Seat Time: 2014 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC

August 14th, 2014 at 3:00pm

Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Daimler-Benz
Make: Mercedes-Benz
Model: ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC
Type: 4-door Sport Utility
Competitors: Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee
Price: $51,790 (base); $69,085.00 (as tested)
Made in: Final Assembly: Vance, Alabama; Engine & Transmission from Germany
Drivetrain: 3.0-Liter V-6 Turbo Diesel (240 Horsepower); 7-Speed Automatic Transmission with Shift Paddles
EPA Ratings: 20city, 28highway (23combined)

Final Impression:

Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC 4MATICTo dredge up on old but appropriate axiom in this case, sometimes you do end up throwing the baby out with the bath water. And that’s the dilemma Mercedes-Benz finds itself in with the ML 350 BlueTec. By all accounts it’s an amazing vehicle. The 3 Liter V6 Turbo Diesel delivers power, torque, performance and we haven’t gotten to the clean diesel part yet which gave me consistent mpgs in the mid 20s throughout my week of driving. It is roomy & comfy enough for a family taking long trips or large enough to — gulp — move your mother-in-law into your home for her golden years. Yea, all that is good. The problem is when you go for the gusto and buy a Mercedes the company has done such a good job of selling its brand through the years you expect the ultimate in luxury, and as a target market customer like Prince Hamlet would say “Ay, there’s the rub.” For as nice as the ML is put together inside and out, for some reason it just doesn’t seem like a Mercedes. Maybe I’m expecting too much but having just gotten out of the E350 Sport Wagen and being blown away by everything including the luxury notes of the car, all that was clearly missing with the ML.

So what can Mercedes do to ameliorate this mess? Well, in my opinion it could do a couple of different things like throw millions of dollars at redesigning a perfectly good if not great vehicle already or perhaps adjust its brand messaging a bit to place less emphasis on its luxury heritage. But neither of those options seem realistic (Really? Now there’s an understatement). But if Dailmer Chairman Dieter Zetsche had his way – after someone alerts him to this review — he might suggest the third option of shipping me off to the uber-secret Mercedes-Benz reprogramming resort in the Baltic Sea on the deserted Island of Kirr. But then instead of wasting money on the chloroform & private jet, not to mention the weeks of force-feeding me wiener schnitzel, perhaps they’ll just put me in another ML 350 for a week and say “give it another try, Dummkopf. And open your eyes this time.” Yea, that’s probably more like it…I hope.

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