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2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class ReviewThe Good
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV continues to deliver capable performance, an upscale interior, and contemporary Mercedes styling, and well as the overall build quality and driving experience owners have come to expect from the German automaker.The Bad
The Mercedes M-Class comes at a high price, when compared to similarly equipped SUVs from competitors, and tends to exhibit some body lean in tight curves, due to its heaviness and elevated center of gravity.
The CarGurus View
Loyal Mercedes owners remain enamored with the M-Class, giving the SUV good marks for its performance, comfort, handling, and overall driving experience. However, prospective buyers who are willing to settle for an SUV adorned with something other than the Mercedes star can probably find better value and gas mileage in SUVs from competitors such as Lexus and Cadillac.
At a Glance
Following a mid-generation design refresh in 2009, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class midsize SUV remains essentially unchanged for 2010. The M-Class offers a roomy interior with a few new standard features, like Burl Walnut trim and a premium leather four-spoke steering wheel, as well as such safety features as the Pre-Safe occupant-protection system, which automatically repositions the front seats and tightens seat belts to better protect the occupants if it detects an impending collision. In addition, the M-Class now comes standard with front-seat Neck-Pro head restraints, which help reduce whiplash in the event of an accident or sudden stop.
For 2010, the M-Class consists of ML350, ML550, and ML63 AMG trims, each with a different powerplant. Outside, the M-Class displays clean, contemporary lines and a sporty stance. Exterior features for the M-Class include a distinctive front grille, chiseled bumpers, running boards, front foglights, heated power mirrors, and chrome exhaust tips.
A V6 engine and two V8s drive the M-Class trims. All of the powerplants deliver plenty of power for around-town driving and highway cruising. However, the V6 engine struggles sometimes on inclines, according to owners and reviewers. Prospective buyers who plan to use the M-Class for towing should consider a V8 trim.
The rear-wheel-drive ML350 leads off the trim lineup with a 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine, which produces 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine features continually variable timing on both the intake and exhaust valves, which helps conserve fuel while ensuring good acceleration off the mark and immediate throttle response at virtually any driving speed. The ML350 jumps out from 0-60 in 7.9 seconds and manages fuel economy numbers of 16/21 mpg.
Stepping up a notch, the ML550 comes equipped with a 5.5-liter V8 engine. It generates 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque, and drives the ML350 from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. At the top of the line, the ML63 AMG retains its hefty 6.2-liter V8 engine, which pumps out 503 hp and an impressive 465 lb-ft of torque. With all that power and torque, the ML63 AMG roars from 0-60 in just 4.8 seconds. The ML550 posts fuel economy numbers of 13/18 mpg, while the ML63 AMG, with its big V8, manages only 11/15 mpg.
The V6 and V8 engines in the ML350 and ML550 link to a seven-speed automatic transmission, which adapts its shifting patterns to the driver's style and features two overdrive gears to help conserve fuel at cruising speeds. The V8 in the ML63 AMG mates to a seven-speed AMG 7G-tronic automatic transmission with fingertip shift paddles located on the steering wheel, so drivers can manually shift gears when desired.
The ML550 comes equipped with Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, which features a permanent 40/60 front-to-rear torque split. M-Class SUVs have a towing capacity of 7,200 pounds.
Ride & Handling
The M-Class handles well on straightaways and around town. However, due to its elevated center of gravity, some reviewers note a certain amount of body lean in tight corners. In addition, the M-Class's height and weight affect its overall agility, and the M-Class's steering and braking systems receive mixed marks. Some owners and reviewers like the responsiveness of the M-Class's rack-and-pinion steering, while others find it numb and sometimes heavy under hard turning. Similarly, many reviewers give the M-Class good marks for braking power, while others find the brake pedal too soft for stop-on-a-dime accuracy.
The M-Class rides on an independent double-wishbone suspension with a stabilizer bar in the front and an independent four-arm multilink configuration, also with a stabilizer bar, in the rear. The ML350 and ML550 ride on 19-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, while the ML63 AMG cruises on 20-inch AMG-designed alloy wheels with high-performance tires.
Cabin & Comfort
The M-Class can accommodate five passengers in its comfortable, luxury-oriented cabin. Front passengers will find plenty of legroom and headroom, with good seat support, while the rear seat provides adequate, though not expansive, legroom and headroom. For the most part, the rear seat accommodates three adults comfortably. Passengers will find good fit and finish throughout the cabin.
Standard features for the ML350 and the ML550 include an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and an eight-speaker audio system with speed-sensitive volume, a 6-CD changer, and an MP3 input jack. MB-Tex leatherette upholstery and burl walnut trim on the console and doors give the cabins an upscale feel.
The ML350 and ML550 also come equipped with an updated version of Mercedes' COMAND Cockpit Management and Data system, which drivers can use to control the audio, climate, and optional Bluetooth and navigation systems. The available navigation system includes a 6.5-inch color screen, GPS technology, a 40-gigabyte hard drive, and Zagat reviews. Other options for 2010 include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rear-view camera, and a power liftgate.
As befits its status as the top-of-the-line trim, the ML63 AMG ups the ante with a long list of upscale standard features, including Nappa leather upholstery, a 610-watt, 11-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with a 6-CD changer, a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic information, and Mercedes' COMAND system. In addition, the ML63 AMG includes a number of unique features designed by AMG, Mercedes' in-house sport tuner, including AMG front sport seats, an AMG-designed ergonomic sport steering wheel, brushed stainless steel sport pedals with black rubber pads, and an AMG instrument cluster.
Overall, the M-Class gets good safety marks. The NHTSA gave the 2010 M-Class five stars out of five for protecting occupants during a frontal or side-impact crash. The SUV also received four stars out of five in rollover tests. The IIHS gave the M-Class its top score of Good for keeping passengers safe in front, side, and rear crashes.
A four-wheel electronic traction system, which comes standard on all M-Class trims, sends torque to the wheels with the most traction in slippery road conditions to ensure optimal grip and stability. Standard safety features also include an electronic stability program and antilock brakes with brake assist. A full range of airbags, including front and rear side-curtain window airbags, also comes standard.
What Owners Think
M-Class SUVs generally receive very good marks from owners, especially long-term Mercedes owners, who appreciate the unique driving experience only the German automaker can deliver. The M-Class offers a car-like ride, a departure from previous generations of the SUV, which drove more like a truck, according to some owners. Overall, owners like the solid feel and engineering of the M-Class. However, some reviewers question the value of the M-Class, noting that a number of competitive SUVS, such as those from Lexus and Cadillac, offer features similar to the M-Class's with better gas mileage and at a lower price.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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