Segment buster

Jan 05 2013, 00:05 IST
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SummaryOn the face of it, the Mercedes-Benz M-class seems a bit out of place alongside the BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60.

The new Mercedes-Benz ML 250 CDI has a smaller engine and a price to rival cars from a segment below, including BMW X3 and Volvo XC60. Is it too good to be true?

Whats new?

On the face of it, the Mercedes-Benz M-class seems a bit out of place alongside the BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60. It is a full size bigger than the other two SUVs and has traditionally been a rival to the larger (and more expensive) X5 and XC90 from BMW and Volvo, respectively. So why are we comparing these SUVs? The answer lies in the 250 CDI badge on the tailgate of the M-class. This recently launched version of the M-class comes with a smaller and less powerful engine than the ML 350 CDI, but it also costs a full R13 lakh less than it!

That means you can have an ML for what youd pay for the more powerful diesel versions of the smaller X3, XC60 and Audi Q5. Wed have liked to include the Q5 3.0 TDI in this test as well, but Audi did not have the updated version of the car that is scheduled to go on sale later this month.

What we seek to find out is if the smaller-hearted ML is too much of a compromise in terms of performance, or if it is actually a well-rounded luxury SUV that just happens to be well priced too?

What are they like to drive?

ML 250 CDI ****

X3 xDrive 30d *****

XC60 D5 ****

The ML 250 CDI is powered by a 201bhp, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine rather than the 255bhp, 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel in the ML 350 CDI. But before you question this engines refinement, you should know it is the quietest and smoothest engine in this test.

Whats more, its performance is also surprisingly sprightly. Sure, the ML 250 CDIs 8.8-second (approximately) 0-100kph time makes it around a second slower than the ML 350 CDI, but in most driving conditions you really cant feel the power deficit. To be honest, its only when you stomp down on the accelerator at high speeds that you find the ML 250 CDI takes some time to gather more pace. If theres a grouse, it is with the seven-speed automatic gearbox, which doesnt respond quickly enough to sudden changes in throttle input. Even tugging on the beautifully finished paddle-shifters doesnt help

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