The Mercedes-Benz ML 500 has undergone surgery to insert the 285kW V8 petrol engine under its more shapely hood. Benz claims the new powerplant is more refined and produces more power using less fuel.
The 5.5-litre V8 engine has an extra 60kW of power and 60Nm of torque over the outgoing 5.0-litre engine. The seven-speed automatic transmission remains unchanged but the 0-100km/h time has dropped to 5.8 seconds and the governed top speed is 210km/h.
Benz says the new drivetrain combination also returns better fuel-economy figures of 12.9 litres per 100km, down from 13.4 litres per 100km. The rest of the M-Class features remain unchanged, with a double-wishbone suspension using the Airmatic air system.
The ML500 has the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as standard; with traction and stability control or, for the more serious off-road driver, the car can be optioned up with the Off-Road Pro engineering package.
This package adds two manually selectable differential locks; a low-range transfer case and a reinforced rear-axle differential.
The M-Class range has anti-lock brakes, eight airbags, active head restraints and the brand's award-winning Pre-Safe occupant protection system. Mercedes-Benz says the M-Class is the first car in its class to offer this life-saving technology, which uses its ABS and stability control sensors to detect an imminent impact before it occurs.
The car then prepares all of its passive safety features, primes the airbags and seat belts, and closes windows and the sunroof to maximise the level of occupant protection.
More than 18,000 M-Class SUVs have been sold in Australia since 1998. So far this year, more than 1800 have been sold, making it one of the top-selling luxury SUVs behind the Lexus RX and the BMW X5.
The only ML model above and beyond the $120,874 ML500 is the stove-hot $160,874 ML 63 AMG, which is anything but an off-roader.
Packing AMG's first effort at a stand-alone engine, the ML 63 offers 375kW of power and 630Nm of torque, which equates to a five-second sprint to 100km/h and an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
The ML 63 gets the AMG high-performance brakes as well to haul it back to a standstill quicker than your average 2.3-tonne 4WD.
It sits on 19-inch wheels with 45-profile tyres. There's no OffRoad Pro package option box to tick; you can't get the proper 4WD goodies on this hot rod. With a claimed average of 16.5 litres of fuel for every 100km travelled and a 95-litre tank, the range off the beaten track is not going to be great either.
Does the new ML500 sound appealing? Does it need a bigger fuel tank to be practical?