Road Tripping in Style
- Commanding view of the road from the high seating position
- Silky smooth and powerful twin-turbo direct injection 4.6L V8
- Advanced safety features that are perfect for long road trips
- Conservative styling
- High riding height makes it a pain to get into the cabin
- Power comes at a price: 15 city/20 highway mpg
The Mercedes-Benz M-Class was a class leader, being one of the first premium luxury SUVs on the market. The first generation M-Class had unique styling but the build quality was substandard, perhaps reflecting issues with the first Mercedes manufacturing plant in the United States. For 2012, the M-Class has been redesigned benefiting from two previous generations, hundreds of million dollars, and years of improvement invested since 1997.
However, competition has also become more complex as the luxury SUV segment has grown ever more crowded with a formidable line-up from other German, Japanese and American manufacturers. The most notable competitors to the ML550 are the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, and of course the fast selling but no-looker Lexus RX.
The all-new 2012 ML550 gets its power from a new 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 402 horsepower at 5,000-5,750 rpm and 443 lb.-ft. of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Noticeably, the ML550 is very smooth off the line and has a steady power delivery all the way up through its seven gears in freeway driving, but it does not feel very quick. Adaptive logic monitors and adjust the shift points to match your driving style, or you can manually select higher shift points using the console shifter or paddle shifters for more direct control at your fingertips.
Despite the ML550’s hefty girth, it feels light on its feet in local driving and very confident at highway speeds. The ride is buttery smooth at both local and highway speeds. Speed-sensitive steering is very extreme, with zero feedback at low speeds and decently heavy feel at highway speeds. The steering’s lack of road feel at local speeds would make a1984 Cadillac Eldorado proud.
Perched inside the all-new M-Class presents a driving position that is super high; giving the driver a commanding view of the road. Rear and side visibility is decent for a large SUV these days. Overall, driving the ML550 is less than an engaging experience, but then again the target customer is more towards affluent suburban soccer moms and dads than hard-driving performance seeking single men.