2008 MercedesBenz ML320CDI Test drive and new SUV review 2008…

9 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
Mercedes-Benz ML 350 CDI AT Base

Built for the 42 United States of America

If you live in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island or Vermont, stop reading now. You can’t register a new 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML320CDI in your state – it doesn’t meet emissions standards. If you live in one of the other 42 United States of America, crack open your piggybanks. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML320CDI starts at $44,650 ($60,090 as tested) with 4 year/50,000 mile warranty and an EPA estimate of 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway/21 combined. Let’s drive.

First Glance

Larger Exterior Photos: Front Rear

First, some interesting M-Class facts. The mid-size SUV is built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama – not the most German of cities, by any means. The first generation of M-Class was a 1998 model. The current (second) generation hit as a major redesign for the 2006 model year. The biggest generational change was from body-on-frame construction to unibody, effectively moving the M-Class from rugged SUV to crossover status. The current Popemobile is based on a 2002 ML430 with Vatican license plate number “SCV 1.”

The ML has a very compact appearance. With its wheels pushed way out to the corners of the vehicle and a wedge shape, the ML looks like it is squished in between its axles. Assertive bends in the body sheet metal accentuate the angularity of the body, and highlight the rear fenders, making them look bigger and more arched than they actually are. The big wraparound rear glass fits on like an accessory, leaving a beefy C-pillar to support the roof. Overall, a substantial-looking, if somewhat schizophrenic design that somehow manages to be classy all the same.

Mercedes seems to have conquered the fit and finish issues that afflicted early MLs that came out of Tuscaloosa. My test vehicle was neatly and solidly constructed, with even gaps and seams and a rich coat of optional ($710) Alpine Rain paint.

In the Driver’s Seat

Shaped for a German.

Photo © Mercedes-Benz USA

My family emigrated to the US from Germany in the late 1800s, but I still have a genetic connection with German cars. I think it has to do with seating position and ergonomics – I must be built like a German, because I fit perfectly in a Mercedes. The drivers’ seat in the ML is perfect for my body, and every control falls precisely to hand. It fits like the proverbial glove.

One way I must have shed some German genes, though, comes through when I try to navigate the ML’s ridiculously complex audio controls. I swear that I only ever figured out how to change the channels on the radio by accident – there’s no traditional tuning control on the panel. ML’s integrated audio and navigation system are part of the “Premium III” package of options ($8,600), which includes a wide array of luxury and convenience features (it had better, for that price). My test vehicle also wore the “Leather Seating Surfaces Package with Wood Leather Steering Wheel” ($1,975). Though I would not have opted for the burl wood trim and surfaces on the interior, I did love the beefy steering wheel with its natural materials and textures. It warmed to the touch with use, and provided a truly organic interface between me and the machine.

On the Road

Here I am, nearly at the end of this review, and I haven’t even mentioned the diesel engine lurking beneath the ML320CDI’s hood. That’s high praise for the turbocharged V6 common rail diesel powerplant, which displaces 3.2 liters and produces 215 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque kicks in at just 1,600 rpm and stays there until 2,400 rpm, typical of diesel performance. In real world terms, the only time you’ll notice that there’s a diesel underhood is when you pull up to the pump. Diesel currently runs about 5% higher than premium gas, but you might still save some money driving the CDI. The gas-powered ML350 is rated for 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway, 20% lower than the diesel, and it produces less peak torque (258 lb-ft) but more peak power (268 hp). If you’re thinking biodiesel, good for you – but you’ll have to go to the aftermarket for modifications, and you’ll probably void your factory warranty.

In most ways, the ML drives like a very good-handling crossover. The engine is connected to a sophisticated 7-speed automatic transmission, which does a great job of smoothing out the power delivery and keeping the engine in the powerband. Full-time four-wheel drive connects up with four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, and every safety feature under the sun. The ML320 CDI is a solid performer that transports passengers and cargo in comfort and style, with a touch of fun thrown in as a bonus.

Journey’s End

Wrap-around glass with an accessory look.

Photo © Mercedes-Benz USA

Mercedes-Benz ML 350 CDI AT Base

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