2012 M-Class SUV Merc

Mercedes-Benz has what looks like another winner to add to its solid reputation for fine automobiles.

The 2012 M-Class SUV was tested last week on the roads in Montana, and proved to live up to and exceed the standards we expect from Mercedes.  The new model was built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and won’t hit the roads in the U.K. until April next year, but it’s worth waiting for.

Changes in the body design include an inch longer and half-inch wider chassis that sits about ¾ of an inch lower to the ground than former models.  Headlights are flush-mounted in the fenders, with LED running lights recessed in the front bumper.  The whole image is just a bit sleeker and sportier than its predecessors.

On the inside, the cabin got an impressive overhaul.  A four-spoke wood and leather steering wheel frames dashboard instruments that include a 4.5 inch screen displaying GPS instructions plus a lot of other useful information.  Making them easier to get to, the controls for turn signals, wipers, cruise control, high-beams etc. are on a stalk controller behind the steering wheel, and (optional package) the ambient lighting can be changed to three different colours.

In the top centre of the dashboard there’s a 7-inch COMAND display and the new head unit has capabilities of 10g hard drive for music storage, SD card slot and Bluetooth interface, amongst many other hi-tech amenities including a USB port in the centre console.  Another optional is a GPS 3-D display and real-time weather and traffic information on the map.

The most notable changes are in the engine and transmission.  Though the V6 diesel is the same size as the old one, if now has 13% more power, at 255bhp and 457 lb-ft of torque.  Even with the extra power and torque, the new engine produces considerably less CO2 and even better gas mileage, up to 41.5mpg.  This engine is extremely quiet and smooth, and the new transmission has an advanced system that offers more durability and more responsive driving.

A couple more new features that will be available are the ‘ATTENTION ASSIST’ programme and the iPad docking station.  The former is a steering sensor combined with super-smart software that analyses driving patterns and warns the driver when it’s time to take a rest.  The latter is a mobile entertainment centre for passengers in the back seat, mounted between the forward headrests and charged through the vehicle’s electrical system.