2013 Mercedes ML550 4MATIC Review

A heavenly cabin, but driving purgatory

2013 Mercedes ML550 4MATIC Review

Politics and religion are two topics best left un-discussed. Nothing has the power to ruin dinner with friends or cause a family gathering to erupt like Mount St. Helens faster than debating supply-side economics or universal healthcare. As with da Vinci’s Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre, it’s best to keep your hands off.

FAST FACTS

1. The ML550 is powered by a 4.6L twin-turbo V8 engine with 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque.

2. Fuel economy is just 14 MPG city and 20 MPG highway. We averaged only 14 MPG.

3. Base price for the ML550 4MATIC is about $59,000, including destination. The test model provided to AutoGuide for evaluation cost nearly $81,000!

4. Our ML was ready for serious off roading, coming equipped with an adjustable air suspension, a dedicated low-range and hill-descent control.

Likewise these subjects have little business being in a vehicle review, but contrary to common sense and better judgment here we go. If you’re Catholic and want to get in touch with your faith consider driving a Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

What does the Vatican have to do with one of Daimler’s high-priced luxury SUVs? Actually very little, but in case you didn’t know, the armor-plated Popemobile is based on the company’s midsize utility vehicle. If it’s good enough for the Holy Father it ought to be good enough for you.

AN M-CLASS FOR EVERY PURSE AND PURPOSE

The M-Class is a capable SUV that fits into the company’s lineup between the small GLK and the three-row GL. It seats five passengers and is offered in a wide array of different trim levels.

If engine output numbers were like flowing water, the base model would be a garden hose. It’s powered by a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 engine that signs, seals and delivers 302 horsepower. The BlueTEC clean diesel serves up a monster 455 lb-ft of torque, which is roughly equivalent to Disney World’s Blizzard Beach water park, though it has a lot less urea. And topping the range is a fire-breathing AMG model with 518 ponies on tap; it’s like Niagara Falls but even more impressive.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Between the BlueTEC and AMG versions sits the ML550. It’s powered by a smooth and explosively powerful 4.6-liter twin-turbo V8. It packs a 402-horsepower punch with 443 lb-ft of torque. It’s the hydrological equivalent of the Mississippi River; unstoppable and seemingly endless, plus the test model provided was just as brown as that silt-laden waterway!

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 01One thing shared with all M-Class vehicles is the transmission. Shifting gears is a smooth and responsive seven-speed automatic.

Base price for an entry-level ML350 is right around 48 grand. If you want to drive away with the version we tested plan on spending about $81,000, including destination and delivery fees.

Our ML550’s $59,000 base price was inflated by a number of pricey options including air suspension ($1,610), an on-and off-road package ($1,640), Mercedes’ “Active Curve System,” a special adjustable suspension setup that helps control body roll during corners ($2,910), and the P01 Package ($3,700), which includes all kinds of luxury additions from power-folding side-view mirrors to voice control; plus there was a big-ticket item inside the vehicle.

INTERIOR MASTERPIECE

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 10

The ML550’s cockpit is more ornate than the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. You could argue that rather than Adam, the hand of God reached down and created this interior; Michelangelo just painted it wrong.

Nearly every surface is coated in rich, chocolaty-brown leather. It’s supple, precisely crafted and supremely elegant. Further embellishing things, where appropriate it’s perforated, contrast-stitched and diamond quilted. It amazing there aren’t bite marks throughout the cabin. Like a freshly unwrapped Hershey bar it looks delicious!

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 14Dripping with buttery-soft cow hides the front perches are more akin to thrones than mere automotive seats. The same design motif and luxury leather is carried back one row to the rear chairs, though some lavishness is lost en route. The seats aren’t quite as comfortable and they’re a bit difficult to access thanks to the door openings, which are narrower than the legs of a hipster’s skinny jeans. As a result it requires a certain amount contortion to sit back there. The M-Class loses a few points because of this.

The cockpit’s awe-inspiring opulence comes largely thanks to a pricey option, the “Designo” package, which inflates the bottom line by a whopping $4,600. If “Auburn Brown” ain’t your thing this add-on is also available in black and “Porcelain” white, two colors that should be just and luxurious, though the lightest hue of the trio sounds like a nightmare to keep that way. Better store a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in the glove box to scrub away any grime that accumulates.

ON ROAD

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 04

With 402 horsepower the ML’s acceleration is damn-near warp drive. Sure, the AMG model outmuscles it with more than 100 additional ponies but who cares? This is plenty fast in a straight line, plus the engine feels creamier than non-dairy whipped topping and it barks with an unexpectedly loud exhaust system for a luxury vehicle. What more could you want?

Well, decent fuel economy might be nice.

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 05Officially rated at 14 miles per gallon city and 20 highway the ML550’s efficiency is frightful. It’s supposed to average 16 MPG, though we barely managed 14. Be warned, even mild use of the accelerator is practically 8th on the list of Seven Deadly Sins, resulting in a dramatic beating at the gas pump. No one ever said fun was free.

As for the ML’s other on-road dynamics there’s considerably less to get excited about. The vehicle handles well enough but it doesn’t really seem to involve the driver that much. Even in sport mode it feels distant and somewhat reserved.

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 29One annoying aspect about how this vehicle carries itself is the throttle. Sure, like a grizzled wizard it summons the engine’s fury but it’s simply too binary in its operation; it’s either on or off. The tip-in is all wrong, which makes it somewhat difficult to drive smoothly at low speeds, multiplying the annoyance factor. Gently roll on the accelerator and nothing happens, then, a second or so later there’s a giant surge of acceleration, like, way more than you intended.

This behavior makes you look like a jackass, especially if you storm past the local Dairy Queen overflowing with children and their scornful parents that are more than willing to report a reckless driver. (That never happened, we swear).

OFF ROAD

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 35

Perhaps the ML550’s on-road deficiencies are because this SUV is designed to tackle the trail. Like a leather-lined Jeep Wrangler our tester was built for getting dirty, plus its sparkly “Dakota Brown Metallic” paint (an additional $720) probably does a pretty good job hiding mud spatters. It was equipped with a fully adjustable air suspension, a hill descent system that helps prevent the vehicle from speeding out of control as it goes down an incline, driver selectable modes for different conditions like snow, severe off roading and even a setting for towing, plus there’s a dedicated low-range for when things get serious.
 
But let’s be real. The average ML550 is probably going to spend 99.8 percent of its life on pavement; the remaining two-tenths of one percent can be attributed to driving on grass while searching for a parking place at a Yanni concert. Capable or not it’s highly unlikely owners are going to take this rig off the paved-path. It’s simply too nice to play rough; nobody’s going to participate in a Warrior Dash wearing a tuxedo.

THE VERDICT

2013 Mercedes Benz ML 550 24

If you want a luxurious utility and can afford the pricey “Designo” package an ML-550 is definitely worth considering. This upscale option transforms an otherwise nice vehicle into something rivaling the Palace of Versailles.

But if you’re interested in an entertaining on-road experience you may want to check out a competing German utility vehicle: the Porsche Cayenne. It delivers a much more engaging experience.

Sure, the Pope may approve of Mercedes’ M-Class but don’t forget, he’s not the one in the driver’s seat.

  • Honest Abe

    Another entertaining read! Love it… so ireverant!

  • craigcole

    Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Alfie

    You guys make the best videos! It really helps to showcase details like the ML’s interior.

  • Mattytwoshoes

    Great article!! My advice, save yourself 20 large and go with a loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit with the V8. Better fuel mileage, more bells and whistles and less expensive maintenance.

  • John

    Great review, my wife is driving a “new – used” ML350- 2009 which we bought with just 18000 miles. We bought the truck because of the safety features. My wife was in a head-on collision in October while driving a Prius. Her neck was broken in the accident. Thankfully her surgeon put her back together. The safety features on this truck are an important selling point, perhaps you could highlight them in your next review. Also, we notice the same thing with the throttle! Maybe they’ll fix that in the 2014 model! Enjoyed your video, my wife says it’s very cute!

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked