Mercedes ML 320CDI in the Sunday Times

http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12929-1541864_1,00.html
March 27, 2005
Mercedes ML 320CDI by andrew frankel Back with the big boys     
     I think it must be because the current Mercedes ML is such an old shed that this new one seems so good. From the moment the door clamps shut behind you and you drink in the conspicuous luxury of the cabin, its pretty evident that Mercedes is stopping at nothing to put to rest the reputation for shoddy quality earned of late by its car ranges in general and the ML in particular.
And when you fire up the new V6 diesel motor that powers the ML 320CDI (the car that will account for the vast majority of sales when it reaches British showrooms in September) and glide off ever so smoothly down the road, youll think youre witnessing an off-roader revolution.
Within minutes its as clear as the three-pointed star on its bonnet that this ML is not merely improved, it has been transformed. So the only real issue remaining is whether this transformation is enough.
You see, a transformation would have been required just to bring the ML on to level terms with the likes of the BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg. But now we live in the age of the Land Rover Discovery 3 and the game has moved on again. Mercedes sidesteps this issue by saying the Discovery is a bigger car and that all bar the cheapest version have seven seats.
By contrast, while a sixth and seventh seat were options on the old ML, the new car is strictly for five only. Smaller it may be, but not cheaper. You can buy a seven-seat Discovery for 28,995 5,000 less than the cheapest ML, the 280CDI, is likely to cost.
The ML 320CDI will cost even more probably about 37,000 but is half a ton lighter than the Land Rover and, with its 224bhp engine, considerably more powerful than the 193bhp Discovery. Better still, the Mercedes engine, if not as eerily hushed as that used by Land Rover, is sufficiently refined to fool all bar the most sharp eared into believing its petrol, not diesel. Its quick (0-62mph in 9.4sec), frugal (30.1mpg) and a model citizen in a community of generally still too noisy diesels.
Indeed the only flaw in the driveline is its gearbox. Not only can you no longer buy an ML with seven seats, you cant have one with manual gears either. All are fitted with the worlds only seven-speed (count em) automatic box, which is nothing like as clever as Mercedes thinks.
Almost all its rivals use the same six-speed automatic built by ZF and which possesses an almost uncanny ability always to be in the right gear; by contrast the Mercedes box is less intuitive, has oddly spaced ratios, no sport mode unless you buy the special off-road package, and awkwardly positioned buttons behind the steering.
But if all you do is select D from the gear selector and cruise, the ML makes a strong case for itself. Ride and refinement are conspicuous strengths and if you choose the optional air springs (for an as yet unspecified four-figure sum) it will waft around with almost luxury car conviction. And, as Mercedes knows well, this is all most of its new owners will expect.
I was allowed to drive the ML off-road, but only in a car fitted with off-road tyres, the low-ratio box and hill descent control, none of which comes as standard.
Because of this its impossible to say how a standard car of the type that most customers will buy will fare when the going gets tough. The heavily modified ML was capable enough but as the course had been specially designed to showcase its talents, perhaps thats no surprise.
Id have been more impressed if theyd given me a standard car, shown me a peat bog and told me to get on with it.
Then again I doubt Mercedes will lose too many customers over the off-road issue. Indeed if you truly want to understand the new ML, its best not to think of it as an off-roader at all. Really its an alternative estate where your kids can sit up high and enjoy the view and you can look down on other road users.
Seen in this rather less demanding light, the ML is an altogether more convincing contender. The quality of its materials and construction is as good as any in the class, its spacious enough in the front, back and boot for a family of five and, with the diesel engine fitted, will cruise for hours in silence and comfort. In short its good enough to propel the ML from just about the bottom of the class right into the thick of the action. If you really enjoy driving, a BMW X5 will probably be more to your taste, and if you need guaranteed off-road ability, seven seats or simply the best car in the class, the Discovery 3 will fit the bill.
But if all you want is a quiet, smart-looking, comfortable and capable family hold-all that will ask as little of you as you do of it, then the new ML pretty much fits the bill.
Vital statistics
Model Mercedes-Benz ML 320CDI Engine type Six-cylinder, 2987cc Power/Torque 224bhp @ 3800rpm / 376 lb ft @1600rpm Transmission Seven-speed automatic, 4x4 Fuel/CO2 30.1mpg (combined cycle) / 275g/km Performance 0-62mph: 9.4sec / Top speed: 130mph Price 37,000 approx Verdict Much improved, but the Discovery is altogether more convincing Rating Three stars
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Very quick off the mark and/or up at a silly hour to catch this article when you did?
I only got my newspaper hours later...
:-) DAS
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Dori A Schmetterling wrote:

article when

Heh!
All of the above!
I also subscribe to google alerts which sends you all articles that match a specified keywork once per day. One of my alerts in "mercedes".
You are fortunate to live where you can subscribe to multiple quality newspapers. I can only subscribe to one.
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What's that?
DAS
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The Washington Post
!
Dori A Schmetterling wrote:

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New York Times no good?
DAS
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It may be but in the Washington DC area we only get the edition that is for the provinces. We do not get the whole thing. At worst I would say it is the second best paper that is available. Also for some reason, the Post seems to have more heart and soul. I like it - especially when I get a genuine copy.
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I do like the Wash'n Post, too, on the odd occasion that I read it. NYT similar. Extracts from it appear in some newspapers in various countries.
A friend, DC resident, sometimes sends me links to articles.
DAS
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