In India, the Mercedes-Benz SUV range is limited to the M-class and the hugely expensive, gargantuan GL-class. This, in effect, means Merc has nothing in its arsenal to tackle smaller and more affordable rivals from BMW and Audi. The Mercedes GLK, which is positioned against the X3 and Q5, isn’t available here and there is currently nothing on a Merc production line anywhere on earth to take on the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3 – arguably the juiciest segment of this market.
What this new all-new M-class has to do, then, is multi-task. It has to offer everything a traditional full-size SUV buyer looks for – space, presence, performance – and be attractive and affordable enough to tempt compact SUV buyers into stepping up. This is exactly what Mercedes-Benz is hoping to achieve with the new M-class. With the Union Budget’s decidedly import-unfriendly nature, Merc is focusing aggressively on a huge localisation program – even major elements like the engine will be assembled in India. The engine, incidentally, will be built by Force India.
This is part of the reason the new M-class has a positively tasty price. The base version, which is very well equipped, comes in at Rs 56.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), a price that significantly undercuts similarly specced Audi Q7s and BMW X5s, and puts the M-class within shouting distance of top-end X3s and Q5s.
The new M-class also boasts segment-leading quality, safety, refinement and efficiency and it
is bigger, better and has more equipment than the old M-class. So, on the face of it, it seems like Mercedes has hit the nail on the head. But has it? Is the new M-class all that the company is making it out to be? We throw it at some of the toughest conditions this side of the Sahara to find out.
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Issue: 166 | June 2013
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