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NEW M-CLASS – LATEST MERCEDES-BENZ LUXURY SUV By Brian Foley

The new third-generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the latest luxury SUV to challenge the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5 for quality and prestige at very competitive prices in the premoum category.

The styling is a more defined with a forceful look, new headlamps and grille and centrally mounted three-pointed star.

Improvements include a more spacious and comfortable interior with more elbow room, a new dashboard and upholstery and a raft of standard and optional high-tech infotainment systems.

Equipped with permanent four-wheel drive and new 7-G Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission, the M-Class is powered by an all-new line up of engine consisting of one petrol and two diesel units that deliver fuel economy some 25 percent better on average than the model it replaces. In Ireland the version most likely to appeal is the 204bhp ML250 CDI BlueTEC 4-MATIC selling at €71,060 ex works with road tax of €481. Powered by a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, it delivers power similar to its predecessor whilst consuming 28 percent less fuel (6-litres/ 100km) with lower CO2 emissions (158g/km). It has a top speed is 210km/h with a 0-100km/h time of 9 seconds.

A second diesel - the new 3-litre, V6, 258bhp ML350 BlueTEC 4-MATIC – is equally frugal delivering a 24 percent reduction in consumption with lower emissions (179g/km) despite a 27bhp increase in power. Top speed is 224km/h and 0-100km/h is a faster 7.4secs. This version comes on the market at €76,140 with road tax of €677.

With entry level prices for the ML250 and ML350 reduced by 11% and 13% respectively - and with low emissions and correspondingly low road tax - Mercedes-Benz believes that SUV owners now have good reasons to remain within the segment.

Though Ireland will be a diesel-only market, a new 3.5-litre, V6, 306bhp, ML350 BlueEFFICIENCY petrol version can be had on order.

Notable features of the new M-Class include a new on/off road package that provides six transmission modes, depending on road conditions. Air suspension, anti roll stabilization, adaptive damping that moves from firm to soft, electric steering and a tightest-in-its-segment turning circle combine to boost driving pleasure.

A full suite of safety features includes a comprehensive range of airbags and warning systems, drowsiness-detection and tyre-pressure monitoring, adaptive brake lights, electronic brake assist and numerous other standard and optional items already familiar from the C, E and S-Class ranges. Amongst these are Pre and Post-Safe systems that significantly reduce the impact of an accident and help protect occupants from further impacts.

One of the major benefits of an SUV with 4-wheel-drive is its towing ability, for the likes of a double horsebox, caravan, large trailer, etc, and yet a tow bar is an extra cost option. Fitting of flashy side skirts and other body add on is ludicrous if it effects the ground clearance and seriously hinders the off road capability over rough terrain. Although the M-Class has all the luxury refinements of a premium saloon, such SUVs are silly in the city but cool in the country where their real potential both on and off road can be experienced to maximum advantage.