By KBB.com Editors
The newest Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV is a far cry from the original model. Whereas the first M-Class featured body-on-frame construction, the new ML employs a unit-body design. This creates a stiffer chassis, which helps eliminate rattles and vibration as well as quiet the interior; the design also allows for a more sophisticated suspension, yielding better handling and a more civilized ride. Although it can seat five, the ML is most comfortable with four passengers. It offers a modest cargo bay of 29.4 cubic feet, which is more space than an Infiniti FX35, but less than offered by the Acura MDX. For 2007, the M-Class offers a diesel engine option, a feature unique to this class.
If, like so many SUV buyers today, you'll settle for no fewer than three rows of seats, you'll have to look somewhere else. Mercedes-Benz decided to eliminate its awkward third-row seating in the new iteration of the M-Class.
Two new models join the lineup: the diesel-powered ML320 CDI and the performance oriented ML63 AMG.
Driving Impressions By having unibody construction instead of the ladder-frame platform of the previous M-Class, the second-generation M-Class transcends any comparison with its predecessor. Highway ride is as smooth as you'd expect...from any of the automaker's stately sedans, with the added benefit of being able to negotiate large rocks (or parking blocks) with exceptional composure. It's this silkiness that makes the SUV's confidence-inspiring cornering ability just that much more impressive. While in a price-is-no-object world we would prefer the V8-powered ML500, the six-cylinder ML350 is also satisfying.
A long list of safety equipment includes traction and stability control, multiple airbags, active headrests and Mercedes' Pre-Safe system that tightens seatbelts and closes windows when it senses an impending collision.
An optional air suspension allows for an extra three inches of ground clearance, while an active damping system lets you choose between Auto, Comfort and Sport settings, to best suit the road ahead.
Some of the first interior details you may notice are the large, circular air vents dominating the dash, and the padded rails at the bottom of the center console that are more of an off-road touch than we expected from the more street-friendly M-Class. What you'll be forced to notice before moving the car an inch, however, is the dainty transmission selector stalk on the steering column. It removes the shifter from the center console and its operation, though not conventional, is easy to get used to. The seats are as comfortable as you'd expect, and the bigger cabin delivers plenty of room for five adults. But even though this new model is a full six inches longer than the last, a third-row seat option is no more.Exterior
Fresh from its complete makeover last year, the new ML is both sleeker and more muscular than the soft shoebox design it replaces. The four inches added between the front and rear wheels and three inches added in overall width deliver increased passenger room and a smoother highway ride.
The base ML350 features a 3.5-liter V6, seven-speed automatic transmission, permanent all-wheel drive, automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, automatic headlamps, heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, multifunction steering wheel, outside temperature display, power windows/locks/mirrors and a four-way adjustable steering column. Standard safety equipment includes an array of passive and active safety technologies, including front, front-side and front and second-row side-curtain airbags.
In addition to a 5.0-liter V8 engine, the ML500 adds wood trim, multi-zone automatic climate control and bigger wheels. Additional options for all ML models include an active-damping air suspension, DVD navigation, keyless entry and start, power liftgate, active bi-xenon headlights, Parktronic park assist, heated steering wheel and rear seats, rear-seat entertainment system, harman/kardon premium six-disc audio system and a power sunroof.
With an impressive V6 good for 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, opting for the lower-priced, higher-mileage ML350 won't leave you feeling short-changed in the power department. For those who want the towing capability of a V8 with the fuel mileage of a frugal four-cylinder, the ML320 CDI diesel is an excellent choice. Die-hard speed freaks will no doubt drool over the ML63 AMG's 503 horsepower, but the price tag near $90,000 may render this hot-rod SUV little more than a pipe dream.
268 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/21
215 horsepower @ 3800 rpm
398 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1400-2800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A
302 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
339 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-4750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/19
503 horsepower @ 6800 rpm
465 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/16
By Jason Louis Bridges on Friday, March 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,100overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "good comfort, nice ride, AWD is a bless"
Cons: "mechanically unreliable, expensive on the road"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"One may be surprised by the title, but here are my reasons why I am stating that: * NOTE * this is for the ML320 CDI models up to 2009 - Let me start by saying that I have never had a vehicle to be so costly in repairs. And when I am talking repairs, I am talking about design and manufacturing issues, which should have been called lemon issues to begin with. For starters, I had to replace front differential at only 50k miles; all the struts and shocks failed at 65k miles; oil cooler had to be changed at 70k; Timing belt, manifold gaskets, one computer (out of many) and I can continue the list on and on and on ... Overall is a bad design from the start. Why? Well all the parts that had to be replaced were "upgraded" by Mercedes with supposedly better quality materials. Why has this not been done from the beginning ? Because this is were they make the money - "stealership". Overall - is a nice car, a pleasure to drive and real comfortable - when it works."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Flash on Saturday, March 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "nice to drive, comfort and best features"
Cons: "gas mileage at times in the city"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great vehicle to drive. Smooth as you can get for am Suv. Handles well on curves with power. Wouldnt go back to any other brand than Mercedes."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By missy on Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 200,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I Purchased this car in 2006 brand new with 10 miles, it was my dream car , I thought. within 6 months on Christmas night, the transmission went out, thank god it was under warranty, then a year later the power steering went out, again thank god , it was still under warranty . I started to wonder if I should trade it in. but I really loved my car and felt like all the kinks was out. Well , the A/C vents broke, power seats stop working, had message about the airbags not working , took it to the dealer and all this was not covered with my warranty. spent over $3500. to fix all . the next year the radiator went out , $2,000. the power driver window button snapped off, and the lights needed to be changed , which I have had to do every year. I can't understand why the light bulds don't last because apparentely there is a back up bulds. spent $450 just to change 2 parking lights/fog lights/ 2 back lights. now we are in 2014 , the timming chain broke , $6,000 to fix !!! can't do it !! I will put on craig's list an hope I can get a decent amount for it. I can't even get $6,000 from the dealer to trade in , they offered $5,000. the worst purchase of my life !!! never again will I buy a MERCEDES BENZ !!!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By pwrdad on Saturday, March 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Best all around vehicle I have owned"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought the BluTec after owning a 2006 4matic, which I still own. The 2006 was a good car, but wanted navigation and Bluetooth and diesel engine. I am extremely happy with this SUV. I was concerned after researching the navigation and it was not easy to learn, but it is great after learning. The vehicle is MUCH less noisy than expected, I have three other diesel vehicles. This car may last a lifetime, my spouse is still driving the 2006 in CA and it may last a lifetime."
By Sidekick on Friday, March 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Cons: "Lack of knowledge of repair by dealer."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Expensive to purchase but payback in economy. Per hour rate to repair this ML at $117.00 per hour is out of range for most families."
By Jon on Friday, March 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 101,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great vehicle and worth every dollar"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I was hesitant to put that much money in a new vehicle however I had never owned a Mercedes. My 8 year Mercedes experience has been absolutely great. I will do the same thing again."