The M-Class was redesigned two years ago, so there's no major changes for 2008, but the SUV does get new standard equipment. The ML500 also gets a beefed-up engine and a new name: ML550. The M-Class has been on the market for 10 years, and an anniversary edition marking the occasion will be available in October 2007. Competitors include Audi's Q7 and Cadillac's SRX.
Last year, both a diesel and a high-performance AMG version were introduced, and those models continue into 2008. The anniversary edition, available on the ML350, is called Edition 10 and features unique trim pieces, 19-inch wheels and a two-tone interior.
Four trim levels are available: the ML350 with a V-6 engine; the ML550 and ML63 AMG, both with V-8 power; and an ML320 diesel model.
Mercedes-Benz promotes the aggressive wedge shape and sweeping front fenders of the M-Class. The grille consists of three wide louvers with pronounced air vents and is complemented by a chrome three-pointed Mercedes-Benz star.
Two vent grilles on the hood incorporate the trim that's common on many Mercedes-Benz models. Widely flared wheel arches, angled C-pillars and a sharply angled windshield complete the picture. A prominent rear spoiler and twin tailpipes go in back.
A chrome/silver grille and 19-inch wheels are standard on the ML350. The more-powerful ML550 has AMG body styling with 19-inch AMG wheels.
The M-Class seats up to five occupants and has a sport-oriented instrument panel and a multifunction steering wheel. A 60/40-split rear seat creates a level load surface when folded. Cargo volume totals 29.4 cubic feet with the seats up and 64.6 cubic feet with the backseat folded. Options include Parktronic parking assistance and a DVD-based navigation system.
The ML350 Edition 10 will feature two-tone upholstery.
Under the Hood
Four engines are available in the M-Class. The ML350 features a 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 268 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 2,400 rpm. The ML550's V-8 makes 382 hp and 391 pounds-feet of torque. The ML63 AMG makes 503 hp and 465 pounds-feet of torque from a 6.3-liter V-8. An ML320 diesel produces 215 hp and 398 pounds-feet of torque.
All engines team with a seven-speed automatic transmission. TouchShift manual controls sit behind the steering wheel. When properly equipped, an M-Class can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Side curtain airbags incorporate rollover sensors, and side-impact airbags are also installed. An electronic stability system is standard, and antilock brakes include brake assist.
Despite its undeniably firm suspension, the M-Class recovers smartly from rough spots on the pavement, so the ride is more tolerable than in some SUVs. The M-Class is able to cope with a variety of conditions without turning gentle, which helps impart a premium feel overall.
Somewhat heavy steering is appropriate for the vehicle, and agility ranks a tad above average. Stability isn't an issue. The M-Class stays as flat and sure-footed as most SUVs — and better than many.
Performance with the V-6 is vigorous from a standstill and good for passing and merging. Transmission shifts are generally seamless, but a grabby sensation often emerges when the vehicle slows to a stop.
Front and rear space is ample. The seats are supportive and comfortable, except for a hard seatback in the center rear position. The front seats have long bottoms. Huge space behind the rear seat is easy to load with luggage, and overall construction feels solid. Wide C-pillars and somewhat wide forward pillars impede visibility somewhat but not severely. The electronic gear selector works easily, but some controls are confusing. Cars.com has not tested the AMG and diesel models.