Four months with a Mercedes-Benz ML 350, how does it rate as a family car?
Having spent almost 4 months with our Mercedes-Benz ML350, it was daunting as we gave it back, considering it basically did everything we had asked of it as a family car.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine (190kW of power and an enormous 620Nm of torque), though a little course at times in terms of its sound, was more than capable and willing to pull the large SUV along at speed with a full load of passengers and luggage. It’s helped by a super-slick seven-speed transmission.
The ML became home to our expanding family, as our son was born during our time with it, and his ISOFIX infant seat took up a bulky chunk of the second row space, joined by our three-year old’s ISOFIX-compatible unit.
This wouldn’t be an issue in most cars, but as we had enlisted the help of a German aupair (live-in nanny), the requirements for backseat room become very evident and the ML didn’t disappoint. Even with three adults and two bulky child seats on board, there was never a shortage of room both for passengers or luggage.
We only noticed its vast interior space when we traded the ML for a smaller car, which simply couldn’t handle our three adults plus two children requirements.
The leather seats and all the interior carpeting also took all that the kids could throw at it without looking worse for wear. All in all, the ML 350 with the Designo Edition Package ($13,000) is a family-proof vehicle with ample room.
Of course, if you need more seats then you’ll have to upgrade to the GL range, but for us that is just too large for what we require.
Not that you can’t get vast amounts of space in plenty of other large SUVs, but the ML 350 combines the sophistication and active safety technology of Mercedes-Benz with a super-comfortable ride that makes it the ideal luxury family-hauling vehicle of choice. Best of all, it’s relatively well priced.
Like the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz ML is made in the SUV-loving USA, and though the only issue we had with our car was the steering wheel buttons becoming stuck occasionally, personally I’d pay more for a German built ML if it was available (which it’s not).
Nonetheless, you can’t argue with what you get for your money, and that’s essentially a well-packaged, super safe, efficient and powerful luxury SUV for around $100,000. No other SUV in the segment matches the ML 350’s standard list of active safety features which may save the life of your loved ones one day.
In saying that, the road to our house did cause the ML’s collision warning system to occasionally freak out, thinking we were going to have a head-on collision with a stationary object, which in our case was the caution sign placed directly in the middle of the road as part of a road safety-inspired S bend that merges both sides of the road into one. But eventually we learnt to just keep slightly more left than required and the system wouldn’t activate.
It’s also worth noting that the sound system in the ML 350 was a tad disappointing after further investigation. The clarity was sensational for more traditional music but there was a distinct lack of bass even with the settings tuned for maximum ‘duff’.
Also the satellite navigation system runs an older version of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND and is by no means up to BMW’s iDrive standards, or even Mercedes’ latest version of COMAND in the new C-Class.
As mentioned in the last update, the Mercedes-Benz ML 350 has sensors that mean it should basically be impossible to damage when parking, but my wife proved that theory wrong as she scraped the side of a pole at low speed attempting to park.
Apart from her excuse of being nine months pregnant - in fact, our baby boy was born merely hours after the ‘scraping’ incident, probably helped by my absolute hysteria about how a car with more sensors than an Airbus A380 can touch a pole - we were a little surprised by how much the Mercedes-Benz dealer charged to have it fixed. Thankfully though, owners can simply take their car elsewhere for paint damage repair (if you don’t mind voiding your paint warranty).
We managed our few months with the ML 350 using around 9.5L of diesel per 100km, which is pretty reasonable considering it spent most of its life driving below 90km/h in the inner city and on local highways.
During its time with us, it became the benchmark for ride comfort against other SUVs, as the ML 350 with air suspension set on comfort mode is one of the nicest places to be. There’s no pothole or road hump too large for the car, as it eats up poorly surfaced roads without much disturbance to occupants. In this regard, it truly outdoes all its German competitors but the relatively more expensive Porsche Cayenne that employs some form of German voodoo to deliver extremely competent dynamics with the best ride comfort in the business.
In this price range though, the new BMW X5 is arguably a better choice, but it’ll cost you far more to get the adaptive suspension and all the active safety gear that Mercedes-Benz offers standard on the ML350. You do get a newer car if you pick the BMW X5, though, and its ability to go fast around bends makes the ML look a bit agricultural, but then again, we are talking about family SUVs here, not sports cars (despite the S in SUV standing for Sports).
There’s no denying the ML is an older car now, one that will be replaced next year, with a model wearing GLE badges.
This is a good thing in some ways because if what you’re looking for is a classy, practically and luxurious SUV and don’t mind the ageing infotainment system, you can get a pretty good deal on one as it goes into runout mode with the designo edition package.
TOTAL MRLP $115,630
Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTec with DS1 “designo edition” package includes: