Building on the solid foundations of its previous and successful ML-class 4x4s, Mercedes‘s third-generation model is now cleaner and more economical.

The interior reeks of sober German build quality and is spacious and classy. There’s a huge amount of room for rear seat passengers and the 690-litre boot extends to an utterly enormous 2010 litres with the seats folded flat.

The ML has road presence aplenty but the trade-off is its somewhat ungainly footprint. It seems very large from the driver’s seat and despite the high seating position, thick A-pillars obscure the front and side view.

For the most part, it’s comfortable, although it has a habit of pitching over rough surfaces, and while the ride is certainly not hard, it becomes unsettled quite easily. The brakes, while far from ineffective, are a bit all-or-nothing, as the pedal doesn’t have the smoothest of impacts.

Refinement is superb and while the ML250’s 2.1-litre 204hp diesel engine is the most modest of the range, it doesn’t come across as short on power and, given the admirable claimed 44.8mpg economy for such a large car, it’s the default choice for fleets.

In terms of costs, the Mercedes stacks up very well against its rivals. Next to the cheapest version of BMW‘s X5 – the xDrive 3.0d 245 M Sport, which costs £48,980 – the ML250 Sport tested here weighs in at £47,285 with 98.6ppm next to the X5’s 104.2ppm. Land Rover‘s most closely matched Discovery 4 has a P11D of £4295 more than the ML and works out at 117.1ppm. Granted, both rivals are faster and more powerful, but the Merc is easily the most economical of the large, premium 4x4s in every respect.

Mercedes-Benz ML250 Blue Tech 4Matic Sport
P11D price £47,285
Model price range £43,015-£81,910
Residual value 37.4%
Depreciation £29,615
Fuel £8278
SMR £4066
VED £510
National Insurance £5481
Cost per mile 99.2p
Fuel consumption 44.8mpg
CO2 (tax) 165g/km (27%)
BIK 20/40% per month £213/£426
Service interval 15,500mls
Insurance (1-50) group 38
Warranty 3yrs/unlimited miles
Boot space 690/2010 litres
Engine size/power 2143cc/204hp
Top speed/0-62mph 130mph/9.0secs
On sale April 2012
Score 8/10
Verdict Well-built, spacious and
surprisingly clean and
frugal for a large 4×4