By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 5/26/2011
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's Significant About This Car?
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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
Prices for the 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class start at over $47,000 for the ML350 and go to over $93,000 for the ML63 AMG. Adding option packages to either vehicle will see both prices increase dramatically, however. Adding in either 4Matic all-wheel drive or the company's clean and efficient diesel engine will increase the bottom line by $2,000 to $4,000, depending on additional options, while the hybrid ML450 Hybrid is close to $57,000. Click on our Fair Purchase Price to see what prices consumers are actually paying for these vehicles in your area.