- We like...Standard equipment, cabin
- We don't...Steering needs to be sharper
Big-beast 'Benz off-roader has just had a mid-life freshen-up - and now makes a formidable rival for BMW's X5 This off-roader looks – and feels – big. On approaching a ML for the first time, size is the thing you notice first – and most. That bluff front, big wheels and high-ish window line: this is no car for tree-huggers.
True, it is no bigger than its key rivals, the BMW X5 and the Range Rover. It matches the X5’s dimensions closely and is a touch shorter than the Range. But it’s a vehicle you feel every cm of, in a way we can’t remember from driving either rival. It feels quite something to pilot across a congested city.
That said, the leather and metal-trimmed cabin is appealing and well stocked with gadgets. It’s also kitted out fully for full-on off-roading – more so than, say, the X5. It’s got bespoke transmission, throttle and steering session to help you cut the rough, and a speed control to let it ‘walk’ down a steep and muddy slope.
And, if it’s your plan to head into the wild regularly, there’s an optional off-road pack, which adds underside protection and amps up the settings available to get you through the mud. It’s well priced at just over £1300.
Talking of price, it’s closely matched to the equivalent from the X5 line-up and a fair shake cheaper than a Range Rover, making it fair value.
On the move, the first thing that strikes is its excellent refinement, so it oozes along in hush, screening out wind and road roar beautifully. Ours had optional suspension adjustments, enabling you to switch between ‘comfort’ and ‘sport’ ride settings. The ML was fine and soothing in the first, but jangly in the second. The gearbox auto-picks its seven gears cleanly and well, while the steering feels light but lacks sufficient feel for you to sense precisely what’s occurring, especially around dead-ahead. This lack of precision leaves you less confident about placing the car at speed than is ideal. It’s not bad – just not as good as you’d want.
Yet, it is relaxing on a long, motorway haul as a Mercedes E-class. The column gear shifts and US-style pedal parking brake are oddities well known to Merc owners and, once mastered, they aren’t a problem. Despite its size, the ML seats five and leg room in the back is no better than adequate, although the rear bench is wide and the cabin is tall. Boot space is big enough for half a dozen suitcases and the big, hefty tailgate opens and rises electrically, by pressing the keyfob. Step back first, though, because it’s quick enough to clip your jaw otherwise.
The car we drove is facelifted, although it’s another whether the changes are slight – you’d need to park next to an older car to spot what’s new. For the record, the nose and bumpers are new, while the cabin has had a refresh, too.
Should you buy? It offers plenty for the money. The X5 is the sharper of the two to drive, but the ML counters with its equipment levels and cabin look and finish. Meanwhile, it’s plenty cheaper than a Range Rover but delivers comparable size, style and prestige. If you want a serene motorway-chaser that’ll also do duty in the mire, it’s a good option.
To view new and used Mercedes-Benz MLs, go to motors.co.uk
- Engines3.0 diesel
- 0-60 mph8.5secs
- Insurance groups18A
Motors.co.uk value verdict: