2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel
2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel
2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

With over 900 kilometres on the trip meter since my last fill, the Mercedes ML 350 Bluetec’s ‘refuel me please’ light illuminated just before I reached the gas station. A few moments, a little math, and over 90 litres of pungent, sudsy diesel later, and I had a tank average consumption figure of 10.2 L/100 km.

That’s considerably less than I’ve put through any number of similarly sized, gas-powered SUV models with considerably less power output. Actually, it’s better than a Ford Fusion AWD. I didn’t even slog that machine through any mud ruts, either.

This early-spring fill-up covered about 450 clicks worth of highway cruising between 110 and 120 km/h, as well as daily in-town jaunts to the grocery store, gym, mall, and coffee shop.

And, the kicker: the driving included on this measured tank also included two heavy-footed jaunts down my favorite terribly-rutted, muddy camp-road to test out the ground clearance and 4Matic traction and goof about in the dirt a little.

With less off-roading and speeding, I’d have seen consumption fall under 10 L/100 km.

So, here’s a luxury hauler built to get you, your people and your things off to the cottage or slopes or mall or soccer field in the lap of luxury. With the “Bluetec” diesel engine on board, the ML’s priorities are widened to include improved fuel efficiency and manly-man torque output, too.

Diesel engines make loads of torque without burning through their fuel supply like an orbit-bound rocket thruster. My tester had more of the stuff than all but the most enormous gas V8 engines on the road, but still turned in fuel economy on par with a family sedan.

Remember: torque is the all-important figure when you’ve got to get something heavy moving – like a train, transport truck, or luxury ute with a trailer in back.

Largely because they used to be obnoxiously noisy, smelly and smoky powerplants, diesel engines have a reputation for being obnoxious, smelly and smoky powerplants. But more shoppers are catching on that today, owning a diesel doesn’t mean generation of greasy emissions that could be harvested for chemical warfare. Diesel engines no longer stink or sound like a washing machine full of wrenches or barf out obnoxious clouds of soot.

2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel
2013 Mercedes-Benz ML 350 Bluetec Diesel. Click image to enlarge

Performance is interesting. Heaping mounds of torque are delivered in a shapeless, flat and unexciting power curve. The seven-speed transmission prefers to use a higher gear – utilizing that torque, sans-downshift, to glide things along. Punch it hard, and you just get an instant, tremendous surge of forward thrust delivered with a quiet effortlessness.

Does she ever roll some coal when you give ’er the boots. This thing hauls.

The engine bay is, admittedly, lined with more soundproofing than a recording studio, but still, you barely hear a peep from the boosted V6 most of the time.

The 4Matic 4×4 system has no low-range or locking mode for serious off-roading, but in most every situation I tossed the ML’s way, the computer calling the shots knew what was up. There was minimal wasted wheel spin, and in some situations you can actually ‘feel’ it working the power around to extract the most traction possible from the ground beneath.

When a little pre-emptive wheel spin is required, the ESC system can be dialed down several notches with a quick tap on the console-mounted button.

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