The 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML will throw down the sales gauntlet to its luxury-4WD rivals the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Lexus RX with an $81,400 starting price when the new-generation model goes on sale in April.

M-Klasse

Mercedes-Benz Australia's new pricing reduces the cost of entry to the ML by $4380 compared with the outgoing model, further distancing itself from the $92,100 BMW X5 30d and $90,500 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI, while undercutting the most affordable Lexus RX, the $82,814 RX350.

The German car maker is also introducing more standard equipment for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML range.

Inclusive features for all ML models will include reverse-view camera, electronic park brake, satellite navigation plus 40 gigabyte hard drive for map data storage, 10 gigabyte music register plus Bluetooth audio streaming, internet surfing capability, 19-inch alloy wheels (with 18s as a no-cost option) and Attention Assist that aims to prevent drivers becoming drowsy behind the wheel.

Features that will be optional on some models, standard on others, include intelligent headlights with daytime running lights, night vision system, active parallel parking assist technology, and a so-called Active Curve System designed to reduce body roll through corners.

An Off-road Package – including features such as underbody scuff plates and two-speed transfer case - will again be offered for those (rare) customers looking to venture away from the bitumen in their shiny, expensive four-wheel-drive. The package is expected to cost about $8000.

The $81,400 ML250 Bluetec entry-level model is powered by a direct fuel injection, twin-turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel with 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

Fuel consumption and emissions figures are 6.4 litres per 100km and 168 grams of CO2 per kilometre, reflecting improved efficiency and cleanliness of about 10 per cent that will happen across the range.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML includes an aluminium bonnet and front guards to help reduce the vehicle’s weight, while the company says the new ML’s fuel efficiency is also helped by class-leading aerodynamics of 0.32cd.

With a 93-litre fuel tank, the ML250 Bluetec has an impressive theoretical driving range of 1453km.

The ML250 will be followed by the ML350 Bluetec and flagship ML63 AMG (pictured below) in May, with ML350 V6 petrol and ML500 variants arriving in the third quarter of 2012.