2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review
All-new third-generation version smoother and better.
The new 2012 ML350 looks hot in black, wider and lower. There's distinctive and powerful styling to four-fifths of the ML350, the front and side views. You know it's a new Mercedes. The back isn't bad but it could be a Kia.
With a long wheelbase, high beltline and short overhangs, the ML350 looks stylish from the side, especially in black (silver loses something). Stainless steel trim accentuates the line. Mercedes brags about the chrome door handles, we say who needs 'em.
Notes say: lots of funkiness, cool black teeth in grille, black chicken wire in nose, powerful sculpted hood with intakes, muscular headlamps, roof vents, big chrome skidplate wraps under chin, cheesy running boards, side sculpting BMW-like, steep rear slope, spoiler, rear chrome skid plate.
The view through the windshield of the M-Class isn't expansive to match the grandeur of the car, but meanwhile front seats aren't crowded by the dash.
The instrumentation is pretty and well-designed, in aluminum not chrome. Big 7-inch screen at the top of dash, bordered by swiveling vertical HVAC vents. Climate control has a bunch of buttons; other cars make just three work. Not too many steering-wheel controls, but transmission paddles bigger than necessary for sport shifting.
Wide center console with good cubbies, including well-placed coin holder. It's deep but not long. Heated and cooled cupholders, how cool is that! Big door pockets. Not much rear seat legroom, but enough.
Big blind spot! A sacrifice to looks, as it's a result of the C-pillar that Mercedes didn't want to change, thinking it's the visual identity of the M-Class. Rearview camera is optional; we recommend getting it.
Optional panoramic roof doubles the size of the sky. Optional DVD system gives rear passengers even more to look at. Optional iPod docking station gives them more to do.
There are eight stainless buttons for radio and navigation on the center console, with unpainted etched icons that are almost impossible to see; why isn't the etched part painted? Feels like sloppy work. The optional navigation system was problematic, freezing twice in four hours.
The cruise control stalk has been changed, after 15 years of people complaining that the car sped up when they bumped the lever while turning left. Now it's not so easy to engage by mistake.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, click here: 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class.