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Zero to 60 - 2008 Mercedes Benz ML550
Zero to 60 - 2008 Mercedes Benz ML550

by J.T. Hills
SGN Contributing Writer

• Sports sedan handling in an SUV
• Beautifully designed interior
• Loaded with safety features

• Navigation system isn’t exactly
  intuitive to use
• $67,800 and Bluetooth isn’t standard
• Radio and navigation controls are
  awkward and small

The Mercedes Benz ML class is celebrating its 10th year on the market – which makes me feel old. Remember when Mercedes first introduced the ML, and it was compared in looks to the Dodge Caravan? Well, the Gays compared it to the Dodge mini-van. That was then, and this is now. Thanks to a significant redesign two years ago, the ML has a more distinctive, less mini-van look to it. For 2008, Mercedes Benz adds the ML550 as a replacement to the ML500, powered by a 382-horsepower 5.5 liter V8 with 391 lb-ft of torque. The ML550 also features AMG styling with deeper front and rear bumper aprons, 19-inch AMG wheels, and running boards. After a week with the 2007 E350 sedan, I’ve compiled a brass-tacks list of highly technical scientific data based upon observations, experimentation, tabulations, inspections and so forth. Here we go:

382-hp V-8. It’s not exactly green, but it is fun
The ML has come a long way from its conservative soccer mom looks of yore. The styling is more aggressive, and did I mention the ML550 comes with a 382-hp V-8 with a 0 to 60 acceleration rate of 5.6 seconds with a top speed governed at 136 miles per hour? And that isn’t even the AMG supercharged model. The AMG model, by the way, has 503 hp, which is just a felony waiting to happen. Mercedes Benz should have some sort of pre-paid legal fund built right into the financing.
Freeway performance in the ML550 is really quite amazing for an SUV. You hit the accelerator and it just goes and goes and goes – fast. You kind of forget that you’re driving in what is technically an SUV because the road feel and handling feels so much like a sports sedan thanks to the unibody construction. Handling is fairly crisp, and you feel fairly confident in cornering thanks to the all-wheel-drive system. The seven-speed automatic transmission is also exceptionally smooth, although the shifter knob can be a bit confusing at times. It kind of looks like it should be a turn signal indication, or something for the cruise control. There are also paddle shifters behind the steering wheel column. In-city driving is comfortable largely due to the active damping system that provides for a sportier mode, for when you’re flying down the interstate, or a comfort mode for in-town. There are some blind spots in the back and rear, but if you order the $8,500 premium package, it comes with a back-up camera. If you don’t, well, I hope you like scratched bumpers. The ML550 comes with the standard AMG sport package that includes big 19” AMG wheels, running boards, and a five-spoke steering wheel. I’m not really sure how much the running board and an extra spoke in the steering wheel add to the performance enhancements, but it sure looks badass.
The Interior of the ML550 is an exercise in luxury. The test model came with all the must-haves of a car at this price point, with additional added features like DVD navigation, rear seat entertainment system, and a power lift-gate. There’s much more, but these were some of my favorites. The navigation system worked well, although it was a rough start, it’s not as intuitive to use as in some of the American and Japanese competitors at this price point. Also, for almost $70g, with a lot of expensive upgrade, Bluetooth connectivity for the cell phone was not included. There should be a law against that. Also, there wasn’t a plug-in port for an iPod. The dials and buttons to work the stereo system, navigation, and God knows what else they have stuffed in there are rather small, too. The interior is roomy, though, Germans understand thoroughly that there are drivers over six feet tall, and the ML more than has enough space to accommodate them. There’s also ample room in the rear seat for adult passengers, and a fairly ample cargo area. The DVD player is placed in a rather awkward place, hidden under the back seat – it took forever to find.

Okay, for a dealer MSRP of $67,800, what do you get?
The Mercedes-Benz ML550 comes fairly equipped for a base price of $52,400, but all the most popular options definitely come at a fairly substantial price. Here’s a quick look at my favorites.

• 5.5. Liter 382 hp 32-valve V-8
• Seven-speed automatic transmission
  w/ direct select gearshift and steering
• Wheel-mounted shift buttons
• Independent suspension, front double
  wishbone, rear four-arm multi-link
• 19” AMG five-spoke wheels
• Four-wheel power assist disc brakes;
  front; 13” internally ventilated,
  rear 13” solid disc

• Tele Aid system
• Steel reinforced cabin with front
  and rear crumple zones
• Front dual stage airbags with front knee
  bolsters, front and rear side airbags,
  front and rear curtain airbags
• Electronic stability control
• Tire pressure monitoring system

Comfort and Convenience:
• Glass sunroof with
  one touch open/close
• Eight-speaker audio system
• Dual-zone automatic climate control
• Hill-start assist with down-hill regulator
• One touch power windows and
  door locks

Optional Equipment:
• Alpine rain exterior pant ($710)
• Parktronic ($770)
• Rear entertainment center ($2,670)
• Premium Package, adaptive damping
  system, rearview camera, DVD
  navigation system, power memory
  seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror,
  Sirius satellite radio, multi-zone climate
  control, infrared glass, headlamp
  washing system, Harman/Kardon sound
  system, power rear liftgate, bi-xenon
  curve head lamps ($8,500)
• Leather seating surfaces with
  wood package ($1,975)
• Destination and delivery ($775)

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