Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 80%

Your neighbours will certainly notice if you buy a Mercedes ML.

The Mercedes ML – the 4X4 with attitude – hit UK roads back in 1997 with an updated version replacing it in 2005.

The looks divide opinions but we reckon the Mercedes ML has plenty more to offer than head-turning looks. Read on for the full review.

1. Looks 8/10

The Mercedes ML makes a strong statement – and unsurprisingly split opinions within the office. Whether you go for its pumped-up looks with 20-inch alloys, rectangular chrome twin exhaust pipes, huge wheel arches, roof rails, sporty grille and dynamic chunky appearance is a matter of taste. We drove a black model and there’s no doubt it turned heads of admirers and detractors alike. If you’re looking for something at the “bad-boy” end of the 4X4 spectrum they don’t come much badder than this.

2. Looks inside 8/10

Black plastics, black leather seats, black roof interior and privacy glass ensure that if you liked the ML Mercedes exterior the interior is likely to tick all the right boxes too. The information display and central console are positively conservative compared to the rest of the car’s looks but are simple to understand and operate.

The seats are nicely-moulded and very comfortable – and coupled with a steering wheel adjustable for reach and height it is easy to find a good driving position. We undertook two four-hour journeys during our week-long loan and both front and rear passengers were left ache-free.

3. Practicality 9/10

The five-seater’s large dimensions ensure there is masses of room inside for people and possessions, though there is no option for transporting seven. With all seats in place there is 550 litres of boot space available, easily accessed through the hatch-style rear door. However, this can be increased to a maximum of 2012-litre of boot space when required. Front and rear cup holders, generous door pockets and clever storage of the 6 CD multichanger within the glove compartment all contribute to plenty of storage solutions within the car itself. A sill-plate for driver and passengers to step up into the car makes access easier too. Genuine off-road capability also enhances practicality should you need to leave the tarmac.

4. Ride and Handling 8/10

Like its upmarket rivals the ML offers steering and handling which fall at the “car-like” end of the 4X4 spectrum. Speed sensitive power steering ensures wheel movement is appropriate for the speed you are travelling, with greater involvement needed when going faster. The ride is superb offering a very comfortable experience for driver and passengers alike. There is surprisingly little body roll at faster speeds.

5. Performance 9/10

There are three petrol engines and two diesel engines to choose from. The 3.5-litre 272bhp ML 350, 5-litre 306bhp ML 500 and flagship 510bhp 6.2-litre ML 63 AMG provide the petrol options. A 3-litre diesel engine powers both the 190bhp ML 280 CDI and the 224bhp ML 320 CDI while a 306bhp 4-litre diesel engine powers the ML420 CDI. The ML 280 CDI offers a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. The ML 320 CDI covers 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds and can hit 134mph. The ML 350 achieves 8.4 seconds and 133mph. The ML500 reduces this to 6.9 seconds and 140mph, the ML 420 shaves the 0-62mph time to 6.8 seconds and increases the top speed to 146mph while the top of the range ML 63 AMG sees the 0-62mph time plummet to 5 seconds and the top speed upped to 155mph. The 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard and operated by a stalk atop the steering wheel. We found the ML 280 CDI to have plenty of power though some might prefer the increased performance of other models for faster acceleration. Gear changers were smooth and the lever and paddle controls easy to operate.

6. Running Costs 6/10

All models produce CO2 emissions which fall within car tax band G and attract a £400 annual bill. The ML 280 CDI and ML 320CDI return an average 30.1mpg; the ML350 returns 24.6mpg, the ML500 returns 21.1mpg, the ML 420 CDI returns 25.5mpg and the ML 63 AMG returns an average 17.1mpg. Insurance costs are high with our model falling in to group 16 and the range stretching from 16 to 20.

7. Reliability 7/10

The reliability index reveals Mercedes as the ninth worst performer for manufacturers in the UK market and the Mercedes M class aligns with that performance. However, the figures do not incorporate data on the revamped M Class which hit UK streets in 2005. The model we drove seemed sturdy and finished to a high standard.

8. Safety 8/10

The Mercedes M Class achieved a 4 star crash test rating following EuroNCAP results. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic stability programme, acceleration skid control and permanent four-wheel drive.

9. Equipment 9/10

The Mercedes M class is available in Standard, SE, Sport and AMG trim and all models are well-equipped. Alloy wheels, roof rails, tinted glass, electric, heated door mirrors, electric windows eight-speaker CD player, adjustable reach and height steering wheel, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic stability program, acceleration skid control, downhill speed regulation and automatic headlights all feature on the standard ML280 CDI, ML320 CDI and ML350 models. The SE model adds body-coloured door handles with chrome trim, black and chrome radiator grille, chrome rectangular tailpipes, leather electric seats and walnut wood trim. The Sport model adds metallic paint, 19-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles with chrome trim, sterling silver and chrome radiator grille, chrome rectangular tailpipes, dark-tinted tail pipes, sports –instrument cluster, black aluminium trim, electrically adjustable sports seats, and alcantara upholstery to the standard trim. Opt for the ML 420 CDI and ML 500 models in SE trim and you will also get 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, automatic windscreen wipers, luxury climate control and multi-contour seats. The sport specification for these models adds the automatic wipers and luxury climate control. The range-topping ML 63 AMG comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, AMG exterior and interior styling including flared wheel arches and exclusive radiator grille, sports exhaust, and suspension, sports seats, sports steering wheel and pedals as well as heated leather electric front seats and aluminium finish.

10. X-Factor 8/10

There is much to like about the Mercedes ML – but the looks are what separates it from the crowd. It turns heads.

Key facts

Model tested: Mercedes ML 280 CDI Edition 10
On the road price: £40,595
Price range: £36,167 – £75,147
Date tested: April 2008
Road tester: Adrian Higgins