By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a mid-size luxury SUV that offers an excellent mix of comfort, utility and power, all with the prestige inherent in any vehicle adorned with the Three-Pointed Star. With its range of engine choices and package options, the M-Class can take the form of a midlevel people mover that competes with the Lexus RX and BMW X5, to a super-premium hauler that can go toe-to-toe with a Range Rover Sport or Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
Whether you want to tackle any road in sublime comfort or hit up to 174 mph on the autobahn, the M-Class can do it. On a more pragmatic front, the Mercedes M-Class boasts reams of safety features, great cargo space, and the ability to tow up to 7,200 pounds.
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class has been revamped for the 2012 model year, which marks its third generation since debuting in 1998. The 2012 M-Class has slightly bigger exterior dimensions and a sleeker design, upgraded interior and tech features, standard all-wheel drive, a new 7-speed automatic transmission, and V6 and V8 engines that are more powerful yet drink less fuel. The hybrid version has been dropped but the stout and efficient BlueTEC diesel remains.
Driving Impressions The M-Class further dashes the notion that ride quality must be sacrificed to have a high-riding, all-wheel-drive machine that can tackle just about any terrain. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class can...tame the hazards of ruts, snow and muck – not to mention rush-hour traffic and speed bumps – while treating its driver and passengers to a supple travel experience. The M-Class doesn't feel quite as sporty as its BMW rivals, but it's anything but slow, especially when equipped with a V8 engine. For those who do want a more dynamic driving experience, that can be had with the touch of a button that adjusts the suspension. We preferred to leave the "comfort" setting on to take advantage of this SUV's soft ride. Even at freeway speeds, the cabin is remarkably hushed. Visibility is good, but we still recommend the optional blind-spot monitoring system. Steering feels a tad light at lower speeds and isn't very communicative overall. The M-Class has a relatively tight turning radius of 38.7 feet, which means fewer 3-point turns.
This feature is a lifesaver when your hands are filled with groceries. Just touch a button on the key fob and the tailgate lifts. Closing is equally simple, either via a button on the door itself or with another press on the key fob.
Fold and Tumble Rear Seats
Folding rear seats are ubiquitous, but not so those that tumble forward, too. Though it takes an extra step, the setup yields a flat floor that is better for carrying cargo.
The 2012 M-Class has all the soft-touch materials, wood accents, and sea of sturdy buttons and knobs you'd expect in a luxury vehicle. Leather seating will still cost you extra, but even the base "MB-Tex" vinyl provides an appreciable amount of comfort and good textile feel. That sensation carries over to just about every other component, from the available wood steering wheel to the tiny gear selector, which bucks the trend not just with its size but by being mounted on the steering-wheel column instead of the center console. Rear passengers are treated to ample legroom, reclining seats, and movies of their choice with the optional twin LCD screens mounted inside the front-seat headrests.Exterior
With the 2012 model comes a significant freshening of the M-Class' sheetmetal. Up front is a revised grille that emphasizes the Mercedes-Benz emblem, and sleeker headlights that give the M-Class a more athletic look. Adding to the sportier appearance is a sculpted beltline running the sides. The rear benefits from a squatter appearance and taillights that are stretched horizontally, which gives the 2012 M-Class a more sporting vs. utilitarian look. The high-performance ML63 AMG models are distinguished by a larger air intake up front, wider front fenders and quad tailpipes in back.
All 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs come with all-wheel drive, a 7-speed automatic transmission, power sunroof, 8-way heated front seats, power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch color center display, and an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/DVD audio system with weather band and HD Radio. Safety features include nine airbags and Mercedes' Attention Assist system that monitors for driver drowsiness. ML350 and ML550 versions ride on big, 19-inch wheels, while the top-line ML63 AMG rolls on 20-inchers.
Here's where the M-Class' $50,000 base price can quickly inflate by thousands of dollars. Many options are bundled into packages and include navigation, rear-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a premium harman/kardon surround-sound system. Further options include a panorama roof, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and the Parktronic system to aid with parallel parking. The $5,000-plus Dynamic Handling Package makes for a more sporting M-Class with the addition of 20-inch wheels, air suspension and an adaptive damping system. Buyers of the AMG performance version who find its 518 horsepower still inadequate can opt for a package that adds another 32 hp and brings the SUV's top speed to 174 mph.
Each of the four 2012 M-Class models is distinguished by its own engine. At the lowest-priced end is the ML350 with a still-robust V6. Next is the most fuel-efficient of the bunch, the ML350 BlueTEC with a V6 turbodiesel that puts out tremendous power yet yields up to 27 mpg on the highway and a stated cruising range of more than 600 miles. The diesel is 50-state legal and of the "clean" variety, meaning it doesn't put out the nasty emissions of past diesels, but will require injections of the urea-based AdBlue fluid throughout its life. The ML550 SUV uses a powerful-but-fuel-thirsty V8 biturbo, and the ML63 AMG uses an even bigger, more powerful – and even less fuel-efficient – V8. Even the "slowest" M-Class can hit 60 mph in just over seven seconds, while the AMG version can do it in 4.7 seconds, on par with high-performance sports cars.
302 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/22 mpg
3.0-liter turbodiesel V6
240 horsepower @ 3,600 rpm
455 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-2,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
4.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8
402 horsepower @ 5,000-5,750 rpm
443 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20 mpg
5.5-liter biturbo V8
518 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18 mpg
By Cre8tivemind on Friday, December 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Roomy, comfortable and refined."
Cons: "Where do I charge my phone???"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I just picked up my 2015 ML350 4Matic last week...I opted for a few extra bells and whistles like leather seating,heat and massage, ambient interior lighting and the premium package. Now I'm over 6' tall and well over 200lbs and the ML is probably one of the most comfortable and quiet rides I've ever experienced in any smaller SUV I've ever owned. The leather is plush and the seating is very comfortable. The cabin is very spacious for a smaller SUV. I love the fact that I have that extra leg room. The car has good power and shifts seamlessly. The steering might take some getting used to as it seems loose, but it is very responsive. I can't pretend to be the most technologically inclined, but you have a large 7" LCD, well formatted Navi, and pretty well laid out music controls. I still need to delve into the user guide (which is also uploaded into the cars on board hard drive). I'm testing the MBrace feature, which from what I understand, offers up conveniences like emergency services collision notification, concierge services and auto map and computer updates just like GM's OnStar. Well my preliminary impressions of this vehicle are very good to excellent. The only other option that I believe might be worth having is the "off-road" package which includes air suspension and 20" wheels. But then again, this car's 4Matic feature has been great thus far in in-climate weather conditions. I think it's very good on gas too! (20 mpg City)"
10 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Geezer on Monday, November 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfort, mileage"
Cons: "Wipers sometimes a little spastic."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Had excellent experience with this vehicle. Fuel mileage remarkable for 5000 lb. vehicle. Comfort best of six SUVs I've owned."
8 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By M J on Thursday, September 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fit and finish, luxurious interior, comfortable."
Cons: "Poor reliability and durability. Klunky ergonomics"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Hi Everyone: This is a followup to my November 24, 2012 review, now with 2 years and 33,000 miles on my ML350 4Matic with P01 package and Harman Logic7 sound. Fit and finish, ride quality, and stereo still are very good. However, reliability and durability have proven to be very poor. 1) Low profile (for a SUV) tires are fragile, this is definitely a road-going SUV only. I have replaced two tires due to damage at $450 per. 2) This thing EATS BRAKES. Rear brakes have been replaced TWICE so far after only 2yrs and 33K miles of ownership. First time was a warranty repair, second time the dealer denied warranty even though the brakes went from 90% to 5% in 10 months and 13K miles only. 3) Center console cupholder mechanism failed after less than 1 year, repaired under warranty. This car is definitely a disappointment, given MB's self-professed reputation for quality and reliability. Luxurious, yes. Reliable and durable? No."
19 people out of 33 found this review helpful
By Styles on Sunday, September 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 300overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fit, finish handling, ride."
Cons: "Poor instrument layout, poor interior room."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"This is a great vehicle for people who want a nice, well-made small SUV. It's powwerful, handles well, and has nice finishing. I am not happy with the ergonomics at all. Too much of the electronic controls are too small and too far from from the driver, requiring you to take your eyes off the road to make any selections or adjustments. I am most unhappy with the navigation and other associated functions. They require total distraction if you want to use them while driving, which is unacceptale. I would not purchase this vehicle again for those reasons alone. As far as driving, handling, and fit, this vehicle is first rate."
14 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By SUVPilot on Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 38,700overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Brand Prestige"
Cons: "Overpriced truck, under-powered V6 engine"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"Driving dynamics is similar to Grand Cherokee due to virtually identical chassis and body frame. The under-powered V6 engine is simply too weak to move briskly this 5000 lbs truck. I should have bought the V8 which will definitely change my poor driving experience. As to the driving position and seating comfort, it is about average, and not the command view that an SUV is supposed to have (Lexus GX has an elevated and upright driving position that other luxury SUVs ought to have). This SUV is overpriced by at least 5K even if MB has great brand prestige. And too bad, all those European or Japanese luxury SUVs are overpriced trucks that are only worth about 70% of their MSRP when new. But that does not mean Detroit luxury SUVs are bargains. Instead, Detroit luxury SUVs are a joke in terms of quality and reliability whether they are 2004 models or 2014 models."
48 people out of 66 found this review helpful
By MamaVA on Monday, March 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 39,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Perfect car for all my needs and wants"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car has the luxury I need for clients, the funcationality as a "mom" car, seats my teenagers comfortably and knowing the car drives well and is very safe just makes it the perfect car for me."
11 people out of 17 found this review helpful