Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - M-class - ML500
Benchmark ride, great V8 engine, comfortable and luxurious cabin, excellent safety, stylish looks, impressive handling
Room for improvement
Media unit telephone buttons, having to give the beautiful beast back
25 Mar 2015
Price and equipment
IN A line-up of five variants the ML500 sits second from the top of the range under the hardcore M63 AMG. Priced at $122,900, plus on-road costs, it’s almost $40K more than the ML250 entry car.
At this end of the range buyers expect the lot when it comes to standard features and they won’t be disappointed.
There’s 20-inch alloy wheels, electric glass sunroof, bi-Xenon headlights with LED running lights, roof rails, brushed aluminium side steps, tinted glass, leather upholstery, power and heated front seats, keyless entry and start, gear-shifting paddles, media system with 7.0-inch screen, CD/DVD player, navigation, reversing camera and parking sensors and metallic paint with nano ceramic technology.
When the ML-class first came onto the market in the late 1990s the Land Rover’s Rangie was its only competition.
Today almost all luxury marques have an SUV. The ML500 has rivals including BMW’s X5 xDrive50i for $133,930, Audi’s Q7 4.2 TDI for $130,300 and the Range Rover Sport V8 HSE Dynamic for $161,200Interior
Yes, the new generation GLE version is just around the corner and it will have new display screen and other interior tweaks, but even after three years the ML500’s cabin is still beautiful, stylish and modern.
And comfortable – this was a vital request from this writer’s wife who, being eight month’s pregnant, wanted a ride that would not bring on early labour.
“Big and comfy,” was the exact wording. So that ruled out the Porsche 911 GT3.
Those front seats are glorious – comfortable even after being in the saddle for hours, but supportive enough to hug you in the corners.
The back seats offer proper comfort too. Not once did passengers complain when riding back there. This 190cm writer can sit behind his own driving position with plenty of room to spare.
Getting in an out is easy thanks to the wide opening doors and large openings.
Being able to lower the ride height was akin to getting an elephant to crouch down so that the pregnant lady could almost walk straight in.
Ambient lighting, dark graphite poplar wood trim, Nappa leather-clad steering wheel – it’s a plush place to be and making even a clogged multi-story car-park on a 40 degree day almost enjoyable.
That said, if there is something that needs improving, it would be the media system’s large number of buttons for phone use.
Cargo space in the boot with the rear seats up is 690 litres and just as impressive is the aperture, too which was able to swallow up a large armchair purchased online.
Engine and transmission
Yep, it’s big and comfy but the ML500 can move quickly too, thanks to the 300kW/600Nm 4.7-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 unit under the nostrilled bonnet.
Mated to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission that sends grunt to all four wheels, the 2.2-tonne beast can throw itself to 100km/h from zero in 5.6 seconds – only two seconds behind the 911 GT3!It’s an incredible engine with that full 600Nm of torque coming in from 1600rpm and pushing all the way to 4650rpm. Mash the accelerator and the front of the car lifts itself off the suspension like a powerboat and everybody else fades away in the rear-view mirror.
Fuel is 95 RON which is a small saving grace seeing as it’s thirstier than the Solo man. Mercedes-Benz claims an average combined fuel consumption of 11.7 litres per 100km, but our test car was returning 17.3L/100km mainly because of a heavy right foot and an addiction to hearing the sound of that V8 open up.
Ride and handling
Of the many vehicles to have been through our repeatable test loop, not many can boast a ride that is as composed and comfortable as the ML500’s. This is thanks in part to the Airmatic package that brings air suspension with adaptive dampers.
Our car rolled on the optional 265/40 R21 tyres, which, while fairly low profile, didn’t seem to degrade the great ride quality.
Handling is impressive too and while suspension was kept in Comfort mode the dampers can be put in a Sports setting that stiffens them for flatter cornering. At faster speeds the ML500 will lower its ride height to improve handling even more.
Day to day it’s such an easy car to live with thanks to a smooth throttle, light and direct steering, plus great visibility through the windows all round.
Safety and servicing
The ML500 has a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating. There’s nine airbags, ventilated and perforated disc brakes with ABS, traction and stability control, Collision Prevention Assist and anti-roll system.
The ML500 also comes standard with the Driving Assistance Package that brings blind-spot warning and Lane Keeping Assist. The SUV is equipped with Mercedes-Benz’s Intelligent headlights with adaptive high beam and cornering function.
The 360-degree camera is an excellent standard bit of kit too, making it easy to pilot this large SUV in tight spaces.
The ML500 certainly ticked the big and comfy boxes perfectly. But it’s more than a lounge room on wheels – powered by one of the finest V8s to come from the German car-maker, you can wake the sleeping performance beast if you kick it hard or take it off road to places cars could never hope to go.
But we chose to keep it in its natural habitat – looking stylish as it slid its way through the city with us cocooned away from it all. It was a fitting farewell to the third-generation ML that has proved so popular.
BMW X5 xDrive 50i Sport $133,930, plus on-road costs
A worthy adversary, the X5 is less a land yacht than the ML500 with its 4.9-second time for the 0-100km/h dash but can’t quite match the Benz’s magic carpet ride.
Audi Q7 4.2 TDI $130,300, plus on-road costs
Audi Australia doesn’t have a V8 petrol in its local Q7 line-up but the diesel with its sledgehammer torque does a fine job of hauling the family around in this premium package. The new one is here later this year.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport V8 HSE $161,200
The new-generation Rangie Sport sees itself as the king of luxury and fast SUVs and commands a royal price to go with it. It is, however, a truly lovely beast to drive.
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