What the Mercedes-Benz M Class promises, and what it truly is, aren't always in accord, but so goes the market for luxury utility vehicles. In upscale suburban America, the Mercedes-Benz M Class fills some of the role of a minivan, shuttling kids to practice, and serving as a weekend getaway rig. At the same time, the M Class promises a ruggedness that's well beyond the tarmac that some of these stylish utes will never leave.
Mercedes-Benz kept with that careful dance last year, making the a more aggressive yet graceful evolution-but not shaking up the outward image too much-all while making the interior more soft and sedan-like than ever. Inside, gently sculpted lines and swooping curves of Mercedes' sedan instrument panels and complement the look with a 'power dome' center stack, a new seven-inch display flanked by air vents, and the latest version of M-B's COMAND screen-based interface.
Although it does flaunt its off-road side in appearance, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz M Class drives like a luxury sedan most of the time, with a smooth, refined character behind the wheel. Powertrains are strong and responsive; handling is secure; and roadholding is confident. The new 302-hp base V-6 engine in the M Class, a 3.5-liter, 60-degree V-6, was completely new last year, and we think it's one of the best V-6 luxury engines. But we'd still go with the torquey, fuel-efficient BlueTec turbo-diesel V-6. The gasoline engines especially tend to work well in concert with the seven-speed automatic transmission, singing all the way up the rev range with no rough edges. ML550 models include a stronger, direct-injection 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 402 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque. And at the top of the range-and new for 2013-is the new ML 63 AMG, which comes with a 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 making 518 hp and 516 lb-ft. Other upgrades include five-spoke, 20-inch AMG wheels, and if you opt for the AMG Performance Package you'll have 550 hp and 560 lb-ft.Some customers will still expect the off-road ability to be here, so Mercedes-Benz hasn't dumbed that down too much or lightened the M Class's towing or basic trail ability. The 4Matic system's electronic, stability-system-linked 4-ETS torque distribution can send nearly all engine torque to whichever single wheel can use it. The suspension is also remarkably versatile for a combination of on-road use or off-roading. Opt for the off-road package, and you get an automatically detaching roll-bar system. Towing capability is here, too-up to 7, 200 pounds, and at its best in torquey BlueTec guise.
Seating in the M Class is about on par with that in other luxury SUVs its size. Taller adults can sit in back, in the outboard positions, though it's still a bit of a squeeze to fit three across. Cushions are well contoured, and the front seats especially are like we expect from Mercedes, with all-day support built in. Rear seatbacks are also now adjustable for rake, and there's more than 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. With the last generation of the ML, Mercedes made considerable advances in refinement and materials, bringing the cabin appointments and ride quality up to par with that of the brand's sedans. In this new third-gen version, it's even better—especially the way everything fits
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz M Class offers many of the same comforts, infotainment, connectivity, and plush luxury features you'll find in the brand's top sedans, like the S-Class-as well as some features that help it standout against other utility vehicles.
Some of those standouts include a heated or cooled cupholder that can heat up to 141 degrees F. And there's a new iPad docking station—positioned between the front seats and in view for rear passengers—that will be available first in this product but will soon be available for all Mercedes-Benz models. A night-vision system is among the standalone options, as is an Advanced Park Assist system, which helps steer the vehicle back into a parallel-parking space as the driver controls the accelerator and brakes.