By KBB.com Editors
Mercedes-Benz has continued to refine the M-Class SUV for 2011 by introducing a new, very efficient hybrid drivetrain. Though equipped with a relatively heavy, less-advanced nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, the ML450 Hybrid helps make this already-sophisticated SUV line a front-runner in the luxury utility race. With a unibody design, excellent road manners and a world-class suspension, the vehicle delivers all the comfort of a crossover with the capability of an SUV. With a respectable cargo area that delivers up to 29.4 cubic feet of storage and seating for five individuals, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class remains an excellent alternative family vehicle.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class competes with vehicles like the BMW X5 and Lexus RX 350. If either of those is on your shopping list, you'll likely be right at home behind the wheel of the luxurious M-Class, which delivers much of the handling capability of the BMW with the comfort of its Lexus rival.
If you find yourself needing three rows of seating on a regular basis, the 2011 M-Class is not for you. With just two rows and seating for five occupants, the M-Class lacks the people-moving capability of its larger sibling, the GL-Class, but makes up for it with better fuel efficiency and maneuverability.
The days of the fuel-thirsty SUV have come to a close. Mercedes-Benz now offers the M-Class with a hybrid drivetrain capable of up to 22 mpg combined. Additionally, the company's BlueTEC diesel technology offers a combined EPA fuel economy estimate of 21 mpg.
Driving Impressions Thanks to the significant revisions that Mercedes-Benz introduced in 2010, the 2011 M-Class continues to be a superb performer on road. With its unibody construction and optional adaptive suspension, the...SUV offers a superb highway ride that's akin to the German automaker's smooth-driving luxury sedans. Though this vehicle may lack some of the off-road prowess of the BMW X5, we'd feel safe in betting that most buyers won't be assaulting rock-filled back roads on the way to the mall. Though we love the feel of the V8-powered ML550, the truth is that the torque of the ML350 BlueTEC would be more satisfying to live with on a day-to-day basis. That's especially true when it comes time to fill the tank.
The 2011 M-Class is equipped with a long list of safety equipment that includes traction and stability control, multiple airbags and active headrests. Additionally, the company's Pre-Safe system tightens seatbelts and closes windows when it senses an impending collision.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is available with an optional air suspension that allows for an extra three inches of ground clearance to tackle rough terrain. An active damping system also lets you choose between Auto, Comfort and Sport settings, to best suit the road ahead.
The interior of the 2011 M-Class is a somewhat odd mix of features, designed to walk the line between off-road brute and downtown civility. Large, circular air vents and padded rails along the bottom of the center console lend the impression of rugged capability while a somewhat dainty gear selector stalk juts from the steering column. Though we typically expect modern vehicles to have a now-almost-standard console-mounted shifter, the stalk on the 2011 M-Class takes next to no time to get used to. As with most Mercedes-Benz products, this vehicle boasts incredibly comfortable seats. The driver's seat has four-way power adjustable lumbar support and there's enough room to transport four adults or two adults and two children comfortably.Exterior
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class stands out among the luxury SUV crowd as a sharp-looking vehicle. In range-topping ML63 AMG configuration, it presents an aggressive persona with large 20-inch wheels and menacing bodywork front and rear. Meanwhile, the standard-trim M-Class makes use of a large grille and appropriately-sized headlights. Stainless skid plates and sizeable side-view mirrors lend the impression of plenty of off-road capability. Though the relatively shorter wheelbase of the M-Class enhances nimble handling in parking lots and on tight city streets, the vehicle's tall ride height makes for difficulty reaching cargo stashed on the roof rails.
Mercedes-Benz has equipped the 2011 M-Class with a seven-speed automatic transmission, automatic climate control, a multimedia radio unit with in-dash six-disc changer, auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, cruise control, automatic headlamps, heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, outside temperature display, 19-inch wheels, power glass sunroof and a four-way adjustable steering column. Standard safety equipment includes the Pre-Safe system as well as an array of passive and active safety technologies, including front, front-side and front and second-row side-curtain airbags.
For the most part, Mercedes-Benz has grouped the options for the 2011 M-Class into packages. Buyers may choose an active-damping air suspension, hard-drive-based navigation, keyless entry, parking assist, a heated steering wheel with heated rear seats and an excellent harman/kardon audio system. If you're after the ultimate performance luxury SUV, there's also the high-horsepower ML63 AMG.
With an impressive V6 good for 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, opting for the lower-priced, higher-mileage ML350 won't leave you feeling short-changed in the power department. For those who want the towing capability of a V8 with the fuel mileage of a frugal four-cylinder, the ML350 BlueTEC diesel is an excellent choice. Die-hard speed freaks will no doubt drool over the ML63 AMG's 503 horsepower, but the price tag near $90,000 may render this hot-rod SUV little more than a pipe dream. Finally, the efficient ML450 Hybrid utilizes start-stop technology to achieve up to 43-percent better fuel economy than its 3.5-liter V6 stable mate.
268 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/20 (2WD), 15/20 (AWD)
3.5-liter V6 with Hybrid module
275 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3000-5500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/24
3.0-liter V6 Turbodiesel
210 horsepower @ 3400 rpm
400 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1600-2400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25
382 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
391 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2800-4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18
503 horsepower @ 6800 rpm
465 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/15
By Jay (NY) on Monday, November 18, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks okay from the outside. Thats the only pro."
Cons: "Just about everything. Not many good things to say"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Growing up I always thought of Benz as being top of the line cars. I had driven various BMW's, Acura's, Jaguar's and a lot of other luxury brands and I've owned several Audi's a Lexus and an Infiniti, but never drove or had a Mercedes for whatever reason, and always thought since Mercedes is more popular and more expensive that it must be better than all those aforementioned brands. But I didn't drive one until I was much older and wow. What a disappointment. The first Benz I ever drove was a friends grandmother's 2011 Mercedes C300 4matic. What a perfect grandma car. I was so unimpressed by the performance and overall quality but I brushed that off because after all it is the cheapest of all Mercedes. But I still expected better. Then my father decided to buy an SUV on a whim and without looking at other cars decided to get the 09 ML350 Benz. And this car must have no options because its honestly a joke. What a mistake. Let me start: - Car has horrible, I repeat HORRIBLE steering. Not sure if my specific ML has this problem but it is so loose and sloppy that when driving curvy roads I don't even feel confident in which way the car will go. - Cars buttons are all plastic and break easily. My sunroof button has broken twice already. - No key-less push button start. Most other brands in this price range offer that feature standard. My 09 Audi A5 is almost fully loaded and doesn't have keyless entry..but that's an Audi..this is a Mercedes..isn't Mercedes supposed to be better? - Does my ML have a faulty transmission? I hope its just mine because this car shifts so poorly, feels like its never in the right gear, revs high at times for no reason. Really jumpy tranny and just makes the driving experience bad. - Everything squeaks/rattles. Sunroof squeaks loud as it opens every time. Hit a bump and you're guaranteed to hear squeaks and rattles from some part of the car. - Bad headlights. Halogen bulbs are weak and dingy. In my opinion any car in this price range especially a Mercedes should have Xenon headlights standard. - Car has 3-stage heated front seats but they turn off gradually as time goes by. They start at 3 then go to 2 then 1..why? Anyone? - The navigation system is slow to use and really seems like its made for the passenger to use while the driver focuses on the road. If you have to play with the navigation while you're driving it could easily be a hazard. - Is this a luxury SUV? Why are there vents in the back seat? Oh, the rear vents are only for air conditioning? Is that a joke? So during the winter either I have to blast heat on myself in order for my rear passengers have heat or they have to freeze when I turn the heat off because Im sweating? Why dont they have their own controls? There's not even a wheel back there to open and close the vents, that has to be done from the front seat. Bad design. - Under the main screen in the middle there are two mini drawers. The main top draw I like. It gives the car a nice living room feel type of feel. It opens and closes smoothly, is a good size and its very convenient. One problem. The drawer underneath that is the ashtray and car lighter. Lets say you want to charge your cell phone, okay, you plug your car charger into the cigarette lighter and leave that ashtray drawer open and there you go..but the car charger sticking up makes it impossible for the main drawer above it to open more than halfway and becomes useless. So make your pick, you can either have access to the top drawer or charge your cell phone, you can't have both. Once again, very poor design. - Two electrical problems I've had since I got the car two years ago 1. Replaced three brake lights (since there are three mini sections that make up each of the taillights it gets annoying to have to replace each one as they go) 2. Power trunk completely stopped working and until getting it fixed it was almost completely useless. - The harmon/kardon system in this car is not bad. But please go into my Audi and listen to the Bang&Olufsen system in there and tell me its not better than this harmon/kardon. Then go into my Infiniti G37x and tell me that it's Bose system is not better than BOTH of these German car's sound systems. I can't make this stuff up. Not on the same level. Of the three, the Bose is the best, the Bang&Olufsen is a close second, and the Benz Harmon/Kardon is by far the worst of the three. - Everything inside is overly confusing to use. Good luck with that giant baseball bat of a turn signal knob. I dont know why they put so many controls and switches on one knob that you can't even see with the large boat like steering wheel in the way. - Back-up camera is poor quality. Always seems like there is glare blocking your view during the day. Backup camera's in my Lexus, Audi, and Infiniti are better. Let's say you get in your car and the music is on, but you dont want to hear it so you press the power button for the radio. Then the whole screen shuts off. Put the car in reverse, and you get no Backup camera. You then have to put the car back in park, turn on the system, manually turn down the volume of the music (since you dont want to hear it), then hit reverse again to get the backup camera to go on. Poor design. - Seats are pretty stiff, not comfortable on long trips, and the drivers seat has lumbar but not very adjustable at all. You cant get the lumbar to hit your lower back for some reason it just doesnt go down that far. Makes it pretty useless. Oh yea, and passenger side lumbar? Nope. This is a luxury car though right? You're starting to get how I feel about this vehicle. Its just lacking. So far my two Mercedes experiences have been just bad in every way. I ask myself all the time why there are so many ML350's on the road, the older ones, and especially the newer ones with that hideous new body style. I cant even imagine it being any uglier. I will say that I test drove a 2010 S550 recently and it was impressive. Not even close to the C300 or ML350. Definitely a far better car in every way shape and form and I could tell just from a 10 minute test drive. Im sure if I end up buying it, it will change the way I feel about Mercedes. So I'm not done with Benz at all, I still think they have great looking cars for the most part and they without a doubt get better as you go up the chain of models and classes. But why would anyone get this car over the BMW x5? I can see how this car attracts people but seriously I can't see how this car gets chosen over the X5. So we have a lot of regret there. As far as the Audi Q5/Q7 goes, couldn't tell you how they compare to the ML because I havent driven them, and the same goes for the Lexus RX350 and GX model. But I can say that my friend had the Acura MDX and I drove it a few times, seems like a better car and definitely is a better performer although its exterior looks aren't as sharp as the ML, and from being inside the RX350 a few times I know that the interior on that car is more convenient and more comfortable. And I can say hands down, because my brother has a beautiful 2011 X5 x35i with the M pacakge, that the X5 is better than the ML is just about every way. Save yourself the frustration of buying this far from adequate Mercedes."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By NomoreMB4me (NJ) on Thursday, October 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 76,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Too many to mention"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My 1st and last MB First it was the drivers side electric door opener that went. Then it was the rear right blinker LED light. Then a few days later the left rear winder lever (cheap plastic) snaps off in my hand as I lowered the window!! I AM NEVER EVER GOING TO BUY ANOTHER OVERPRICED MB AGAIN!!!! MBUSA's answer to my complaint since I am over the 50K warranty miles is they will give me a deal on my less than 3 year old ML350 to trade-in for a new MB. YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!!!"
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Charlieg (CA) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 117,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good to drive"
Cons: "Maintenance nightmare -"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This car was a maintenance nightmare - new engine at 15K, transmission problems at 80K, electrical problems - all the time, and finally the Balance Shaft problem - $6300 repair for a known defect that MB knew about. Will never buy another MB product. Have gone to Lexus. Beware of MB, quality is no longer inherent in the name. search ml250 balance shaft --- lots of problems from people"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Business Traveler (NC) on Friday, July 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 111,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "A great car= design, build, service and commitment"
Cons: "All cars need a very audible "low on gas" alarm"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"But it hard to part with a reliable old friend. The ML's dynamic steering control probably saved my life. I was going from Charlotte to Toronto and hit a deer on a 20 degree Friday night in West Virginia. There is no question that the dynamic steering control kept the car from rolling over. MB's driver assistance came in over the speakers within 15 seconds and stayed on the call for 3 hours directing me to a dealer in Greensburg, PA. This dealer had the critical parts that MB believed would be necessary to get the car back on the road quickly. The MB driver assistant had me run the heater on high with the windows down to cool the engine. It worked. The PA dealer installed a new radiator, fan, etc. while I slept in and I was back on the road by 10 AM Saturday morning. On another Friday night, while making the run from South Florida to Charlotte, I accidentally ran out of gas. All cars should have an audible alarm on the gas level. The road service tech brought two gallons of gas and lead me to an all night gas station thirty miles away. I did not expect that kind of help. I do things like that for my customers and it is a wonderful feeling when you are on the receiving end of that kind of care. I was only 2 hours from home. But if you know you have exceeded your limits, get real and check into a hotel. So it is time for a new ML. The new owner will need sensitivity as well as cash to get my semi-retiring trusty steed!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By littlemcm (CA) on Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfortable, stylish, reliable"
Cons: "can't think of cons - well designed"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have owned this car for 4 years and love it. Very comfortable, safe and a joy to drive. Will always own a Mercedes. Am going to get a sedan as my days of transporting kids everywhere is coming to and end. However, plan to keep this car as a 3rd family car. If treated right, this car will continue to be reliable. Would recommend this car, especially for a family."
8 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Gordy (NE) on Tuesday, April 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 66,922overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "engine and Mercedes quality"
Cons: "additive for the engine"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I lust for this SUV, it is the type of vehicle you can rely on in any weather or condition. A few drawbacks but mute in the vehicle overall benefits"