By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 6.9
The 3-pointed star may draw them into showrooms, but the versatility and variety of features really sell the 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV. This year, the V6 diesel and V8 gasoline engine are replaced by smaller, more efficient versions. The 2015 ML250 diesel replaces last year's V6-powered ML350 BlueTEC with a 4-cylinder diesel engine, while the new twin-turbo V6 in the ML400 4Matic all-wheel-drive model replaces the V8 in last year's ML550. Both new models lose a little power compared to the powertrains they replace, but both also get notably better fuel economy, which in today's market may be more important. What's unchanged is the ability of the M-Class to never let its five passengers forget they're riding in one of the world's premier luxury brands.
Whether you're looking for a 5-passenger luxury SUV that can sip the least fuel possible, a luxury SUV that can rip to 174 mph, or a luxury SUV that splits that difference one way or the other, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a good bet.
If you like the Mercedes M-Class, but can't quite make the stretch on price, check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Believe it or not, they're cousins under the skin thanks to the now-defunct DaimlerChrysler, and the Jeep is no slouch off road or when it comes to luxury.
KBB Expert Ratings
Mercedes-Benz sacrifices last year's ML350 BlueTEC and ML550 on the altar of fuel efficiency, replacing them with the 4-cylinder powered ML250 BlueTEC and twin-turbo V6-powered ML400.
Whether it's the fuel-sipping ML250 BlueTEC diesel, the fire-breathing ML63 AMG, or any of the ones in between, the Mercedes M-Class offers up a combination of luxurious appointments, a quiet...
... and comfortable ride, and real-world capability that's tough to find elsewhere. The M-Class is designed to drive exceptionally well regardless of what's pouring from the skies, and if you add the off-road package, and the M-Class is a genuinely capable off-road vehicle, better than you'd expect of a city-dwelling luxury SUV. Yet the M-Class is also an enjoyable driver's car, especially with the twin-turbo V6 or the performance-bred twin-turbo V8 in the AMG model. While not as sporty overall as the BMW X5, the M-Class features an adjustable suspension, allowing you to choose how stiff the SUV rides, though we're guessing "Comfort" is most popular setting. The only downside is the too-light steering, which isn't very communicative.
While not as powerful as the diesel V6 it replaces, the 4-cylinder diesel in the M-Class is an engine we've come to love in other Mercedes-Benz products like the GLK250 and the E250. Smooth, quiet and with a punch that belies its size, the diesel engine is also incredibly fuel efficient.
The convergence of cars and computers continues with mbrace2, the latest Mercedes-Benz telematics system. This cloud-based subscription service connects to the Internet with your smartphone, allowing apps like Facebook, Google and Yelp to be online and at work when the car's in motion. Mbrace2 also downloads system and map updates.
Elegantly designed and filled with soft-touch materials and wood accents, the 2015 M-Class interior is exactly what you'd expect in a luxury vehicle. Interestingly, leather seats are extra, but the standard "MB-Tex" vinyl is a close enough approximation. That sense of luxury extends to just about every component, whether it's the available wood steering wheel or the tiny gear selector mounted on the steering-wheel column instead of the center console. Rear passengers relax with ample legroom, reclining seats and movies of their choice with the optional twin-LCD screens mounted inside the front-seat headrests.
There's certainly no mistaking the 2015 M-Class for anything but a Mercedes-Benz vehicle from the front, thanks to the traditional grille filled with the famous 3-pointed star. The sleek headlights and sculpted lines on the sides add to the sporty appearance. The rear end's squat shape and horizontal taillights give the M-Class SUV 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.
With the array of standard equipment, it's a little surprising the Mercedes M-Class offers any options at all. Regardless of engine choice, you get a 7-speed automatic transmission. There's also a 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. Along with excellent crash-test scores, the M-Class comes with nine airbags and Mercedes' Attention Assist system which monitors for driver drowsiness.
The $50,000 base price on the 2015 M-Class can inflate quickly, thanks to options bundled into packages. These include navigation, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and a premium harman/kardon Surround Sound system. A panorama roof, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats add to the luxury. 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.
Mercedes-Benz M-Class model gets its own engine mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The ML350 with its V6 engine is the only model available with rear-wheel drive. The new ML250 BlueTEC offers up fuel-efficient diesel power, while the new ML400 provides a twin turbocharged V6 for those looking for more than the standard V6 offers. Then there's the ML63 AMG with its twin-turbocharged V8 engine and sports-car-like acceleration. The new 4-cylinder diesel and twin-turbo V6 are lower on power than the 6-cylinder diesel and V8 engines they replace, but both offer much better fuel economy than those engines as well. How much better? The twin-turbo V6 in the ML400 actually tops the less powerful ML350 in the city, and ties it on the highway. Ain't technology great?
302 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 mpg (rear-wheel drive), 17/22 mpg (all-wheel drive) 13/17 mpg (all-wheel drive with E85)
2.1 liter turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder
200 horsepower @ 3,800 rpm
369 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6
329 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm
354 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/22 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
The least expensive 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the ML350 with rear-wheel drive, which starts at a bit over $49,000. The all-wheel-drive ML350 4Matic costs about $52,000. The fuel-efficient ML250 BlueTEC starts at about $51,000. If you're looking for more power, the twin-turbo V6 in the ML400 provides it at a price of about $64,000, while the ML63 AMG and its twin-turbo V8 engine cost a cool $99,500. Option packages quickly escalate the price of the M-Class, and you can spend more than $120,000 for an ML63 AMG once you're done checking boxes. That's not cheap, but it's in line with the BMW X5 series, which starts at just over $48,000 and can reach more than $100,000 for a loaded X5 M. Check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers in your area paid for their M-Class, and rest assured you'll have excellent resale value.