HEELS ON WHEELS: 2009 MERCEDES-BENZ ML320 BLUETEC REVIEW
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE ML 320 VEHICLE:
If Heaven has a vehicle this is it – the 4-door, 5-passenger 2009 Mercedes ML 320 BlueTEC.
The BlueTEC part of the ML 320 refers to the diesel engine technology. Mercedes-Benz claims the 210-horsepower, 7-speed 3.0-liter turbocharged engine can take you 600 miles without a single fill up. It does not have the noise, odor and especially the smog-inducing emissions on your usual diesel – a solution called AdBlue is injected into the exhaust. It's a V6 with 4-cylindar efficiency.
I've driven a few luxury or high-end SUVs and crossovers in the last year – the Land Rover LR3, the Range Rover, the VW Touareg (essentially the Porsche Cayenne) for instance – and although I was impressed with the luxuries and attributes offered by all, I feel really hard for the light-duty, crossover-like 2009 ML 320. Starting price is $49,475, but with all the amenities that make this vehicle what it is, you're looking at low $60k.
I think it was the footless driving that did me in. First, a start push button replaces a traditional key. Cruise control was a dream – want to go a notch faster, or take your speed down a full 5-mph? Simply flick the turn signal-like switch on the steering wheel up or down. It is also possible to shift the 7-speed transmission with thumbs using steering wheel mounted paddles. To not have to constantly brake and accelerate – well, you don't quite see how stressful this really is for your body until you have the option of driving with just a flick or press of a finger on your steering wheel column.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: The ML 320 is off the style charts: blue-tinted window glass; 19-inch alloy wheels; square chrome exhaust tips; rear view camera; and illuminated doorsills – and that's just some of the exterior attributes. Inside you'll find 3-zone climate control; full leather seating with wood trim; and a heated steering wheel. As for seating comfort, you've got 8-way power adjustable seating with a 4-way lumbar support, not to mention the fact your seats can be heated three different ways. The steering wheel column adjusts like no other I've witnessed. Mastering the all-new COMAND audio system was a bit complex, but I soon understood the control architecture wanted to be worked like an iPod (lots of back-button and forward-button commanding to keep from getting lost).
Reliability & Safety Factor: The full-time 4MATIC 4-wheel drive with 4-wheel Electronic Traction System (ETS) has sensors on each wheel's traction and shifts power to any wheel that doesn’t' have traction. The Electronic Stability Program (ESP) can brake individual wheels and reduce torque when the vehicle is out of control in fishtailing or wheel spin situations. You also have advanced air-bag and head restraint protection.
Cost Issues: It's expensive – the MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) starts at $49,475. With all the attributes or packages I've mentioned – the premium audio package, the leather package, the heating package, 3-zone climate control, and that fancy paint job, you're looking at around $61,425.
Activity & Performance Ability: You would never suspect a diesel is under the hood. The engine is quite, responsive, smooth – it took the most inclined hills in San Francisco without a whimper or rollback. Brakes are just as impressive.
The Green Concern: The ML 320's BlueTEC engine gets a 7 out of 10 from the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide in the category of reducing air pollution. Thanks to the cleaner diesel engine, gas consumption is 18-mpg city and 24-mpg highway driving, which puts this SUV above usual gas estimations.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
If you have the money for a vehicle of this capability, refinement and overall excellence in every area; based on the gas-saving diesel engine, you've got a big Green Light.
Katrina's Car Tips For Women Drivers
- Katrina's 2009 Crossover Watch List
- Katrina's 2009 3-Row SUVs and SUVs
- Katrina's 2008 Top 10 Vehicles For Female Drivers
- Katrina's Basic Car Insurance Coverage For Women
- Katrina's Money Saving Car Tips For Women
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©2008 Katrina Ramser