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Mercedes Unmasks Its All-New 2012 M-Class

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On: Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 11:10AM | By: Andrew W Davis

Mercedes Unmasks Its All-New 2012 M-Class

Mercedes has introduced the third generation of its middle-child SUV, the 2012 M-Class (which—FYI—is actually badged “ML” for some reason).

The vehicle that "began the industry trend toward SUVs with a more car-like ride” is all-new for 2012, though many of the changes (it being one inch longer and a half-inch wider, for instance) won’t register with the average consumer.

Fortunately for all involved, however, some of the major changes Mercedes made include its "striking" new styling, a new transmission, a new iPad Docking Station and more.

[The model that I can afford, however, is still in development. Apparently. Mercedes-Benz will not comment on the matter.]

The M-Class in the beginning was not what you would call a well-executed idea, nor was it apparently built with an eye for build quality. Sure, it wore Mercedes-ish styling and was very plush inside, but its cabin was also cramped and openings were oddly shaped, making the vehicle less-than-comfy overall. Poor assembly quality, like over-spec variable body gaps and loose interior fitments, didn’t help.

But as with every product they make, Mercedes worked hard to get it right. Sure enough, things like a decent V8 option helped, and the king of the better-built MLs, the 342 horsepower 5.4-liter V8-equipped ML55, was such an incredible performer that its quality level didn’t matter.

AMG is surely working its black-arts magic for a future product, but there are only two MLs on-deck for 2012: the ML350 BlueTEC and the ML350 4MATIC.

The easy way to set them apart is that the former is a diesel while the latter is a, well… not. The “thrifty” ML350 BlueTEC diesel “now has considerably more power (240 horsepower, 455 lb.-ft of torque [Yowza!]), while the popular ML350 4MATIC is equipped with a brand-new direct-injection V6 engine (302 hp, 273 lb.-ft.)”.

[To put that torque level in perspective, that’s 31 lb.-ft. more than a 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport’s 6.2-liter V8. Otto Diesel be praised!]

That it’s outfitted with the best bits-of-kit is no surprise, and you’ll find this ML is loaded in the traditional Mercedes fashion. There are also a few new gizmos you can get, including the always-spelled-in-all-caps-to-seemingly-reference-its-job "ATTENTION ASSIST system" and the much calmer-in-text "iPad Docking Station."

The ATTENTION ASSIST (it kills me to keep repeatedly using that “shout” title) system is designed to: “alert the driver to the first signs of drowsiness.” Here’s the straight dope from M-B (sans caps):

“A steering sensor is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. Between 50 and 112 mph, the system identifies the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy and triggers an audible warning, and a ‘Time for a Rest?’ message with a coffee cup icon appears in the instrument cluster.”

It’s funny—though most likely unintentional—that you are being signaled with a coffee cup icon as a warning. Are they saying that you should get more coffee or that your morning coffee(s) is/are to blame for your fatigue as its effects have worn off?

Luckily for the math-challenged like me, the iPad docking thingie’s official description is close to numeral-free:

“The iPad Docking Station holds the iPad in place behind the headrests of the front seats, allowing rear occupants to view. For optimum viewing, the iPad® Docking Station can be rotated up to 90 degrees and be tilted, while being charged through the vehicle's electrical system. This product is a perfect fit for the Mercedes-Benz customer and will be available for most Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and Sport Utility Vehicles. This product will be available in September 2011.”

So there you have it. If you’re in the market for an all-new mid-size Mercedes-built SUV, the 2012 MLs—in diesel and gasoline versions—are perfect for you. Anyone who’s looking to cross-shop, however, will have to wait until Mercedes deigns me worthy of a test vehicle.

[And you will—right, Mercedes? Right? Hmmm. Seems it’s like the case of the “my-priced” ML: The suits in Stuttgart remain silent…]

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dwalter | 11:56AM (Tue, Jul 12, 2011)

iPad docking stations in the headrests? ...really, Mercedes?

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