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New M-Class vs X5

Can Mercedes’ fresh M-Class reverse slowing sales in the premium SUV market? We find out as it meets our current favourite, the BMW X5...

New M-Clas vs X5

With a global recession in full swing and oil prices still sky high, new car buyers are starting to steer clear of thirsty and expensive SUVs. In an effort to buck the trend of falling sales, Mercedes has given its M-Class a mid-life refresh. The latest version builds on the fine on-road performance and solid build quality of the existing model with revised looks and improved equipment.

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However, this all comes at a price. The ML320 CDI Sport we test costs £44,285 – a £2,750 increase over the old car. And the initial outlay isn’t the only stumbling block the big Benz faces. There’s also the small matter of the BMW X5 to contend with.

At £43,175, the X5 35d SE undercuts our M-Class, and offers more performance, lower emissions and better fuel economy.

So, which one of these German giants wins this clash of the off-road titans – and does either have a bright future?

Verdict

The worst thing Mercedes could have done would have been to wade in with a substantial facelift for the M-Class – this car was already a great premium all-rounder, and its subtle makeover only highlights its talents.

It delivers a fine compromise between decent on-road dynamics and mud-plugging ability, while the interior has bags of space. Better still, the compliant ride and refined 3.0-litre diesel make the Merc a comfortable cruiser.

The M-Class only has one real problem – and that’s its rival. So talented is the X5, with its sharper handling and stylish, solidly constructed cabin, that it’s tough to beat.

But what seals victory is the X5’s incredible engine. The twin-turbo unit delivers amazing performance, with lower emissions and better economy than the Merc. And as the cost of motoring rises, that’s a crucial advantage.

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