By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/13/2012
In the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M Class, buyers will find an SUV that delivers safety, luxury and the status that comes with having the three-pointed star on the hood. The M-Class's wide and varied trim levels make it a multi-faceted SUV, with a diesel model for those seeking good fuel economy and two V8 engines for the performance-oriented set. Even the base V6 offers a good blend of power and fuel economy, and helps keep the M-Class price in check. This year, a new Off-Road package adds a two-stage transfer case, allowing the M-Class to go head-to-head with the Land Rover Range Rover and Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.
Any luxury SUV can promise a quiet cabin and a smooth ride. But very few can claim a 174-mph top speed on the German autobahns or offer the stump-pulling torque of a fuel-efficient diesel engine. The well-regarded safety features of the M-Class are just another selling point, as is its 7,200-pound tow rating.
While the M-Class can wear many hats, it can't fit more than five people in its well-appointed cabin. Those needing more space might look to the larger GL or even an Audi Q7 or Infiniti JX. Those seeking similar luxury and off-road features at a more affordable price might consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited.What's New for 2013
For 2013, a new Off-Road package offers a 2-stage transfer case, Airmatic adjustable suspension, locking differential and six selectable driving programs. The ML350 now offers a rear-drive model, while new massaging front seats with comfort headrests join the options list. New standard equipment includes the mbrace2 telematics system and Collision Prevention Assist.
The 2013 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 want a more dynamic driving experience, that can be had with the touch of a button that adjusts the suspension. We preferred to leave it on the "comfort" setting 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.
A true leap forward in telematics, mbrace2 is a Cloud-based subscription service that uses your smartphone to connect to the Internet, allowing apps like Facebook, Google and Yelp to be online and at work whenever the car's in motion. Mbrace2 can even download system and map updates.
The 2013 M-Class has all the soft-touch materials and wood accents 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 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 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
Last year's thorough freshening carries over to the 2013 M-Class. Up front is a revised grille that emphasizes the Mercedes-Benz emblem and sleeker headlights that give the M-Class a more modern look. Adding to the sportier appearance is a sculpted beltline running the sides. The rear benefits from a squatter shape and taillights that are stretched horizontally, which give the 2013 M-Class a more sporting instead of 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 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs come with a 7-speed automatic transmission, power sunroof, 8-way heated front seats, power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, 7-inch color center display, Collision Prevention Assist and an 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/DVD mbrace2 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.Notable Optional Equipment
Here's where the M-Class' $50,000 base price can quickly inflate. 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 can opt for a package that adds another 32 horsepower and a top speed of 174 mph.Under the Hood
Each of the four 2013 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 potential 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 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 accelerate from zero to 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: 18/22 mpg, 13/17 mpg (E85)
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: 14/20 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: 13/17 mpg
Prices for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs range from roughly $48,000 for a base ML350 with rear drive to well over twice that for a fully-loaded ML63 AMG, which can reach over $112,000 with options. Keep in mind that option packages across the line can add thousands of dollars to any model. At these prices, the M-Class almost mirrors the BMW X5 series, which starts in base form at just over $48,000 and can reach more than $100,000 for a loaded X5 M. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers in your area are actually paying for the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Down the road, the M-Class boasts excellent resale value, with the ML350 BlueTEC diesel version commanding the highest dollar.