2012 Mercedes Benz ML350 BE – 4MATIC FOR REAL

Mercedes Benz ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY 4MATIC
South Africans love cars. So much so that we give some of them nicknames that stand long past the car has stopped being manufactured. The old Toyota Corolla in coloured circles was called the ‘Vaunch’. The ‘Gusheshe’ 325is is an iconic car today. Other cars were the ‘Dolphin’ E36 3 series BMW. And so the list could go on. The previous generation M-class also has a name that caught on. It is sometimes called the ‘FORMATIC!’ I clearly remember many friends telling tales about people they knew who drove FORMATIC’s.

I laughed at these tales because I knew that not all previous-gen M-Classes had the 4WD ‘4MATIC’ spec. Some did of course, but I don’t think many people knew that.

Powerful 225kW V6 Motor coupled to an Intelligent 4 Wheel Drive Suspension

So in comes the new 2012, Mercedes Benz ML series of premium SUV and guess what? They are all 4MATIC spec cars. So the name, if it sticks will fit right in now. The car we drove was the ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY 4MATIC. It’s the bottom of the range V6 petrol engine derivative that pumps out 225kW and it’s no slouch. At this end of the motoring scale you wouldn’t expect it to be but it really has a huge surge of power the minute you touch the accelerator and it builds to a subdued howl as it climbs through the rev range. Considering that this is the base version of the petrol-engine derivatives it’s got a lot of punch but is also 15% more fuel efficient with a Mercedes Benz claimed figure of 8.8l/100km on the combined cycle. (according to Mercedes Benz)

A few of my friends commented that the car was too soft; too comfortable and not aggressive enough. All of these were boys who couldn’t afford the ML350BE in the first place. The M-class is a premium SUV and its meant to be talented at many things all in one package. It is definitely comfortable. The drive feels like premium comfort with a silent cabin. To add to the experience, the interior is a near perfect fusion of luxury needs in simple, functional and elegant packaging. The COMAND system easily allows you to control everything from your music and multimedia set up, to the phone and navigation via a Toggle control in the centre console. There is also more legroom front and rear and with the rear seats and backrests folded down, the loading space is a cavernous 2000 cubic decimetres. Once you have packed the load compartment, the ML features a one-touch Easy Pack tailgate button that closes the boot for you. Easy-peasy.

As always the SUV Merc is filled with technology and safety specifications of the highest standard but it never seems overwhelming or complex. The ML350 BE is so easy and simple and though you know the tech is everywhere you only really experience it when it is in use. Coupled to the V6 engine, the car also features a 7 Speed transmission, start-off assist for when you’re on an incline, electric steering, Active Blind Spot Assist (so you don’t change lanes in dangerous situations), Lane Keeping Assist (in case you’re getting low on concentration and veer off into another lane unintentionally), a driver drowsiness detection system(that warns you to take a coffee break after every couple hours behind the wheel as well the full complement of active braking systems and safety features.

So with all that said, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a cushy SUV good for parking on pavements in Sandton and without any off-road skills. It isn’t. The 4MATIC system is a permanent all-wheel drive system but by pressing a few buttons on the centre console you can: raise the suspension; engage off-road mode; engage the Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) and be on your way over some rough terrain. Driving off road is easier than driving on-road. Merc has made it so simple.

I put the Mercedes Benz ML350 BE 4MATIC through some tough off-road obstacles in front of Land Rover Defender and Toyota Land Cruiser owners who watched with gaping mouths. The Mercedes conquered without anything worse than getting a little bit of mud on its alloy wheels and onto its undercarriage. It made me look good and I didn’t have to try so hard.

So here it is: The Mercedes Benz ML350 Blue EFFICIENCY. It’s an all-rounder. It combines high levels of comfort and luxury with impressive off-road capabilities. It makes a good case as a family vehicle; a luxury vehicle; a utility vehicle and even as a lifestyle, off-road vehicle. It’s a complete package of a car.  

The ML350 BE 4MATIC costs R752, 000. All Mercedes Benz cars come with the 6year/120,000km MobiloDrive maintenance plan as standard.