The third generation M-Class, the W166, finds itself with a job on its hands, days after its launch. Even though the ML has sold over 1,500 units in India since its launch a few years ago, it’s been a while since Mercedes-Benz has had a truly class-leading product in this category, with the likes of the BMW X5, the Range Rover and the Porsche Cayenne stealing a march over the older ML. The new car, therefore, needs to get back in the game, instead of punching below its weight. Read on to find out if it manages to do so.
I’m sitting in the all-new ML350’s plush cabin, enveloped in the excellent Designo leather seats, my hands gripping the meaty steering wheel and keeping the ML’s nose pointed in the correct direction. The Harman Kardon audio system is belting out an old INXS song on the radio, filling the cabin with rich tonality, and the noises from the world outside are at an arm’s length. The speedo shows a number that would get me in trouble with the authorities, or at least earn me a slap on the wrist, but the ML isn’t anywhere near breaking a sweat — its engine is barely ticking over as it relentlessly propels the car forward in hushed tones. I haven’t been driving it for too long, but I’m already quite certain that if I suddenly decided not to return to Mumbai and continued on to, say, Delhi, I would arrive there relatively free of fatigue. That’s really what the new ML is all about — effortless, country-crossing performance combined with pleasing levels of luxury.
Visually, this car makes the right start. Whereas the older car didn’t have as much presence as its competition, the new ML definitely stands out. It’s now longer, wider, less tall and much more aggressive in nature, and the AMG package on this car contributes in no small measure. The first 100 units (all CBU) of this car will be sold with the AMG package as standard, by the way — the CKD units that follow will have the package as an option. The 20-inch wheels, extruding wheel arches, massive grille, side skirts and bonnet-vents give it loads of attitude, and the rear (traditionally the weakest design aspect on an ML) now looks a cohesive part of the car, with E-Class style tail lamps giving it a fresh appeal. In other words, the Mercedes family look is complete.
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