015, actually does slightly better, at 18/22 mpg, despite having higher output figures. And then there's the ML63 AMG, which drops down to 13/17 mpg.