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Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML550

Classics  /   /  By Danny Chang

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.

2012 Mercedes-Benz ML550

Driving Impressions

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.

2012 mercedes-benz ml550 interior

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.

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  1. ryan July 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm Reply

    I usually don’t like SUV’s but I love the design of this one.

  2. George Jakubowicz August 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Beautiful but why a V8? A 6 with a twin turbo would have been more economical and a better seller!

    • Derek Mau August 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm Reply

      Looking at what most of the carmakers are doing, turbocharging is one of the more popular ways of extracting more power from smaller engines. Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engines produce V8 power/torque with the fuel economy of a V6.

  3. Warren August 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm Reply

    The ML 550 IS A AWESOME Ride.

    • eBay Motors August 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm Reply

      We agree, do you own one currently?

  4. RJ August 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm Reply

    I have a ML320 I really love it, I want to get A ML550,I’m a fan of Mercedes.

  5. konrad August 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm Reply

    This is the best car an the road. I would love to have it.

    • derek August 11, 2012 at 6:40 am Reply

      We agree, MB did an excellent job of redesigning the ML. The have come a long way since the 1st generation ML that felt more like riding in a truck than a luxury SUV.

  6. Brian Huelat August 11, 2012 at 9:14 am Reply

    I have an ML430 & a ML350. They are nice road machines great for long trips and in Colorado they are sure footed vehicles in the snow. I also a lot of fun in the Rocky Mountain trails.

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