Time is running out on the year 2015, and so is the lifespan of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
No, the German automaker is not abandoning the vehicle it introduced in 1997 as a 1998 model, but simply giving it a new name.
Beginning with next year’s models, the company’s midsize premium crossover simply will have a new name based on the the new nomenclature system announced a year ago.
With the prospect of having as many as 30 models in the pipeline worldwide by 2020, Mercedes is basing its vehicle names on five core (and very popular) models: A, B, C, E, and S.
Because of what the German automaker calls its “legendary” G-Class (Who knew legendary was a synonym for “weird”?), all SUVs and crossovers are to have the letters “GL” in their name followed by the letter that aligns with the core model.
Thus, among others, the M-Class becomes the GLE for 2016, meaning it is a crossover closely related to the well-established E-Class sedan.
Whatever its name, though, M-Class or GLE, it’s a vehicle that should be on your list if you are looking for a roomy crossover that looks stylish, is comfortable to ride in, and oozes luxury and convenience features.
We recently spent time in a 2015 ML400 4MATIC, which checks in near the top of the M-Class (or GLE) lineup, just under the performance-oriented ML63 AMG.
Despite the “400” in the name, which usually would indicate a 4.0-liter engine, the ML400 4MATIC gets a new biturbo 3.0-liter V6 that essentially replaces the 3.5-liter V6 in prior ML350 models. With 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque that kicks in between 1600 and 4000 rpm, the new engine produces more kick than last year’s V6 (302 hp and 273 lb.-ft.) while delivering slightly better fuel economy (18 mpg city, 22 highway) with its all-wheel-drive configuration. The ML350 figures were 17/22 in AWD models.
With a zero-to-60 mph clocking of 6.5 seconds, the new engine is just 1.2 seconds off the time of last year’s ML550, which boasted a 4.7-liter V8 that has been discontinued. (If it’s more performance you want, the ML63 AMG zips from zero-to-60 in 4.7 seconds.)
Frankly, you’ll probably find the ML400 has all what you want, or really need, in the way of get-up and go.
Other engine choices are a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V6 that has the same power numbers as last year’s version, a 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel that at 369 lb.-ft. is torquier than either of the V6s, and a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that is rated at a whopping 518 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque.
All are mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection.
Inside, which, after all is where you will be spending most of your time, the ML400’s cabin is luxurious and quiet and features lots of eye-pleasing trim and color combinations, like the auburn brown/black leather treatment in our test vehicle.
Standard features for the ML400 include 10-way power driver seats with four-way adjustable lumbar support, dual zone climate control, a power liftgate, rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers, double sunroof, a 13-speaker sound system, and the Mercedes-Benz COMAND system for operating many functions such as the audio and navigation systems, the latter standard as well on the ML400.
Starting MSRP for the ML400 is $63,825 including the $925 destination and delivery charge, but adding optional packages can quickly get the final tab up near $80,000. Our test vehicle, which included several of them, checked in at $78,985.
The base ML350 in 2WD configuration carries an MSRP of $49,225 and $51,725 for 4MATIC versions. The ML250 BlueTEC Diesel starts at $50,725 and the top of the line ML63 AMG is just under six figures at $99,325. (Prices include destination and delivery.)
For a look at the ML400 4MATIC and specs, check out the accompanying slide show.