New Mercedes ML 350 CDI Test Drive: The Stealth SUV

New Mercedes ML or M-Class the stealth SUV. I still don’t know why Mercedes calls M-Class instead of ML. Anyway let’s go back to subject, Mercedes ML always had a special place for me. I still remember the first day I saw the ML on a magazine in 1997. Mercedes ML was something out of this world! There was no other vehicle, which looks sportive and agile and capable of off road driving  like ML. Literally, Mercedes ML created the SUV segment. Before that, there was no vehicle called as an SUV!

Unfortunately, my emotions towards the ML changed during the years. In 2005, Mercedes revealed the second generation ML with more technology and higher quality in details and with a but. In terms of technology, it was better but in terms of design it was the icon for the boring Mercedes. I never felt anything about the second generation ML produced between 2005 and 2011. That ML was a good car and that was all. The design was not provocative!

Today we have the new Mercedes ML. It is a car where you can experience a very bold and strong front and definitely unattractive rear end with not very proportional rear wheel arches, which make the wheels look very tiny. When I saw the new Mercedes ML, I always felt confused. One end is very attractive like the first generation but on the other hand, the rear end was definitely the opposite. Thus, I was between love and hate condition.

Last week, I had opportunity to drive a brand new Mercedes ML 350 CDI thanks to Mercedes Benz Turk. I was excited to drive it, because it was my one of the favourite car in Mercedes range in 1990s.

Mercedes ML 350 is powered by a 3-lt turbo diesel engine with 255 HP and 619 Nm of torque. The engine is coupled with 7G-Tronic automatic transmission and capable of reaching 100 km/h in 7,4 seconds with the top speed of 224 km/h. And you will create 179 g/km CO2.

Anyway let’s skip the boring stuff and jump to test drive or living with Mercedes ML for 24 hours. I had the new Mercedes ML for 24 hours in Istanbul. Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a very bad reputation of traffic! Unfortunately, there are too many cars and this does not make the driving that motivating or easy or fun at all.

My journey started with the stop and go traffic. Unfortunately I did not have the Distronic Plus (radar guided cruise control with full breaking function) system, so the stop and go traffic was a bit painful. My first advice is, definitely order the Distronic Plus when you buy a ML. After the fun of stop and go for more than an hour, I had the best experience for an SUV, parking!

New ML is a bit large vehicle, 4,8 metres! And large vehicle means, harder to park. However, new ML does not feel like a large or huge vehicle, it is really nimble for its size and agile. Thus, ML is quite easy to park but still it is 4,8 metres. Try not to park into smaller spaces!

After the parking experience, I had the rush hour traffic with very high tempo. And I had chance to experience stop and go ECO mode. Basically, ML stops the engine whilst you wait in red light or traffic and runs the engine as soon as you lift off from the break pedal. Eighty-percentage of the time, the ECO stop and go system work brilliantly and very few times it was annoying. However, this does happen with every brand, not a problem of Mercedes. Moreover, you have chance to disengage the ECO mode by pressing a button on the dashboard. But I don’t recommend to turn off, because this system save fuel!

During the trying traffic I did not feel that tired. Thanks to sitting position and easy to see further distance than a family sedan, I had quite good time with the ML. Also, connecting my iPhone to ML’s entertainment system was a very big plus! Don’t worry Bluetooth system does delivery very good sound quality and very easy to operate the phone from the steering wheel. And if you want to charge your iPhone, you need to buy the Mercedes’s iPhone cable!

As I started to talk about the iPhone, I cannot ignore the clear and sharp quality of the navigation screen. It was very clear and easy to see the screen, also very easy to operate. I used the navigation system during my all journeys and never let me down. Also, you can operate it quite easily. However, I felt the lack of Google Maps and Google search service. I wish that Mercedes offered this technology.

Interior quality of the new ML is really good. Despite the same steering wheel, air condition controls and navigation screen with other models, I did not feel any problem with ergonomic and controls were very easy to operate. The extensive leather covered whole central console hindered the adverse conditions of steering wheel and buttons. ML offers Bentley style leather extension from window to foot well. And this does look fantastic, you should order this option as well. I really don’t like to see plastic parts in the upper and lower parts of the central console and leather extension covers all those areas.

Boots space is really big enough for anything, I don’t think you will struggle to fit your luggage or shopping bags. Rear seats do also offer more than enough legroom and headroom. The driving experience is improved with the AirMatic suspensions, which you can manipulate from sport to comfort and revise the handling and comfort level at any time. However, you still have feeling of higher central gravity like in any other SUV.

Another good thing with the ML was the hill descent control or DSR system. I used DSR system while parking under the shopping centres with step entrance. I set the down hill speed to 18 km/h and it quite fun. Unfortunately, new ML does not offer rear-locking differential and we all know that we will not use ML in any condition to demand rear-locking differential system. So don’t worry!

And lastly, Mercedes ML is a stealth luxury SUV. No one notices the ML and you don’t see people looking at you all the time. I think new ML is a very good undercover vehicle. You have the luxury, comfort, performance and no one notices you!

In general, new Mercedes ML does look good, drives very well and engaging for a Mercedes. I cannot say it is like a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne but you will not miss those vehicles with ML. Interior quality is way improved, there are lots of safety and helpful systems (buy them, they all worth the money), ride is excellent, driving experience is not tiring at all. Mercedes really did a very good job with the new ML, it does worth a test drive. Don’t skip it.