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Mercedes-Benz ML55 AMG (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 65,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 66,545
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 5.5 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 331 cid/5439 cc
     Horsepower                                   342 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               376 @ 4500 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.0"/74.6"/182.5"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic         

     Curb Weight                                     5036 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  25.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                     285/50R18 high-performance
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.39

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            14/17/15
     0-60 MPH                                        7.0 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                        1300 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Mercedes-Benz pulled a shocker when it introduced its ML55 AMG. The company took its refined and luxurious V8-powered ML430 and added power, brawn and guts.

OUTSIDE - The ML-Class redefined how an everyday SUV could look. Its very short front and rear overhangs create an illusion that makes it look smaller than its actual size. To differentiate the AMG from the other two ML versions, long, narrow bulges on the hood, called "power domes" by the company, were designed to imply a connection to the Mercedes "gullwing" coupe of the '50s. The front bumper cover has built-in fog lamps, high-pressure headlamp washers and a slightly different look than the others. A set of muscular-looking fender flares were also added, along with a beefier rear bumper and dual chrome- tipped exhaust pipes. Five-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels come as standard equipment, as do very wide, high-performance 285/50WR18 Dunlop tires.

INSIDE - When Mercedes designed the ML's interior, the company not only kept luxury at the forefront, but it focused on the utility side of SUV, too. With that in mind, it's no wonder that even though it's a relatively small vehicle compared to some other SUVs, it can hold a sizable amount of cargo (71 cubic feet with the seats down; 33.5 cubic feet with the seats up) and do it in "modular" fashion. The rear seats are split three ways and can be folded as such, while several tie-down hooks allow the secure transport of cargo. But it wouldn't be a Benz without luxury items, so in addition to the standard high-powered stereo, rich leather upholstery and soft textures on the dashboard, AMG adds dark-stained burled walnut to the door panels, instrument panel and steering wheel. The off-white gauges are surrounded by chrome rings to compliment the same treatment of the ventilation controls. Standard ML55 features include an in-dash Global Positioning Satellite Navigation system, power windows, mirrors and door locks, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, cruise control, air conditioning, rear wiper/washer and power front seats with memory.

ON THE ROAD - For the most part, under the hood is what makes an ML55 an AMG. The company put a forged steel "stroker" crankshaft, and matched-weight pistons and connecting rods into its 5.0-liter V8 engine to raise the displacement by a half-liter. To enhance its intake system, AMG added a larger cross-section to the magnesium intake manifold, lightweight modular camshafts with longer duration profiles, stiffer valve springs, a recalibrated fuel injector system and dual-path "plumbing." All of these modifications add up to 342 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 mph comes in a rapid seven seconds, and it can pull over 90 mph in the quarter mile. Connected to the engine is a five-speed automatic transmission with electronic "intelligence," along with all-wheel drive and downhill traction control for superior grip on the street or off-road. An electronic stability program (ESP) assists the driver in maintaining control in the event of a skid or slide.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The ML55 rides on pretty much the standard ML-Class suspension, which is one of the best in the SUV business. It's fully independent front and rear, though the shocks, springs and tuning rates are all stiffer than the ML430 and ML320. Many of the suspension components are made of forged aluminum, and no important hardware like the fuel tank and transmission pan protrudes below the lower control arms. This makes sense since the ML55 is a true off-roader as are the "basic" ML320 and 430 models but few M55's will ever experience a dry wash or creek bed. Accurate speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering gives plenty of feedback, while its massive four-wheel disc brakes feature four-piston calipers up front, which reduce fade and increase braking grip. Naturally, a four-wheel anti-lock braking system is standard.

SAFETY - Front dual-stage airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, ABS, traction control, electronic stability are all standard.

OPTIONS - There were no options on our test vehicle.

 

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