How premium SUV is born
By Kim Tae-jong
Mercedes-Benz officially unveiled its third generation M-Class sports utility vehicle (SUV) at the Busan International Motor Show (BIMS), which kicked off last Thursday in the port city.
This M-Class is completely new, although it keeps core aspects from the first two generations of the flagship model from the German automaker, and drivers are expected to be excited by changes in the latest version of the premium SUV.
Just two days before its official launch, the third generation of the luxury SUV was exhibited to local media, and officials from the German automaker said the new M-Class offers the essential elements of the family vehicle through its dynamic driving experience and luxurious comfort but offers much more than its predecessors.
“The new M-Class embodies all the automotive experience that we have accumulated over 125 years,” Thomas Urbach, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea, said on May 22 during a news conference at the Busan Cinema Center.
Thanks to its superb premium features, he expects the new model to become a big sales success.
“With its bold presence and versatile all-round talent, I firmly believe that the new M-Class will play a leading role in the premium SUV segment in the Korean market and will meet the high expectations of Korean customers,” he said.
Since it created the SUV range in 1997, the M-Class has constantly evolved, so people enjoy it whether driving on racetracks, off-road courses, city streets or highways.
It has been a tremendous success with more than 1.2 million vehicles sold globally since its introduction.
Urbach emphasized that it is characterized by combining the appeal and off-road characteristics of a high-performance SUV with the comfort and luxury of a sedan.
“The new M-Class offers outstanding driving comfort and superior handling dynamics. Its state of the art Diesel engines ensure the highest efficiency and eco-friendliness, and it of course also offers the top level safety of which Mercedes-Benz is known for,” Urbach said.
Three variants of the all-new M-Class are available here _ the ML 250 BlueTEC, the ML 350 BlueTEC and the ML 63 AMG, which all perfectly combine on and off-road drivability with dynamic, sporty styling and a complete range of integrated safety technology.
With a four cylinder diesel engine, the ML 250 BlueTEC provides performance on a par with plenty of larger and heavier 4x4s while delivering an average fuel consumption of 11.9km/l, and it only emits 168g/km of CO2.
Using Mercedes’ twin-stage turbo-diesel 2.2-liter engine, it offers 204 horse power (hp) and 51kg/m of torque, channeled through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It is available at 79.9 million won.
The ML 350 4MATIC comes equipped with a 3-liter diesel V6 engine that produces 258hp and 63.2kg/m of torque at just 1,600 rpm with fuel consumption rated at 10.4km/l. It can reach 100km/h from zero in just 7.4 seconds. It is priced at 92.4 million won.
The ML 63 AMG has more power and better fuel efficiency than its predecessors.
The high-performance SUV gets power from an AMG 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 engine with peak horsepower of 525 and peak torque of 71.4kg/m. It can go from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. The price is 15.09 million won.
With fuel prices continuously increasing, drivers will find that the BlueTec is one of the most appealing members of the M-Class.
In fact, Mercedes-Benz has developed technology for this diesel-powered vehicle that reduces CO2 emissions and increases fuel efficiency.
Other notable features include Pre-Safe, Attention Assist, Active Parking Assist and Adaptive brake lights.
Pre-Safe is a sensor system designed to minimize damage and protect passengers from accidents. Several sensors are mounted inside and outside the car that permanently communicate with the vehicle in order to detect any risk of collision as quickly as possible.
Innovative Attention Assist can detect when drivers start to become drowsy and prompts them to take a break before it's too late, while the Adaptive Brake Light safety function flashes instead of lighting up continuously during an emergency stop.
Thanks to Active Parking Assist, once the car detects a parking space, drivers can engage reverse gear and confirm that they want to park. Then all they need to do is control the car's speed with the accelerator and the brake pedal. The system turns the steering wheel automatically, and in next to no time the car is parallel parked.
The M-Class also illustrates the carmaker's concern for safety, equipped with nine airbags and a range of the latest Intelligent Assistance Systems. The cutting-edge active and passive safety features once again demonstrate the highest levels of integrated safety measures across the range
When a new vehicle hits the market, immediate attention is inevitably placed on its appearance. The M-Class catches the attention of drivers, and impresses them with its attractive exterior.
The nose features a huge grille and long bonnet with aggressive air-intakes at the base of the windscreen.
Such strong first powerful impressions were all drafted by the hands of the design teams at the German automaker.
Hubert Lee, head and creative director of Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio in the U.S., who also joined the conference to share his experience with the new M-Class, said designers tried to give the new model the feeling of being manly and tough.
“The all-new M-Class should have the feeling of an off-roader, but at the same time, it also has the feeling of the luxury and comfort Mercedes-Benz vehicles offer, and that is what designers want to express,” the Korean-American designer said. “It is also different from coupes and convertibles as it should appeal to a broader range of customers.”
Lee, who also designed the new CLS-Class, a design icon from Mercedes-Benz, as well as the F 800 Style and the most recent F 125, also emphasized that the M-Class will beat competition from its rivals.
“The M-Class is more popular than its rivals such as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne in the U.S., and it sells much better than them,” he said.
Getting inside is a completely new experience, too, thanks to a drastically improved interior quality. The diesel engine in the BlueTec is surprisingly quiet.
In particular, the Mercedes’ COMAND system, which controls the car’s audio, video and navigation, has become much more user-friendly than that in the first M-Class generation, allowing drivers to enjoy driving in a more comfortable setting.