What the Mercedes-Benz M-Class can do, and what it's actually used for, aren't always the same thing, but that's life for a luxury SUV. The M-Class possesses a degree of off-road ruggedness that most owners will never explore, instead choosing to treat it as a minivan replacement, hauling kids from school to soccer practice.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers many of the same comforts, infotainment, connectivity, and plush luxury features you'll find in the brand's top sedans, like the S-Class-as well as some features that help it standout against other utility vehicles.
The current M-Class looks more aggressive than past models, but without straying too far from the outward image too much. Inside, it's soft and sedan-like, with swooping curves and sculpted lines making up the instrument panels, center stack and the seven-inch display for the latest version of M-B's COMAND interface.
Seating in the M-Class is about on par with that in other luxury SUVs its size. Taller adults can sit in back, in the outboard positions, though it's still a bit of a squeeze to fit three across. Cushions are well contoured, and the front seats especially are like we expect from Mercedes, with all-day support built in. Rear seatbacks are also now adjustable for rake, and there's more than 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. With the last generation of the ML, Mercedes made considerable advances in refinement and materials, bringing the cabin appointments and ride quality up to par with that of the brand's sedans. In this new third-gen version, it's even better—especially the way everything fits.
Although it does flaunt its off-road side in appearance, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz M-Class drives like a luxury sedan most of the time, with a smooth, refined character behind the wheel. Powertrains are strong and responsive; handling is secure; and roadholding is confident. The new 302-hp base V-6 engine in the M-Class, a 3.5-liter, 60-degree V-6, was completely new last year, and we think it's one of the best V-6 luxury engines. But we'd still go with the torquey, fuel-efficient BlueTEC turbodiesel V-6. The gasoline engines especially tend to work well in concert with the seven-speed automatic transmission, singing all the way up the rev range with no rough edges. ML550 models include a stronger, direct-injection 4.6-liter V-8 that makes 402 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque. And at the top of the range-and new for 2013-is the new ML 63 AMG, which comes with a 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 making 518 hp and 516 lb-ft. Other upgrades include five-spoke, 20-inch AMG wheels, and if you opt for the AMG Performance Package you'll have 550 hp and 560 lb-ft.
Some customers will still expect the off-road ability to be here, so Mercedes-Benz hasn't dumbed that down too much or lightened the M-Class' towing or basic trail ability. The 4MATIC system's electronic, stability-system-linked 4-ETS torque distribution can send nearly all engine torque to whichever single wheel can use it. The suspension is also remarkably versatile for a combination of on-road use or off-roading. Opt for the off-road package, and you get an automatically detaching roll-bar system. Towing capability is here, too-up to 7, 200 pounds, and at its best in torquey BlueTEC guise.
Some of those standouts include a heated or cooled cupholder that can heat up to 141 degrees F. And there's an iPad docking station—positioned between the front seats and in view for rear passengers—that will be available first in this product but will soon be available for all Mercedes-Benz models. A night-vision system is among the standalone options, as is an Advanced Park Assist system, which helps steer the vehicle back into a parallel-parking space as the driver controls the accelerator and brakes.