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2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec (photos)

With its diesel engine, Mercedes-Benz's luxury SUV gets better fuel economy, by up to 5 mpg, than its gasoline equivalent. At the same time, its soft suspension and sound-dampened cabin lead to a comfortable ride.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Mercedes-Benz's ML350 is a five-passenger luxury SUV that comes standard with all-wheel drive. It is available with a gasoline 3.5-liter V-6 engine, this Bluetec turbocharged 3-liter diesel, or the powerful AMG version.

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Mercedes-Benz updated the styling of the ML350 for the 2012 model year, giving it busier sides and skid-plate styling below the grille. However, the ML350 is not a serious off-roader, as its all-wheel-drive system does not give the driver advanced controls such as differential locking or descent control.

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The Bluetec version of the ML350 uses a turbocharged 3-liter V-6 burning diesel fuel. It produces 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque, getting this heavy SUV around easily and earning fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.

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There is no third-row seating available in the ML350; Mercedes-Benz keeps it a five-passenger vehicle. All seats offer plenty of room in the spacious cabin.

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The suspension of the ML350 Bluetec is tuned very soft, and it does an excellent job of absorbing rough patches in the road. An air suspension is available with different settings for comfort or a stiffer ride.

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The rear cargo area is not huge, but more than adequate for the luggage of four passengers, as shown here.

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In keeping with the ML350's luxury character, the cabin is trimmed in leather and wood.

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The electromechanical power-steering unit is tuned for extra boost, making it very easy to turn the wheel, in keeping with the vehicle's luxury character.

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Mercedes-Benz mixes metal and plastic buttons throughout the cabin. These buttons on the steering wheel control audio, voice command, and the phone system.

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The center display in the instrument cluster shows trip information, such as range, which in the ML350 Bluetec approaches 650 miles with a full tank.

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Although Mercedes-Benz makes the navigation system optional, the center LCD is standard.

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This knob and its associated buttons are part of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND interface, used for controlling all the infotainment functions.

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Hard-drive-stored maps show 3D rendered buildings for some urban areas.

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Mercedes-Benz has only recently included weather information from Sirius in the car's infotainment system.

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Mercedes-Benz integrates a Gracenote database with the infotainment system, which is used to analyze MP3 files from portable devices and show associated album cover art.

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