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Road Test

 

Mercedes-Benz ML 350


by Stephen Walker


13th December, 2007

 

Mercedes-Benz ML 350 
 
Click on the image for a larger view

Mercedes-Benz has been expanding their long established line-up of luxury sedans, coupes and sports cars over the years. Now, the German leader of the luxury car market has an expansive range of highly desired products covering numerous market segments, including the now familiar sport-utility-vehicles (or SUVs as they have become known). These SUVs are manufactured in Alabama, USA, and are despatched around the globe for an SUV hungry world.

One of these Mercedes-Benz SUVs is the M-Class. First introduced to the world in 1997, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class is now into its second generation. Numerous versions are available in Australia, including the ML 280 CDI, the ML 350, the ML 320 CDI, the ML 500 and the performance-orientated ML 63 AMG.

Prices for these models, excluding options and the traditional on-road costs, range from $78,784 to $160,874.

The Next Car team recently had the opportunity to evaluate the Mercedes-Benz ML 350. This model is powered by the 3.5 litre petrol-fuelled V6. This engine produces 200 kW of power at 6,000 rpm. The torque is a handy 350 Nm at 2,400 to 5,000 rpm. This engine uses 95 RON premium unleaded petrol.

The ML 350 is a permanent all-wheel drive wagon, fitted as standard with the highly regarded 7-speed automatic transmission.

The Mercedes M-Class has numerous competitors. There are luxury SUVs from Audi, BMW, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo. In my view, only the over-achieving Volkswagen Touareg (V6 diesel) measures up against the ML 350 in the sub $100,000 SUV market. So to select the best amongst the reasonably priced prestigious SUVs, the elimination process is easy, it's a Touareg V6 diesel or an ML 350 (petrol).

So where, in the Mercedes-Benz M-Class range, does the ML 350 fit in? It's right in the middle, as there are two V6 diesels and two V8 petrols on offer, in addition to the 3.5 litre V6 petrol which powers the unit subject to this report.

It must be stated that the ML 350, which includes the 'luxury pack', is, indeed, an admirable package. The petrol engine performs more than adequately well and, contrary to many SUVs, has quite reasonable fuel consumption. On the 'combined' cycle, the fuel usage figure reveals a consumption rate of 11.6 litres per 100 kms (approximately). This is a figure which gains our admiration.

The current price (RRP) of the ML 350 is $88,874, excluding options, dealer fees and state/territory taxes. The test car was equipped with numerous options at added cost. Namely, metallic paint ($1,900) and the Vision Package ($4,800). Numerous other options are available on the already highly specified Mercedes-Benz ML 350, for those who desire even more of the luxury for which Mercedes-Benz is highly admired. By the way, the optional Vision package includes Glass electric sunroof with tilt/slide function, Bi-Xenon headlamps with Active Light Function, cornering lights and headlight cleaning system and a Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 440 W surround sound system with 12 high-performance loud speakers (including sub-woofer) and additional amplifier.

On the road, the ML 350 delights the driver with its admirable driving qualities. This model gets on with the job of providing a smooth and quiet ride in an atmosphere that reminds me of the 'sounds of silence'. In fact, the sounds of silence, which we have experienced on other vehicles is quite a pleasing aspect in any car. But in the ML 350, that silence is highlighted by its obvious presence.

Let me indicate, too, that passengers enjoy this environment as well. But, additionally, the comfort level highlights the interior ambience of this luxurious SUV. The light grey leather trim, combined with soft lighting in the foot wells, sets a superb atmosphere for the driver and passengers to enjoy each others company in a supremely comfortable environment. We enjoyed the ambience so much so that we completed three return trips from Sydney to Newcastle and around each area to total some 1,090 kms within just one week.

Inherent, with a Mercedes-Benz, is an obsessive commitment to occupant safety. And that's the way it is with the ML 350. Amongst the many safety features are such benefits as electronic stability programme (ESP), six airbags and a long list of both primary and secondary safety items which are explained in detail by Mercedes-Benz sales literature.

With obvious class, the M-Class, at least in ML 350 form, provides what I consider to be, in the under $100,000 SUV market, an unmatched ambience with pleasing driving qualities matched to the comfort all occupants crave. On that basis, Mercedes-Benz has managed to find a way to civilise these, sometimes large, sport utility vehicles, by combining class with an interior that maximises comfort and quality with that enviable environment ..... the sounds of silence.

Accordingly, the Mercedes-Benz ML 350 provides a very comfortable travelling environment for driver and passenger/s alike. Please be assured that there is a particularly strong emphasis on the word 'very'!


Click on the image for a larger view





Other Mercedes-Benz content: here.

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