Mercedes finally gets it right with the new ML350. Powerful, smooth, luxurious, and surprisingly affordable, this redesigned SUV is a winner.
Mercedes finally gets it right with the new ML350. Powerful, smooth, luxurious, and surprisingly affordable, this redesigned SUV is a winner.

2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 4Matic

Stylish SUV
Stylish SUV
Mercedes finally gets it right with the new ML350. Powerful, smooth, luxurious, and surprisingly affordable, this redesigned SUV is a winner.
Overview
Overview

U.S. sales of Mercedes-brand vehicles soared by nearly 50 percent in November. Surprisingly, one of the company’s strongest sellers (behind the C- and E-Class sedans and coupes) is the 2012 ML350, a traditional luxury SUV, which came out in September and had a 38.2 percent sales increase in November. The new ML350 comes with standard all-wheel drive, has a nicer, quieter cabin, with more rear-seat space, and is both quicker and more fuel efficient than before. Mercedes also held the line on price: The new ML350 costs the same as the outgoing model with AWD. The BMW X5 is sportier, and the Lexus RX 350 and Acura MDX less expensive, but the ML350 is much improved and surprisingly affordable, as long as you don’t load up on options.

Interior
Interior

The steering column controls are more ergonomic than before. The front seats are extremely comfortable, with slightly more elbow space and a well-positioned elbow- and handrest. The rear seating area is roomier because the rear seatbacks now recline.

Engine/Drivetrain
Engine/Drivetrain

In the ML350, the engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 302 horsepower (34 more than before) and 273 lb.-ft. of torque; in the BlueTec, it’s a 240-hp diesel V6 that delivers 455 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission are standard.

Performance
Performance

The ML350 and ML350 BlueTec are rated to accelerate from zero to 60 in 7.3 seconds, though we clocked the ML350 at 7.0 seconds. That’s plenty quick, but BMW’s xDrive35i does zero to 60 in 6.4 seconds, its diesel-powered xDrive 35d in 6.9 seconds.

Cargo Capacity
Cargo Capacity

Luggage space is a voluminous 36 cu. ft., rising to 71 cu. ft. with the rear seats folded down. Maximum towing capacity is 7,200 lb.

Fuel Economy
Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is up two miles per gallon, to 17 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway, and 19 on average. Figures for the diesel-powered ML350 BlueTec are 20/27/22. That’s about the same as for the 2012 BMW X5 xDrive35i (16/23/19) and X5 xDrive35d (19/26/22).

Safety
Safety

The 2012 ML350 doesn’t yet have government crash-test ratings, but front and rear side and head-protecting side curtain air bags are standard, as are traction and stability control, and the Pre-Safe system, which anticipates collisions and takes steps to protect occupants.

Price
Price

The ML350 starts at $49,865; add $1,500 for the BlueTec. The average selling price of the ML350 is $53,111, according to the Power Information Network, vs. $58,781 for the 2012 BMW X5, $45,363 for the Acura MDX, and $45,323 for the Lexus RX 350.