It's time to throw away those clichéd 'Chelsea tractor' and 'gas guzzler' references when talking about the latest SUVs. The newest, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, has all the presence and ability of the best in the class, but, with the ability to return 47mpg and emit just 158g/km, it's no longer the scourge of the planet.
To put that into perspective, those figures are comparable to a middling-range petrol-fuelled VW Golf, so eco-warriors will have to find a target other than the big Mercedes 4x4 on the school run. The efficiency savings have been made through the use of state-of-the-art engines, minimising weight and managing airflow and energy consumption throughout the entire vehicle. Mercedes' engineers even went as far as analysing the individual wheel bearings in its pursuit of maximum economy.
The 47mpg figure relates to the ML 250 BlueTEC 4Matic model, which is powered by a 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine in place of its predecessor's 3.0 V6 unit. It's not the only model in the new range to offer economy savings, with the new ML 350 4Matic model delivering 34bhp more than the model it replaces, yet with emissions and economy improvements of 67g/km and almost 10mpg respectively.
Those figures might impress, but the M-Class offers more than just savings at the fuel pumps. Safety is also high on the agenda, with the M-Class featuring all of the latest safety equipment, including driver monitoring Attention Assist and a pop-up bonnet to minimise injury in the case of a pedestrian impact.
Inside, Mercedes has applied its latest ergonomic thinking to ensure maximum passenger comfort and user friendliness. Outside, the styling has been moved on slightly - but its lines are far from radically different. Reaching showrooms in Spring 2012, exact pricing and specifications will be revealed nearer its on-sale date. Yummy Mummies should form an orderly queue...