The gentle giant
It just happened again. Motoring journalists are not infallible and for the third time in my career I made a slightly huge mistake. The first one involved a hidden Honda CD player, my second blunder was mistaking a Jeep’s engine and this newest one follows that tradition with the Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic.
Most of us can recite power outputs and airbag counts of almost every car in the market and even have a good idea what they cost. We also have to keep up with constant specification and technology updates; which is why I thought my ML400 press car had the same engine as an S400 Hybrid.
For the better part of a week I was happily motoring around and telling people about the 3.5-litre petrol V6 with a small electric helper motor. I even took delight in its low-end power and demonstrated it to quite a few friends until one of them smiled at me and asked “are you sure?”
“Surely it should have a Hybrid badge on the back” he alleged, encouraging me to open the bonnet. Lo and behold, instead of finding added electricity beside the V6, we discovered two turbochargers smiling back at us. Whoops. Any new ML400 is, in fact, powered by Mercedes’ new 2,996cc twin-turbo petrol V6.
It uses the latest tech for added efficiency (EU6 emissions standard) and decent power outputs of 245kW or 480Nm, which aren’t a huge jump over the previous, naturally-aspirated 3.5-litre’s V6 figures of 225kW and 370Nm. That means the new motor is relatively unstressed and probably good for upwards tuning.
Thanks to Merc’s smooth 7G-Tronic (7-speed) automatic gearbox with start/stop function, claimed average consumption is roughly the same at 8.8L/100km while top speed increases by 12km/h to 247km/h and its 0-100km/h sprint time drops a full 1.5 seconds to 6.1 – our GPS confirmed a best of 6.6 seconds (at sea level).
The biggest difference is extra oomph at low and medium engine speeds, which didn’t just fool yours truly into thinking it’s a hybrid. Feed it even more petrol and the ML400 emits a faint, meaty V6 roar with noticeable gaps during up-shifts. These are purely acoustic though, not motion or momentum based.
This ties in nicely with the “gentle giant” character of this new M-Class. Feedback from the electric steering and optional Airmatic air suspension is vague but oh-so smooth, even Sport mode offers acceptable ride comfort and the big wheels (18 to 21-inch wheels available) offer a modicum of off-road competence.
The ML400 features lots of safety, luxury and convenience items– such as powered, fully adjustable front seats for teasing Granny as she enters the car. Some of the really trick technology is optional and most of it is available in neatly organised packages; of which our test car had a few!
An intelligent all-wheel-drive system helps in treacherous conditions and we could select off-road mode, raised ride height (standard 202mm) and hill descent assist from buttons on the central tunnel. Here you’ll also find heated or cooled cup holders with matching illumination since the gear lever moved to the steering column.
Other extras were an AMG Sport package (N$36,000), the full COMAND Online satnav system (N$23,500) with Harman/Kardon surround sound (N$12,200), panoramic roof (N$18,500) and heated front seats (N$4,000). These toys aren’t essential and you had best visit your nearest Mercedes-Benz dealer to see what else is available.
They’ll probably tempt you with the myriad of colour, trim and wheel options but the real reason you should go is for this car’s exceptional space, comfort and smoothness. Even tall adults will find abundant space in all seats and the cargo area can extend from 551 to an impressive 2,010L.
It would’ve been great if the ML range came with seven seats but that would spoil its attractive proportions and modern lines, never mind the overall size. Should you need something even bigger, Mercedes-Benz is happy to oblige with its super-size GL available from a cool million upwards.
Starting price for an ML400 4Matic BlueEfficiency is N$849,252 which includes a full PremiumDrive six-year/100,000km maintenance plan. And remember, that new twin-turbo engine is so smooth that it’ll fool just about anyone into thinking it’s a mild hybrid.
0-10km/h: 0.34 seconds
0-20km/h: 0.76 seconds
0-30km/h: 1.23 seconds
0-40km/h: 1.74 seconds
0-50km/h: 2.30 seconds
0-60km/h: 3.00 seconds
0-70km/h: 3.73 seconds
0-80km/h: 4.49 seconds
0-90km/h: 5.39 seconds
0-100km/h: 6.53 seconds
0-110km/h: 7.66 seconds
0-120km/h: 8.90 seconds
0-130km/h: 10.13 seconds
0-140km/h: 11.83 seconds
0-100m: 6.21 seconds @ 97.36km/h
0-200m: 9.44 seconds @ 124.85km/h
0-300m: 12.13 seconds @ 141.81km/h
0-400m: 14.55 seconds @ 155.53km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.88G
All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box