2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

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$14,465–$28,673 Inventory Prices
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Key Specs
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2012 Mercedes‑Benz M‑Class. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Diesel engine's torque
  • Highway poise
  • Forward visibility
  • Rich-looking interior
  • IIHS 2012 Top Safety Pick

The Bad

  • Feels wider than it is
  • Air suspension's modes could be more distinct
  • Nonlinear brake feel
  • Dated seat-folding design
  • Real leather not standard

Notable Features of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

  • Redesigned for 2012
  • Improved Comand interface
  • Gas or diesel power
  • Standard AWD
  • Optional air suspension

2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Road Test

Mike Hanley

With the 2012 M-Class, Mercedes brings the comfortable, luxurious driving experience of its flagship S-Class sedan to its most popular SUV.

If you don't like to be disturbed by the world around you when you drive, this redesigned luxury SUV is for you.

We tested the ML350 Bluetec, which is powered by a 240-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine and gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway. Its starting price is $50,490, but with options our as-tested price climbed to $64,465. To see a side-by-side comparison with the similar Audi Q7 and BMW X5, click here.

Styling
The 2012 M-Class retains many of the previous generation's styling cues, like a wide front grille and forward-swept C-pillars, but the new design looks more substantial and imposing. Contributing to the more muscled look is an upright front end and a boxier overall shape. Whether or not you like the new styling will depend on your preference for evolutionary rather than revolutionary design.

The Inside
The redesigned interior mixes familiar styling cues with new design themes. Thanks to greater use of wood trim — especially on the dashboard — the cabin looks richer. There were, however, some annoying rattles in our test car, and I noticed some chassis flex.

Having driving a lot of cars lately, the commanding views afforded by the M-Class were a reminder of one of the reasons people like SUVs. The front bucket seats are supportive without being overly firm, and there's room ...

With the 2012 M-Class, Mercedes brings the comfortable, luxurious driving experience of its flagship S-Class sedan to its most popular SUV.

If you don't like to be disturbed by the world around you when you drive, this redesigned luxury SUV is for you.

We tested the ML350 Bluetec, which is powered by a 240-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engine and gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway. Its starting price is $50,490, but with options our as-tested price climbed to $64,465. To see a side-by-side comparison with the similar Audi Q7 and BMW X5, click here.

Styling
The 2012 M-Class retains many of the previous generation's styling cues, like a wide front grille and forward-swept C-pillars, but the new design looks more substantial and imposing. Contributing to the more muscled look is an upright front end and a boxier overall shape. Whether or not you like the new styling will depend on your preference for evolutionary rather than revolutionary design.

The Inside
The redesigned interior mixes familiar styling cues with new design themes. Thanks to greater use of wood trim — especially on the dashboard — the cabin looks richer. There were, however, some annoying rattles in our test car, and I noticed some chassis flex.

Having driving a lot of cars lately, the commanding views afforded by the M-Class were a reminder of one of the reasons people like SUVs. The front bucket seats are supportive without being overly firm, and there's room for taller drivers to get comfortable (I'm 6-foot-1). Simulated leather upholstery is standard, while real leather is optional. With a starting price of nearly $50,000 for the M-Class, you'd think you could get real leather without having to pay extra.

Backseat comfort is decent; there was enough legroom with the driver's seat adjusted for me. There's not as much thigh support as I'd like, however, and the backseat doesn't slide forward or backward for additional cargo space or backseat legroom. The split backrest reclines by lifting a lever at the base of the seat.

The backseat folds flat with the cargo floor, but you first have to flip the seat cushion forward and make sure the head restraints are lowered. This is a dated, cumbersome design that was once common in SUVs but has largely been abandoned, which makes its presence in a redesigned luxury model all the more unusual.

Mercedes updated a key interface — the Comand system — and the changes make the M-Class' entertainment features easier to use. Prior versions of the SUV had a keypad on the dashboard that filled the role of the knob controller that's been used in other Mercedes models for years. From a usability perspective, it was a poor substitute. The redesigned M-Class' new center console incorporates a control knob just in front of the armrest. With this setup, Comand is one of the easier integrated systems to use thanks to intuitive on-screen menus navigated by simple knob movements.

Diesel Delight
Despite its hefty, 5,040-pound curb weight, the ML350 Bluetec moves out well, with power in reserve at midrange speeds. The diesel's power characteristics are well-suited to towing, and the SUV is rated to tow up to 7,200 pounds when properly equipped.

The diesel's stout low-end torque enables this; it produces 455 pounds-feet from just 1,600 rpm, which is considerably more than the gas V-6's 273 pounds-feet of torque that arrives at a higher 3,500 rpm. All versions of the SUV have a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Diesel engine refinement has come a long way, and the M-Class' diesel V-6 is evidence of this. It starts up quickly, even when outside temperatures are hovering around freezing, and idles smoothly. You can hear a little bit of diesel clatter when outside the SUV, but once you step inside it's sufficiently muted. The engine sounds a little bit different from a gas engine when accelerating, but it's close enough that your passengers won't suspect anything — until you pull up to a truck stop for fuel.

The diesel's fuel economy advantage over the gas V-6 is a nice benefit: The EPA rates the diesel at 22 mpg in combined city/highway driving versus 19 mpg with the base gas engine, a 16 percent improvement. I got around 23 mpg, mostly on suburban streets and highways with little stop-and-go traffic. Depending on how much diesel fuel costs where you live, some of the money gained from better mileage could be lost at the pump. A gallon of diesel cost $4.39 when I filled up in suburban Chicago, and nationally it's 17 cents more than premium gas, which the gas M-Class uses. There's also the matter of the up-front expense for the diesel M-Class, which starts at $1,500 more than the base gas version.

Ride & Handling
The M-Class evokes the S-Class' driving experience in a few ways. For one, it feels especially substantial and planted when cruising on the highway, enhancing driver confidence and lowering driving effort. In tighter confines, like when pulling into a parking garage, the M-Class feels wide, and I found myself creeping forward gingerly.

Then there's the steering: The optional wood and leather steering wheel spins with a well-oiled smoothness and enough power assistance to kill any hopes of steering feedback. This kind of isolating driving experience is something Mercedes has perfected, so if this is what you're looking for, the M-Class delivers.

Our test car had Mercedes' optional Airmatic air suspension, which offers Comfort and Sport modes. The difference between the two is subtle. Sport lowers the SUV and firms up the ride, which makes it feel like someone stole the gel inserts out of your shoes; you feel small bumps in the road that the Comfort setting had soaked up.

The M-Class' brake-pedal feel is not as direct and linear as it should be. At times, it feels like there's a giant block of foam between the bottom of your foot and the brake pedal.

Safety
The 2012 M-Class was deemed a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, meaning it received the top score of Good in front- and side-impact crash tests, as well as for roof strength and whiplash protection.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes and an electronic stability system, which are required on all new vehicles as of the 2012 model year. Also standard are front and rear side-impact and side curtain airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, and active front head restraints. Mercedes' standard Attention Assist system monitors driver behavior and issues a warning if it detects drowsiness, while Pre-Safe cinches the front seat belts, adjusts the front head restraints, and closes the sunroof and side windows if it senses an impending crash.

Safety options include front and rear parking sensors, a blind spot warning system, lane departure warning and prevention, collision warning and prevention with full braking capability, a backup camera, adaptive bi-xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and adaptive high-beam headlights.

For a full list of safety features, check out the Features & Specs page.

M-Class in the Market
Automakers have a fascination with sportiness, even to the point of giving minivans and pickup trucks a performance slant. The SUV segment has likewise been touched by this phenomenon, and some of the results have been unremarkable. That's why the M-Class, in ML350 Bluetec form, is so refreshing: It doesn't try to be something it's not. While some of its competitors will continue to emphasize sportiness, the 2012 M-Class gives luxury shoppers a comfort-oriented option.

Send Mike an email  



What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.9)
Performance
(4.6)
Interior Design
(4.9)
Comfort
(4.8)
Reliability
(4.4)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

Latest Reviews

(4.0)

I love this car

by Bj from Chicago, Illinois on May 13, 2018

This car meet most of my needs. For music, you can record cd in the car memory, you can use SD card, usb flash drive, Bluetooth, etc Read full review

(5.0)

Best Mercedes I've ever owned! Second one for me

by Steelers Fan on April 7, 2018

Great combination of style, safety, comfort and just plain fun to drive. Excellent in snow. Lots of space. Trips fly by due to comfort of seats and ease of driving Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class currently has 3 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / 50,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Mercedes-Benz

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, trip-planning services and Carfax vehicle history report

  • Limited Warranty

    5 years / Unlimited Miles*

    Up to 5 years/Unlimited miles from original in-service date if purchased while under original warranty, or 1 year/Unlimited miles if purchased outside of new-vehicle warranty; no deductible, transferable to subsequent owners
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 75,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a Rigorous inspection by factory-certified technicians.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The M-Class received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker