With the petrol price at more than R11/l - and any global political tremor urging it ever upwards - fuel economy remains the mantra for many vehicle manufacturers, and Mercedes-Benz is no exception.
The German manufacturer’s new M-Class sports-utility vehicle (SUV), launched in South Africa this week, boasts a 23% to 28% improvement in fuel consumption compared with the previous M-Class, depending on the model variant.
“The fuel consumption is a benchmark in terms of fuel efficiency for any SUV,” says Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) CEO Dr Martin Zimmermann.
“It’s an amazing performance by an SUV, while still providing all the luxuries.”
The lowest fuel consumption between all of the M-Class model derivatives belongs to the ML 250 BlueTEC 4MATIC, with am official combined diesel fuel economy of 6.5 l/100 km and carbon dioxide emissions at 165 g/km. This is a 2.4 l/100 km gain from the comparable outgoing model.
The engine is no lazy bones either, and pushes out 150 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque - with such willingness to perform making it difficult to target the optimal fuel consumption level.
A full tank provides this vehicle with a range of 1 500 km.
The improvement in fuel economy comes from various technologies, such as a new seven-speed 7G/Tronic Plus automatic transmission with a new fuel-economy converter, friction-optimised bearings and a transmission oil thermal management system. Low-friction axle drives, electric steering, an optimised belt drive with decoupler and the on-demand control of all ancillary components and pumps also play their part in reducing fuel consumption.
Mercedes-Benz has sold 1.2-million M-Class vehicles worldwide, with 15 000 of these sold in South Africa. Of the 24 000 sporty ML 63 AMGs sold worldwide, 500 found South African homes.
Priced at R1.38-million, the new in-a-hurry AMG M-Class, with its V8 biturbo engine, can reach 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, with 700 Nm of torque available. With a sports package added, this increases to a massive 760 Nm.
MBSA’s hopes for increased M-Class sales, however, rest with the ‘baby’ ML 250, with Zimmermann believing the M-Class will be “able to find a wider audience” with this more affordable entry into the SUV range.
For the first time, the M-Class chassis with steel suspension features selective damping. The driver is assisted by electric steering, which ensures the best level of steering assistance for the current driving situation.
For driving off the beaten track, all models are equipped with a number of off-road features as standard, including permanent all-wheel drive, electronic traction control and an off-road button which activates a special off-road driving model.
Furthermore, the start-off assist system makes hill starts easier, while downhill speed regulation automatically keeps the M‑Class at the speed set using the cruise control stalk.
For R50 000 extra, M-Class fans can add the Active Curve System to their vehicle. This system, which increases handling stability, uses active anti-roll bars on the front and rear axles and compensates for the roll angle of the body through bends. In fact, it decreases body roll by 10 degrees.
The standard equipment package also includes the drowsiness detection system Attention Assist, the anticipatory safety system Pre-Safe and a tyre-pressure-loss warning system, as well as adaptive brake lights and Brake Assist. Assistance systems such as Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist are available as additional equipment options, and do exactly what they promise.
Inside, folding both backrests as well as the seat cushions forward creates a level load compartment with a capacity of 2 010 l up to the roof lining.
The new M-Class comes as standard with the Audio 20 CD system, which comprises a radio with twin-tuner, a colour display with a 14.7 cm screen diagonal, an MP3/WMA/AAC-compatible CD player with 6-disc CD, a USB interface with CD cover art display (if saved on the storage medium), an Aux-in socket in the centre armrest and a telephone keypad. The Bluetooth interface also allows hands-free telephony and audio streaming for the transfer of music.
The optional Comand Online multimedia system with a 17.8 cm colour display provides Internet access in the M-Class for the first time. Customers can either browse freely when the vehicle is at a standstill or use a Mercedes-Benz App with pages that load quickly and are also easy to use when the vehicle is on the move.
The M-Class range comes standard with a maintenance plan of 6 years/120 000 km.
Pricing starts at R683 500.