Mercedes hope their new M-Class SUV will take them to the top of the class

Have Mercedes gone to the top of the premium SUV class with the latest M-class SUV? It was updated in 2011 and, yes, they have a fresh look and notably-downsized powertrains, but what about the rest of it? The four-cylinder diesel model of the ML250 Bluetec Sport was evaluated by Anthony French-Constant.

The first impressions of the Mercedes M take L250 are that maybe it has too many gadgets: Active Blind Spot Assist; Active Lane Keeping Assist; Attention Assist; Intelligent Light System; Night View Assist; Seed Limit Assist. Come off it! This makes it difficult to actually assess the engineering.

The Mercedes is simply loaded with new technology and additional safety aspects, however this is now the given with new Mercedes. The car virtually tells you when you need to take a break from driving, however the diverse NannyTronics are mostly optional and could be switched off.

Sadly, one feature which is not fitted is the Active Curve System. This system compliments the adaptive damping of an optional air suspension, it uses active rear and front anti-roll bars, allowing perfect cornering on bends and maximising comfort on the straights.

One system which the driver can not switch off is the Presafe Brake, not its technical name, I hasten to add. This feature, which is unable to be switched off, warns the driver if they are too close to the car in front with warning lights before the automatic braking is engaged. This system is not necessarily ideal when you are pulling out to overtake. Having no control over the brake is certainly daunting. This is also available on the new C-Class Coupe, CLS and M-Class.

Watching the ML250 on its road test, at the hands of Ellen Lohr, ex-DTM and Dakar pilot, was awe inspiring. The two or three quick laps, where one may have been tempted to lose their lunch, suggest that the system works well. There was certainly no gently perceptible, pre-activation lurching on the car, which appears to have marred the technology to date

To tell you the brutal truth, the handling of the new Mercedes ML250 BlueTec Sport has dramatically improved, even though the active anti-roll bars are not present. Only in the most strenuous of circumstances is body roll not well shackled, and then there is only minimal loss of comfort in a straight line ride. The comfort is almost certainly assisted by the fact that this car has the most comfortable seat in any 4×4 to date, however the centre console and the door armrests are very slightly off set, which is irritating to the driver.

Making its debut appearance in the M-Class is the 250 BlueTEC unit. This is a 4-cylinder, 2.2 litre twin-stage turbo diesel which develops almost 370lb of torque through a 7-speed automatic gearbox and 201bhp. The car’s generated excitement has more to do with the fact that the M-Class is the only posh 4×4 which has low CO2 emissions, at less that 160g/km. The excitement has little to do with the experience of driving it.

There is some unwarranted vibration when the engine hits about 1800rpm; however the engine is adequately refined and smooth apart from this. The engine will quite skillfully pull more than two tons of car round in cruise. However, it does seem somewhat sluggish in overtaking and does not respond to kick-down quickly enough.