What's New - This luxury SUV enters the 2009 model year with hardly-noticeable styling changes but does offer the brand's Bluetec diesel engine with the ML320 model. There's also a 610-watt sound system and a cleaner center screen interface.
Why It Matters - The exterior changes are minimal, but the introduction of the ML320 Bluetec is noteworthy. Replacing the CDI model with "dirty" emissions that prevented its sale in states such as California and Massachusetts, the Bluetec version will provide improved fuel economy and cleaner emissions to buyers in all 50 states.
2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Preview - 2008 New York Auto Show: Remaining relevant in times of rapid change is difficult to say the least. Many of us feel the pressure as we constantly learn new skills to keep us on top of our game in an increasingly competitive job market, much like automakers strive to keep their models in line with economic issues and fuel economy demands. It's not easy, but Mercedes-Benz thinks it might've hit the nail on the head with its 2009 M-Class. Stylistically, changes are fairly minor, consisting of slightly revamped front and rear exterior treatments and minute interior updates, but what's under the hood should attract a wide variety of buyers. The gas versions, from the sufficient ML350 to the skin-peeling ML 63 AMG, carry over as before, though the ML320 Bluetec is all-new for 2009. Serving as the replacement for the CDI variant, this clean-burning diesel-powered large SUV pushes about 400 lb.-ft. of torque and registers up to 24 mpg on the highway. More importantly, unlike its predecessor the ML330 Bluetec will bring cleaner emissions and improved fuel economy to buyers in all 50 states. In today's climate, that sort of news is most certainly relevant.
2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - Notable Features
Behind the revamped styling of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a treasure trove of comfort and convenience features. They include a central-control COMAND system boasting more functionality, voice-activated navigation technology, Bluetooth compatibility, and an auxiliary jack and new interface that integrates the dash-mounted display screen with devices such as an iPod. The updated M-Class is also available with a LINGUATRONIC voice-controlled system, a 610-watt Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound audio unit with twelve speakers, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system which consists of two eight-inch screens and two sets of wireless headphones and remote controls.
2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - Under the Hood
When it comes to power, Mercedes-Benz offers potential M-Class buyers a variety of options from which to choose. The lineup starts with the 210-horsepower ML320 Bluetec using a V-6 diesel engine that generates about 400 lb.-ft. of torque and returns 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway. Available later this year, the Bluetec model will use AdBlue urea injection to lessen emissions, thereby enabling the ML320 to be sold in all 50 states; the outgoing ML320 CDI lacked Bluetec technology and was not sold in green states. Next up is the ML350 that carries over its gasoline-powered 3.5-liter V-6 engine producing 268 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,400 rpm.
If fewer than 300 ponies just doesn't get your heart racing, Mercedes offers the stout ML550 packing a 5.5-liter V-8 engine that's good for 382 horses at 6,000 rpm and 391 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. No need to worry about being smoked at red lights with this one…unless, of course, you're going up against the Grand Poo-Pa of the M-Class family. That'd be the ML 63 AMG, which unleashes 503 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 465 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,200 rpm. All M-Class models feature 4MATIC full-time four-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission, with the AMG version getting a SPEEDSHIFT unit with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - Design
Visual changes arriving with the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class are minimal. The front end treatment has been massaged a bit and features reshaped headlights, a worked-over bumper with slightly revised fog lights and plastic mesh vents, and grille done in black or silver that would mirror last year's model if not for larger and less plentiful cutouts. For the rear there's more of the updated bumper treatment and smoked taillights, while the side profile is updated with new mirror housings. Also, wheel designs have been tweaked for 2009, ranging from 17s to optional 21s. Interior enhancements are scant, including a new take on the four-spoke steering wheel, a center navigation display cluttered with fewer buttons, a standard cargo cover, and leather door inserts.
2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - Competitors
Shoppers considering the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class have a number of alternatives to consider, including the Lexus GX 470, Acura MDX, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, and others. Not much has changed along those lines, but in terms of the ML320 Bluetec, there are a number of diesel and hybrid models on or entering the market, all vying to prove they provide you with a more desirable environmentally-friendly luxury SUV. We're talking about rides such as the $42,000 Lexus RX 400h hybrid, the upcoming Audi Q7 TDI diesel that will use the same AdBlue technology to make it available in all 50 states, the 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d turbocharged diesel soon to be available nationwide and returning up to 25 mpg, and the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid due to hit lots next year. This well-appointed hauler will use GM's two-mode hybrid system with a 6.0-liter V-8 engine to improve fuel economy by 25-30 percent. For its part, Volkswagen continues to offer the Touareg 2 TDI, a $69,000 brute backed up by 553 lb.-ft. of torque, though it's not available in the green states.
By Thom Blackett
Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz