2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 Review
Age confers wisdom.No Comments
While overall trimmings have changed over the years, the general silhouette of the ML remains instantly recognizable.
Walk to your nearest street corner and stand there for fifteen minutes. Count the number of Mercedes ML models that roll by. You'll probably be surprised at how high the number is. Frankly, the M-Class is just about everywhere; it's become one of the most popular luxury SUVs since its initial introduction in 1997.
Now in its third generation, the M-Class is on the verge of a reinvention. Its name is changing from M-Class to GLE-Class in order to fall in line with the brand's new taxonomy. It's also getting sleeker from just about every angle. But that car is still months away from production, and if you want a good deal on a vehicle that, while a little older, still stands as one of the premier five-seat luxury crossovers in this country, it's hard not to have the M-Class at the top of your list. Age is just a number, and there are plenty of things that make the 2015 M-Class feel as fresh as it's ever been.
(N.B. Since M-Class is annoying to write in the possessive form, we'll be using ML from here on out. We always thought it was weird that every other two-letter vehicle gets a two-letter name, yet the ML is the M-Class, not the ML-Class. Go figure.)
The rest of the interior is exactly as comfortable as you'd expect in a large Mercedes-Benz; that is to say, it's very comfortable. The seats are just firm enough to stave off fatigue on longer drives (which isn't an issue at all if you opt for massaging front seats). With the exception of some very small trim pieces, anywhere your hand lands will be soft; the wheel feels like it's made from leather that was massaged by highly-paid masseuses for the cow's entire life. It's that nice, as it should be when you're staring down a $60,000+ window sticker.
The only complaint one might be able to levy about the interior is a lack of center-console storage space. If you've got USB cables snaking around in there, it's going to be a little tough to shove a purse or small bag in that storage cubby.
With the air suspension in Comfort, you're not driving a car, you're riding in a jempana being held up by a group of dedicated strongmen. Between the high driving position and the suppleness of the air suspension, it's hard not to feel like royalty from behind the wheel, especially since you can survey your entire kingdom from the driver's seat. While other SUVs are providing more cavernous feelings in terms of interior space and outward visibility, the ML has plenty of greenhouse and very small blind spots.
On the other side of the air-suspension spectrum is Sport, which perceptibly stiffens everything up. Even though the ML400 is the more powerful of the two non-AMG ML models, with its 329-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, it's not athletic by any stretch - for any sort of actual sporty driving, you'll need to upgrade to the ML63 AMG, which adds roughly $30,000 to the ML400's base price. The ML400 still hustles, but the ride quality and drivetrain seem like they're being stretched beyond their abilities, so for all intents and purposes, we'd recommend you leave it in comfort and soak up that regal feeling.
The ML400's 3.0-liter biturbo V-6 is a good engine; turbo lag is minimal, if nonexistent, and it'll get you up to highway speed with plenty of on-ramp to spare. That said, the seven-speed automatic transmission is slightly less compliant; downshifts are measured in seconds, and early (eco-friendly) upshifting seems to arrive almost too early. The transmission seems to have a hard time operating in the background without transmitting physical feeling through the chassis. Both pedals have a soft feel to them, which can make precise braking a bit difficult.
All in all, the ML400 makes it very easy to realize why this crossover has been so popular since its introduction. It exemplifies all the best parts of the Mercedes-Benz experience - attention to detail, comfort, and the feeling that you're driving something special. Sure, it's on the verge of quasi-replacement, but if anything, that means you can find some great deals on MLs once the GLE is a few weeks away from landing at dealerships. It's an excellent crossover, and we'd recommend it even if it were being replaced five minutes after we wrote this.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Power Output: 329 horsepower / 354 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 18 city / 22 highway
Base Price: $62,900
As Tested: $79,310
Lighting Package: Bi-xenon headlights with active curve illumination, adaptive high-beam assist
Interior Sport Package: Black Nappa leather upholstery, sport front seats, brushed aluminum pedals, sport steering wheel
Convenience Package: Rear center-armrest pass-through, rear side-window sunshades
Driver Assistance Package: Adaptive cruise control with active braking, forward collision warning, active blind-spot assist, active lane-keep assist
Parking Assist Package: Parking sensors, active parking assist, 360-degree camera system
On/Off-Road Package: Six-mode driving program selector, two-speed transfer case, front underbody skid plates
Individual Options: Panoramic moonroof, illuminated front grille star, heated steering wheel, wood/leather steering wheel, front-passenger seat memory, Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, multi-contour front seats with massage and adjustable side bolsters, front seat ventilation, heated rear seats, rear seat entertainment system, soft-close doors, three-zone climate control, parking sensors with active parking assist, adjustable anti-roll bars, trailer hitch kit