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Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2005 Review

I drove the genteel V6 ML350 and V8 ML500 and found both engines more refined, with less noise or vibration intrusion.
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From the cockpit, the new M-Class is opulent and classy.

I drove the genteel V6 ML350 and V8 ML500 and found both engines more refined, with less noise or vibration intrusion.

And I was surprised by the fuel economy of 11.3 litres/100km in city traffic for the six, and even more surprised about 12 litres for the eight. A honey-smooth 7G-TRONIC seven-speed transmission is largely responsible for the economy.

The ride is all about conquering shopping centre speed humps, city street potholes and suburban driveways, rather than rocky hills, slippery creek banks or Moreton Island sands.

If you do want to crush some rocks, an off-road pro pack with two-speed high-low range transfer case is available as a $10,150 option on the 350, and only $4900 on the the V8 because it already has the Airmatic suspension.

Yet with that air suspension, you can almost forget you are in a big all-wheel-drive wagon.

The old ML was in dire need of outside styling changes to the rigid and square lines.

While the new ML has much the same dimensions and silhouette, the styling lines, especially around the rear, give the impression of a much softer-looking vehicle.

The back almost looks like a Dakar dune buggy, yet it's really an illusion brought on by the shape of the thick C pillar and rear windows.

While that C pillar and a thickish A pillar may cause some concern about blind spots, I didn't find them a problem, especially if you set your mirrors correctly.

What did cause me some bother was the gear shift lever.

Mercedes-Benz has moved it over to the right of the steering wheel like an indicator stalk.

The idea was to clean up the centre console and provide more storage space, but it seems Mercedes couldn't help itself and needed to "fussy it up" a bit, so they have placed what can only be described as grab handles on either side.

My concern was not about the centre console, but that I would flick the gear shift lever from drive into reverse when I meant to indicate a left-hand turn.

And this is possible if you are travelling at parking speed or stopped.

So if you absent-mindedly pull up at the lights, put your foot on the brake and flick the indicator left, when the lights turn green . . . womp! Right into the car sitting in the queue behind you.

It never happened in the couple of weeks I had the ML350 and ML500, but it constantly nagged my mind.

What did happen was that I kept flicking the car into neutral instead of indicating left.

Perhaps you would grow used to it if you owned it, just as you do interchanging left and right indicators, and wipers.

However, if you own a couple of cars and change between them, there is a margin for error that is greater than just accidentally switching on the wipers.

One advantage is that you don't have to slot it into park when you stop; just turn off the ignition and it does it itself.

Another cute little feature is that if you don't have the muscle to properly close the heavy rear door, it electronically sucks it in tight. However, it's still way short of the Lexus RX330 which automatically closes at the touch of a button on the rear door or the key fob remote.

Unfortunately, lurking inside the ML back door, under a cavernous cargo space with a flat floor and handy tidy storage bins is a space-saver tyre.

Genteel it may be, but that's still impractical for Australia. Mercedes says a full-size spare will be coming in the third quarter next year.

That's good news for those who want to venture further than the city limits and these cars can certainly take you just about anywhere.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

ML350 (4X4) 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $7,000 – 10,890 2005 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2005 ML350 (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML55 AMG (4X4) 5.4L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $11,600 – 17,050 2005 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2005 ML55 AMG (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML320 CDI (4X4) 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $7,200 – 11,220 2005 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2005 ML320 CDI (4X4) Pricing and Specs
ML270 CDI Classic (4X4) 2.7L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $6,500 – 10,010 2005 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2005 ML270 CDI Classic (4X4) Pricing and Specs