Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Off-Roader Takes Style Right off the Clock

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Off-Roader Takes Style Right off the Clock

Article excerpt

Byline: By Edward Stephens

Large off-roaders frequently ( although not necessarily justly ( come in for a lot of criticism from the green lobby. But when you get behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz M-Class it's difficult not to be impressed.

In fact after only a short time with an ML 320 CDI Sport it's shot into the top three of my favourite 4x4s.

It wasn't always the case. The last time I drove an M-Class was some years ago in the USA after a visit to the factory where they are made.

That was the first generation of this vehicle which, while it wasn't bad, wasn't the most memorable I had driven.

The latest version, however, is another story. It is now an SUV which just eats up the miles while you ride in a superbly designed and stylish cabin with all the bells and whistles you could wish for.

The upholstery is an ideal mix of leather and Alcantara with sporting, electrically-operated front seats which are both heated and have a memory setting.

A re-designed cabin ensures there is not only a vast amount of space for front seat travellers but for those in the rear too.

In fact compared to the previous model there is 15mm more space between the front and rear seats, knee room has been increased by 35mm and elbow room by 32mm.

And despite many of these vehicles being sneered at as gas-guzzlers I managed a very creditable average of 31mpg on a 100-plus mile journey.

It was that trip ( taking in everything from motorway to narrow country lanes ( which brought home to me just what a superb all round vehicle this new generation M-Class is. Equipped with air suspension and adaptive damping ( a pounds 1,200 extra ( the M-Class handled the fast-twisting A-roads with aplomb. No typical 4x4 body-roll here, just comfort and pin-sharp handling.

In the recent heavy snowfall the four-wheel-drive proved a godsend, although I did have the wheels spinning at one stage, highlighting the fact that, while it is generally capable, the lack of low ratio gearbox does result in limitations. …

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