Cars And More: The Mercedes Benz ML350

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The Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, formerly Mercedes-Benz M-Class, is a mid-size luxury SUV produced by the German automaker Mercedes-Benz since 1997. In terms of size, it is slotted in between the smaller GLC-Class (based on the C-Class) and the larger GLS-Class, the latter with which it shares platforms. Since April 2015, the M-Class has been renamed to GLE-Class. Although grouped under the “M-Class” naming banner since the first launch, BMW, who sells M models such as the M3, objected to the car being badged “M” with the three-digit engine-level afterwards (e.g. M 320). This forced Mercedes-Benz to defer to a double-tiered marketing strategy of “ML” badging (e.g. ML 320) under an M-Class umbrella. There has been some confusion surrounding this nomenclature, with many sources erroneously referring to the series as the “ML-Class”, including Mercedes-Benz itself.

From 2015, with the release of the facelifted W166 third-generation model at the New York Auto Show in April, the M-Class was renamed to GLE-Class as per the revised nomenclature adopted by the brand. Under this scheme, SUVs use the base name “GL”, followed by the model’s placement in Mercedes-Benz hierarchy. The “G” is for Geländewagen (German off land wagon for off-road vehicle) and alludes the long-running G-Wagen. This is followed by the letter “L” that acts as a linkage with the letter “E”—the GLE being the SUV equivalent to the E-Class.

Anyway, back to the Mercedes Benz ML 350, a beautiful 5-seater SUV from the 3star German carmaker. This particular 5-seater SUV comes with a 3.5L V6 petrol engine with a 7-speed automatic gearbox with permanent 4matic 4WD. I like the instrument cluster though the very first time I got behind the driver’s seat I was stumped as to where the gear lever was placed, which is behind the steering wheel on the right where as in other cars the window wipers are located. The freed -up space where the gear lever would be otherwise mounted in the entre between the driver and the co-driver features cupholders and a big enough storage area.

The ML 350 is a fully sized upscale SUV but it does hold its own off-road with Hill Descent Control and Hill Climbing Assists to help you navigate your way on non-tarmac roads. The vehicles clearance and Airmatic suspension also helps keep the ride especially smooth off-road. Some variants come with standard coil suspension and I suspect could be better for our Kenyan roads and off-roading as air suspension in many 4×4 cars (read, Discovery) have been known to fail and are very expensive to replace. If you’re considering one, you can drive it off-road just don’t go bundu bashing since it’s not a G-Wagon. Also from the second generation, they introduced optional Active Curve-Illuminating Bi-Xenon headlights which turn with the car as it turns to illuminate the road ahead.

Pro’s

  1. The Mercedes Benz badge does open doors and one gets a lot of respect everywhere they go.
  2. A very stable car even at high speeds (200kph+). Smooth engine. Very little body lean when cornering.
  3. Nice raised seating position which gives a good view of the road. Seats are comfortable and make even very long journeys easy
  4. Overall, a very good combination of a highway cruiser, daily driver around town and off-road ability (driven it through national parks without it breaking anything)
  5. Servicing costs are modest with intervals of between 5,000 to 15,000 kms. Parts are very available in Nairobi.

Cons

  1. The pre-2013 Mercedes Benz ML350 model petrol-powered engines had low power (268bhp) and low torque (350Nm) leading to a “slow” 0-100kph in 8 seconds. This was improved significantly in models after 2013.
  2. Due to low power to weight ratio on petrol-powered engines, if pushed hard over long periods of time the engines were known to break down for one reason or another. This seems to be a problem with the M272 engine.

Conclusion

The Mercedes Benz ML 350 is a lovely looking upscale SUV. Positioned against the BMW X5 and the Audi Q5, it’s was the first one in this segment and with each model, Mercedes has constantly continued to improve on it. Loved the rear tire placement on the 1st generation ML 350 but in the subsequent models, it moved to inside under the boot. I’m actually glad its inside not on the outside under the boot due to it getting stolen much like it’s happening to the Landcruiser Prado’s.

Current price of the Mercedes Benz ML350 in the market – 4,600,000 to around 5,900,000 for the 2013 model.

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