2004 Midsize Luxury V8 SUVs Comparison Test

2004 Midsize Luxury V8 SUVs Comparison Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2004 Cadillac SRX SUV

(4.6L V8 5-speed Automatic)

  • Comparison Test
  • Top 10 Features
  • Editors' Evaluations
  • Consumer Commentary
  • Stereo Evaluation
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • 2004 Cadillac SRX V8 Specs and Performance
  • BMW X5 4.4i Specs and Performance
  • 2004 Infinity FX45 Specs and Performance
  • 2004 Lincoln Aviator Specs and Performance
  • 2005 Mercedes Benz ML500 Specs and Performance

Around the time we conducted this comparison test, the Summer Olympics were starting to unfold, and, in the spirit of the games, allow us to introduce our competitors. Representing the U.S.A. are two delegates, the Cadillac SRX and the Lincoln Aviator; from Germany come the BMW X5 4.4i and Mercedes-Benz ML500; and Japan is represented by Infiniti's FX45. Coming into the competition, the BMW and the Caddy looked like the favorites for the gold — the X5 won our last comparo and the SRX has been getting rave reviews from everyone on our staff who has gotten seat time in it.

You may have noticed that in that past test, the Bimmer actually tied the Acura MDX for first place, so you're probably wondering why the Acura isn't here, or the Volvo XC 90, for that matter. The title of this comparo gives the answer; this time we decided to make V8 power a requirement (and although the Volvo gets one for 2005, it wasn't in time for our test). The X5 that won last time was the six-cylinder 3.0i model. We ended up with an interesting field of five players. Yet within these five are two distinct groups — one that is decidedly performance-oriented that uses unibody construction (the SRX, X5 and FX45), and another that is more traditional SUV in architecture, meaning body-on-frame design (the ML500 and Aviator).

Even with the recent softening of the market, SUVs are still popular, especially those of relatively manageable size with luxury nameplates sporting V8 engines and virtually every luxury feature you could name. Unlike the larger 'utes, such as the Cadillac Escalade, that might actually see some heavy-duty use (such as pulling a trailer), these midsizers tend to be used more as upscale station wagons that can handle tough climates. As such, their duties consist chiefly of transporting the kids to school or hauling the bargains home from a warehouse store where a box of cereal looks like it came from the land of the giants.

The fresh-faced competitors in these games are the Caddy and Infiniti — the SRX debuted for 2004 and the FX just one year before — while the BMW, Benz and Aviator have all been around the country club parking lot a few times. Much like a pentathlon, these SUVs battled it out in five areas: performance, features, price, editors' evaluations and editors' picks (personal and recommended). In addition to using these vehicles as our daily drivers for two weeks, we subjected them to a rigorous 100-mile loop that included a fast freeway run, meandering two-lane blacktop, broken pavement and no pavement. It's no wonder that we didn't even come close to averaging their city mileage estimates, but such is the price to pay for comprehensive evaluation.

Fifth Place: 2005 Mercedes-Benz ML500

In spite of increases in power and a (very) minor face-lift within the last few years, Mercedes-Benz's M-Class is still past its "best before" date. When it debuted in 1998, the ML320 was lauded for its carlike ride and handling, despite boasting a truck-style body-on-frame architecture. Joined by the V8-powered ML430 in 1999, the ML family quickly became a favorite of luxury brand buyers who wanted a reasonably sized SUV with an agreeable balance of on-road and off-road capability. In truth, buyers of these Benzes typically wanted (and still do) the four-wheel-drive system for driving in foul weather more than blazing a trail through the wilderness. Now in its eighth model year, the ML has since been challenged and eclipsed by a number of more capable luxury SUVs, such as the BMW X5 as well as the new Cadillac SRX.

Although a couple of staffers voiced positive remarks about the Benz's looks, deeming it classy and still attractive, the majority thought it dated and almost minivan-ish when viewed from the rear, due to its tall and relatively narrow appearance. The fact that the ML500 is both narrower and taller than the rest of this field lends credence to that impression.

The interior is another story. When the M-Class debuted, the cabin was criticized for not being upscale enough due to the use of some low-grade hard plastic and the brittle feel of some of the controls, such as the wiper stalk. Various upgrades through the years, including the addition of higher-quality materials and the refinement of the controls has yielded one of the more attractive cabins in the segment. Gathered leather, polished wood and a solid feel to the buttons and switches make the ML500 feel the way a Benz should — in fact, some of us voted this cabin tops in terms of style. But in contrast to that was the bewildering omission of some high-end features that are expected in this class (either as standard or optional equipment). Steering wheel-mounted audio controls, adjustable lumbar support, a rear DVD entertainment system and satellite radio are luxuries you'll have to go without if you go with the ML500.

With a full five liters of displacement, the ML500's V8 puts out its peak torque at a low 2,700 rpm. This equates to snappy performance around town, provided you step into the long-travel gas pedal. A 0-60-mph time of 7.4 seconds confirms this impression, and there's plenty of steam on tap for highway cruising and tackling grades. As one driver commented, "It's up for anything, be it the fast lane on the freeway or a steep mountain road." The five-speed automatic drew mixed reviews, however. Most everyone agreed that it's smooth through the gears, but a few drivers thought it could have been a little quicker to downshift when a burst of power was needed. The Benz's binders did a fine job bringing the ML500 to a halt in our testing at the track (122 feet from 60 mph to zero is sport sedan performance), but a few drivers thought that the brake pedal feel was too spongy and noted some fade when running downhill through the canyons.

Taken on its own, the ML500 offers a pleasant, if not sporty drive, but when driven back-to-back with the SRX and the X5, it felt disconnected and lazy in the corners. As one editor put it, the ML was "not as tight as the BMW, but not as soft as the Lincoln. Not a bad compromise, but the Caddy (provides) a better one." The Mercedes' ride is supple over most terrain that one is likely to encounter, but when hit with the jagged ruts and deep potholes of our off-pavement section, jolts were felt within the cabin and a number of squeaks and rattles betrayed the flexing of the aging structure.

Although this may come as a surprise, the ML500 was one of the least costly vehicles in this comparison test. Granted, it was devoid of a few features that the other SUVs had, but its sticker price was over $9,000 less than the BMW's. But that doesn't mean that this Benz is a bargain. Unfortunately, the ML is also the oldest truck in the bunch, and it shows. Such is the nature of the automotive marketplace; what was top of the class five years ago can be today's back 'o the packer.

Second Opinions:

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
Some vehicles grow on you, and others grow less impressive the more time you spend with them. The ML500 falls into the former category. At first blush, it didn't bowl me over. But by the end of our weekend together, I found myself looking past its flaws and championing its strengths.

The ML's V8 makes the most of its 288 horses — this 'ute jumps out like you wouldn't believe, and it made for a fun time behind the wheel. The engine was complemented by a very impressive tranny, which offered shifts that kicked in with near-clairvoyant quickness. The 'ute's big weakness is its suspension. It's an old system, and it feels like it. It wasn't exactly wallowy, but it didn't possess the sort of sharp reflexes that make you forget you're in an SUV. In this area, competitors like the X5 have it beat. The M-Class is due for a redesign in 2006, and this failing will no doubt be addressed. Within the cabin, the ML500 isn't as flashy and immediately opulent as other luxury haulers; at first glance, our test vehicle's black-on-black layout seemed austere. But check out the details and you'll no doubt be impressed. Materials were first-rate; I especially loved the paper-thin shirred leather that lined the doors.

The ML500 proved to be a pleasant surprise. If you like quiet luxury and appreciate the joys of a responsive tranny and engine, the ML could very well be the 'ute you're looking for.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
Mercedes has done a pretty good job over the last several years bringing the M-Class up to speed with its competitors, but even as far as it has come, it's still a step behind. The steering is heavier than it needs to be, the handling is good but not great and the comfort level is only about average. The interior design looks upscale and the materials quality is acceptable, but like the Aviator, there's something missing when it comes to the ML. It's not sporty enough to make up for its lack of room in back, and although it's probably one of the more capable vehicles of the group off-road, that doesn't count for enough to vault it above the others. With a redesign on the way next year, Mercedes will no doubt come up with a considerably more effective package, but until then the ML is the back marker of this group.

Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
This truck is starting to show its age. On the highway and cruising around town, the ML is fine, as the cabin is well appointed, comfortable and easy to get in and out of. At speed on the highway or traveling over rough roads, however, it falls far behind the other vehicles in this group. The brake pedal is soft and squishy with mediocre feedback, and the brakes themselves feel a bit weak. While the steering is light and nimble around town, it feels oversensitive at higher velocities, and the transmission seems to lag behind the engine when the pedal is mashed and you're trying to pass on the freeway. On a similar note, the chassis feels very unrefined considering how long Mercedes has been producing the M-Class. Every time I hit a patch of uneven pavement, it felt as if the body and frame were moving and shaking in different directions and a mysterious clunking noise could be heard coming through the floor when I took the ML off-road. On a more positive note, the interior is fit-and-finished in typical Mercedes fashion, with supple perforated leather covering the seats and dark wood trim adorning the doors and console. The climate control system is outstanding, and the 5.0-liter V8 is equally smooth and powerful. The ML500 was undoubtedly a wonderful SUV in its day, but that day has passed. If your heart is set on a Mercedes, wait for the next-gen ML making its debut next year.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
Going into this test, I fully expected the ML500 to be one of my favorite competitors. I like Mercedes products in general, and knowing that we would be testing a Special Edition ML500, I figured based on name alone the Mercedes SUV would be a winning combination.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. While I've driven plenty of Mercedes MLs in the past, I didn't realize just how long ago it was, or just how far the competition has come. The best thing about the ML500 was that it was a Mercedes. The name alone prevented me from despising it, even as it continued to disappoint during our mild off-road pursuits. After climbing out of the lower, better-handling Cadillac SRX, the ML felt like a clown car on balloon tires by comparison. As you're scaling the mountainside without much more than a foot of dirt between you and the edge of the ravine, "tippy" is not a word you want to describe your vehicle. The interior was black with dark wood trim, and it felt like climbing into a black hole. The leather was nice, and cabin was well put together, but typical features we've come to expect from luxury (and numerous non-luxury vehicles, too) were missing. The first time I was forced to reach across the computer which also mans the stereo, to adjust the volume, I thought, "Hey, where are my steering wheel audio controls?"

But after the handling disappointments and short feature list, I looked at the MSRP. Surprisingly enough, the ML500 was nearly the cheapest (second only to Lincoln Aviator) vehicle in our five-SUV test. So perspective tells me, for those who still want to drive a Mercedes product, despite its shortcomings, they can at least take pleasure in the fact that the ML500 appears to be a relative bargain. But those who expect more of a driving experience may want to wait for Mercedes to give the M-Class a much needed overhaul.

Fourth Place: 2004 Lincoln Aviator Ultimate

As with the ML500, the Aviator is not a bad vehicle taken in isolation. Initial praise was heaped on the Lincoln for its high degree of comfort and style as well as its many luxury features that were easy to use. But compared to the more agile athletes of the group, the Aviator came out looking like a heavyweight wrestler trying to compete against Paul Hamm in gymnastics.

Styled like a 3/4-scale Navigator, the Aviator makes no apologies for its brash American looks. It's clean and powerful at the same time, with functional aspects such as big side mirrors and thin roof pillars that, along with the standard reverse-sensing system, make it easy to park. In light of the fact that this vehicle is based on the Ford Explorer platform, Lincoln did a nice job giving it the upscale presence so important in this category.

Drawing from the early 1960s Lincoln Continental for inspiration, the symmetrical dash of the Aviator is both pleasing to the eye and, for the most part, functional. Large, easily read gauges and simple controls for the climate system were appreciated by all, as were the air-conditioned seats which proved their worth during this test, where temps hit the high 90s during our ventures off the beaten highway. Power pedal adjustment and steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and climate functions scored big points as well. The few annoying quirks of the cabin included a parking brake release lever that was located awkwardly down low, and manual (as opposed to power) recline operation for the front seats. As far as seat comfort, most of us felt the front chairs were fine if a bit too wide for some staffers, while we thought the second row could have had more legroom. Conversely, the third-row seat is one of the best available, as it offers a deep footwell with generous legroom, a rare luxury for those consigned to riding in the way back.

Behind that impressive grille resides the Aviator's four-cam, 32-valve, 4.6-liter V8 that makes 302 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The Aviator's performance was either perfectly adequate or lacking, depending on where the vehicle was. Faced with the common and mundane tasks of commuter duty and the occasional long freeway drive, you'd probably find the Lincoln a willing performer. There's plenty of pep around town, and cruising at 75 or so is no sweat, even on moderate grades. Challenge it with hilly switchbacks at higher elevations, and it loses its gusto as it tries to maintain its speed. Trying to keep up with the others in this environment had the Aviator's V8 making more noise than velocity. The test track revealed that the Aviator was the only 'ute that couldn't run to 60 mph in under 8 seconds nor trip the quarter-mile lights in under 16. The hard numbers that it produced in these acceleration tests (8.1 seconds and 16.2 seconds, respectively) are by no means sluggish, but among this fleet-footed pack, the Aviator doesn't exactly fly. We should also note that unlike its competitors, our rear-drive Aviator test vehicle was not burdened by the additional weight and drag of a four-wheel-drive system.

Similarly, when puttering around town and when not subjected to the rigors of a hot, long climb littered with broken pavement, the Lincoln's automatic transmission went about its business smoothly and quietly. But when charged with keeping up with the others on our tortuous course, the Aviator's tranny would sometimes hesitate on downshifts, requiring a determined boot to the carpet, and then enact them in a sometimes lunging fashion. Again, most of the time the Aviator was pleasant, but our job is to put these babies to the test to uncover weaknesses, so evidently we're achieving that. Everyone liked the feel of the Aviator's brakes, lauding them for their firm, progressive pedal and resistance to fade. The binders' stopping distance from 60 mph of 132 feet was the longest in the test, but still not bad for an SUV.

It wasn't just a lack of thrust that kept the Aviator lagging behind the others. When asked to keep pace with the sporty trio (SRX, X5 and FX45), on the winding two-lane portion of our loop, the Aviator would bob and float, struggling even to stay with the also truckish ML500. One editor put it best when he stated, "Unfortunately, I'm comparing the Aviator to a handful of highly refined unibody SUVs that are far more comfortable on twisty roads than this body-on-frame truck. While the Aviator was fine for cruising around town, its trucklike handling…showed up both at the track and in the canyons."

Ultimately, this lack of overall performance is what hurt the Aviator the most. Yes, it has style, comfort, some great features and acceptable performance. And five or so years ago, that would've been enough, but with the bar raised by the top finishers here, the Aviator is left looking like it needs to spend more time at the gym.

Second Opinions:

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
Most manufacturers have gotten wise to the fact that buyers want their SUVs to handle like cars, and have served up a host of vehicles that deliver accordingly. The Aviator remains firmly old school, with performance that never lets you forget you're driving a vehicle with massive dimensions.

This didn't do it any favors in the fun-to-drive category when I experienced it on the freeway — it felt lumbering and wallowy, like your grandfather's sprawling American sedan. On the twisting blacktop in the hills above Los Angeles, the 'ute exhibited an awfully large degree of body roll. I also wasn't impressed with its V8, which seemed to have a hard time motivating the heavy SUV. There wasn't a whole lot of torque at low revs, and at high speeds, the engine exhibited an irritating whine.

At least the cabin was fun to experience. With its abundance of dark, gleaming wood, the Aviator offered up the kind of luxury one associates with Queen Mums and high tea. And the Aviator offered amazing visibility — lane changes and reverse parking maneuvers were a breeze.

If the X5 — with its tight handling in most any situation — is the cheetah of the current crop of luxury 'utes, the Aviator is its fat housecat. The Aviator is pleasant enough, but not nearly as powerful or exciting as the competition.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
I've liked the Aviator since the first time I drove it a couple of years ago. It had an excellent drivetrain, solid handling and the kind of practical design on the inside that made it a pleasant daily driver. You didn't quite get the same level of prestige with the Lincoln name that you might with a BMW or a Mercedes, but for buyers who couldn't care less about that kind of thing the Aviator was a good buy. This time around, however, the Aviator wasn't quite as impressive as I remembered it. Driven back-to-back with its esteemed colleagues, the Aviator's lack of interior quality and engine refinement were hard to ignore. The performance is still there and it's still comfortable in most respects, but sitting in the driver seat doesn't impart the same kind of upscale feel that you get in the Infiniti or BMW. It's a hard trait to pin down, but whatever it is, the Aviator doesn't have it. Does that make it a bad SUV? Certainly not, but when you're spending that kind of money on a vehicle, you should get a little more than just good enough.

Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
As a dyed-in-the-wool truck fan, I really wanted to like the Aviator. Body-on-frame construction and a honkin' American V8 sound like a recipe for a great pickup truck, so it should work just as well in an SUV, right? Well, not exactly. While the Aviator looked great inside and out, its crude road manners just couldn't compare to the more modern car-based vehicles in the test such as the SRX and X5. While the four-cam 4.6 V8 works great in the Mustang Mach 1, it felt buzzy and anemic in the hefty Aviator. The transmission shift timing didn't seem to match the engine, so it was constantly lunging and downshifting in an effort to find the correct gear. Things went from bad to worse in the canyons and trails, where the combination of trucklike, top-heavy handling and the lack of all-wheel drive pushed the big Lincoln to the back of the pack. On a more positive note, interesting interior amenities such as comfortable air-conditioned seats, easy-to-operate dual-zone climate control and a touchscreen stereo and navigation system made my morning commute a breeze. The mini-Navigator styling works well, as does the extensive use of brushed-aluminum, burled walnut and soft leather trim in the interior.

While the Aviator probably could have won this comparison test five years ago, the current crop of sporty and powerful car-based vehicles in this test emphasizes the "sport" just as much as the "utility" in SUV, and that gives them a definite edge in my book.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
The Lincoln Aviator is certainly the most traditional SUV in this group. It still looks like an SUV and drives like an SUV. Lookswise, I see nothing wrong with its typical SUV styling. It may not cause passers-by to stop and stare, but nor will it provoke people into gasping, "What is that?" as might an Infiniti FX45. Our test Aviator had a striking light gray and silver interior, which really gave it an interesting feel. Most of the competitors were dark and leathery, and the Aviator was a ray of light by comparison.

On the street drive, the Aviator was as enjoyable as any of the other test vehicles. The off-road portion however, was another matter. The Aviator definitely had a strike against it by being two-wheel drive as opposed to its all-wheel- or four-wheel-drive competitors. The Aviator was slow-going down the dirt fire road, and was nearly always bringing up the rear of the caravan. That's too bad for a vehicle which at first glance would appear the most capable.

Third Place: 2004 Infiniti FX45

At this point in the standings, the personalities of the remaining SUVs took a decided shift, that being toward performance more befitting a sport sedan than a hulking SUV. Billed as "the radical fusion of sports car and premium SUV," the FX45 came to these games with an impressive stack of stats — the lightest weight (4,309 pounds), one of the most powerful engines and a sport-tuned suspension wearing 20-inch wheels.

Styling is always subjective, but there was no denying the aggressive stance of the FX45 crouching on those 20s with its high beltline and low greenhouse. One driver even went so far as to say, "You're definitely the coolest dad driving carpool in this rig." Not everyone liked it though, as another driver opined that the blocky, bulldog look of the lower body was at odds with the curving side windows. Limited visibility due to the arching roofline and chubby rearmost roof pillars often made parking and lane-changing maneuvers nerve-wracking experiences. The rearview monitor, a bumper-mounted camera that projects its images on the nav screen, came in handy for the former challenge, while only extended seat time and skillful use of the side mirrors helped with the latter.

Considering this is a premium-badged vehicle, we thought the cabin was a little bland and had too many hard plastic surfaces. We get the idea that Infiniti is going for a high-tech look here — using brushed aluminum trim rather than wood grain — but the net effect is that we felt like we were sitting in a Nissan rather than a product of the company's luxury division. And there were several ergonomic no-nos, such as the signature Infiniti analog clock being mounted too low to be easily read, the way-busy center stack with too many identical buttons (that one driver likened to a scientific calculator) and a lack of storage space that's annoying in this day of garage door openers, cell phones and Power Bars.

The front seats pleased some drivers and irked others. Some of us liked the aggressive side bolsters and firm support, while a few editors thought the seats were too hard and confining. The seat controls were sharply criticized for being located in an unorthodox location (down low near the driver's left leg) that made adjustment difficult. The rear seat was deemed generally accommodating and well shaped, though a few of the taller editors noticed that head- and legroom were a bit tight. Cargo capacity, at 65 cubic feet, is the least of the quintet.

Fire up the FX45 and a serious growl from the exhaust announces its intentions. And this puppy has the bite to match its bark; the FX45 was the only 'ute that hit 60 mph in under 7 seconds (6.8 ticks, to be exact) and also edged out the BMW for top honors in the race down the quarter-mile, with a time of 15.2 seconds to the Bimmer's 15.3. And away from the test track, in the real world of cut-and-thrust city driving and now-or-never merging opportunities on freeway on-ramps, the Infiniti proved more than capable. A broad spread of power from the 315-horsepower V8 along with a razor-sharp transmission that was never caught loafing means "right now" response when you lean into the throttle. It wasn't just in acceleration that the FX45 challenged the X5, as maximum-effort stops from 60 mph were, at 116 feet, identical. "Absolutely outstanding," raved one editor regarding the Infiniti's stoppers. "Very strong with a nice firm pedal feel," wrote another.

So going and stopping are strong points for the FX45. Howz about handling? Well, it's great up to a point. On the street, it felt great, fully living up to Infiniti's braggish claims. Crisp turn-in response and hunkered-down cornering characterized the FX45 when boogying along the virtually deserted, serpentine stretch of our drive loop. A firm ride makes the FX feel more German than Japanese, as it's tightly controlled without being harsh. At the track, however, we discovered that if pushed to the limit, the Infiniti could let go without warning — no lean from the body, no howl from the sticky-up-till-now tires, just the unsettling feeling of the tail starting to swing around. Obviously, this would occur only in extreme conditions, as the handling capabilities of the FX are quite high, and the standard stability control system is there to help keep things in check. But still, we'd trade some ultimate cornering ability for a more progressive nature. Off-road, the FX was out of its element; though it took most of the smaller bumps in stride, the bigger jolts bottomed out the suspension and made for a noisy cabin.

Though it is without doubt one of the sportiest SUVs on the road, in the end the FX45 was deemed too impractical and one-dimensional to capture the gold medal in this latest Edmunds Olympics. Those that captured the top two spots are not only enjoyable to drive, but also offer more utility in respect to passenger and cargo capacity and a level of luxury more in keeping with this premium class.

Second Opinions:

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
I didn't go unnoticed in the FX45; with sculpted good looks that scream "speed" and "performance," it drew lots of admiring glances. Unfortunately, there's not much substance to support its eye-catching style. Engine, transmission and suspension were adequate all around, but the 'ute didn't deliver the sporty handling that one would expect given its exterior, and wasn't nearly as much fun to drive as competitors like the X5.

Some high-end SUVs offer interiors that coddle and amaze. The FX45 is not one of them. The seats are nice to look at, but with their excessive firmness and uncomfortable side bolstering, they'd be more at home in a sport coupe. Accommodations were remarkably cramped — rear seats felt like an afterthought, and cargo room was almost nonexistent. And there was zero wood to be found, just lots of plastic. The 'ute's cabin struck me as being overwhelmingly downmarket for that of a luxury SUV.

The FX45 scores on the strength of its sporty good looks. But scratch beneath the surface and you'll see that there's little else to justify its price tag.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
Of all the vehicles in this test, the FX45 is the one that I would want in my own fleet. It doesn't have the broad-based appeal of the Cadillac or BMW, but its combination of impressive performance and dynamic styling is enough to give it the nod in my book. It's nearly as nimble as the BMW while delivering a compliant ride and a burly sound. The interior has a clean, modern look to it, but like everybody else, I find the maze of buttons a little much. Unlike the domestic competitors in this test, the FX is strictly a two-row setup, but as long as you don't require maximum utility, the rear seats are spacious and comfortable while the cargo area is big enough to swallow a decent amount of cargo with the seats folded. Buying the FX over the others is more a matter of style over substance, but if that were the way I was going to make a decision, the FX is the clear winner as far as I'm concerned.

Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
Going into this test, I was sure the Infiniti would be my favorite, thanks to aggressive styling, a throaty exhaust note and giant alloy wheels that practically scream speed. Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed. The FX45 feels more like a big sedan than an SUV, thanks to severely limited storage space, cramped rear-seat legroom and the lack of a third row. The engine is powerful and the transmission is nicely tuned, but the power comes on and off like a light switch. The same could be said for the handling, as the FX corners very well until an invisible line is crossed, then the back end steps out with no warning. The platform is very rigid with no noticeable flex, which results in a slightly choppy ride. Steering feel is right on, with just the right amount of feedback. I love the gauge cluster that moves with the adjustable steering wheel, but the seats felt stiff and uncomfortable. Furthermore, the power seat adjustment controls were hard to locate and even harder to reach, and the dash controls were overly complicated and difficult to use while driving. Finally, the wide sweeping C-pillars at the back of the FX create giant blind spots that made changing lanes a difficult experience. As bad as I wanted to like this vehicle, it wasn't as practical as the SRX or as sporty as the X5, but was priced in line with both. Therefore, I think either the American or the German sport-utes would probably be a better choice.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
The Infiniti FX45 doesn't appeal to me. I felt OK once I settled in behind the wheel, but the styling just does nothing for me. That being said, it's still a good ride. There was always plenty of power, and the steering performance was very nimble and carlike. Although, while attempting to change lanes on the freeway, I realized that the C- and D-pillars were nearly wide enough to block a whole semi truck from view, and that made me a little more nervous than I might have been, given the FX's positive driving characteristics.

The front seat was nicely carved out, but the leather and trim wasn't nearly as nice as the less expensive ML500's seat covers. The dash had a virtual sea of flat, black buttons, but most were clearly labeled so operating the climate control and stereo was easier than expected. I like the idea of the traditional Infiniti analog clock, but I'd have opted for a digital display instead if it could have been placed higher (and therefore, easier to read) on the center stack.

For the above reasons, the FX45 makes a nice driver's vehicle, but if you're planning to use the FX for more SUV-type hauling, think again. The entry into the rear-seating area is very narrow due to the wide fenders, and the cargo area can be best described as shallow.

Second Place: 2004 BMW X5 4.4i

Considering that the current X5 essentially dates back to 2000, its second-place finish here is all the more impressive. BMW tends to get things right the first time, and when the X5 debuted, it sported the same V8 found under the hood of the company's 540i sport sedan and a suspension that delighted driving enthusiasts who for one reason or another needed an SUV. Actually, BMW refers to the X5 as an "SAV," which stands for "Sports Activity Vehicle," so as to emphasize the rig's sporty personality.

Although the X5's basic styling is going on 6 years old, minor tweaks this year, including larger grilles and 3 Series-inspired headlights, keep it contemporary. Nearly everyone dug the X5, with one editor calling it the "best-looking of the bunch" while another stated that it's still "a sharp-looking SUV even after several years on the market." One dissenter loved the front end but thought the sides appeared bloated due to the way the body bulges out around the wheel wells and the lower half of the doors.

The cabin is first-class — sumptuous leather, rich wood accents and rock-solid build quality are found throughout the X5. Some of us thought the instruments would've been more attractive if they had white or silver faces, and we thought we were somehow missing the CD changer as we looked in earnest for it. As it turns out, although the X5 comes standard with a single CD player, that feature is nixed if the nav system is ordered. So even though our X5 also had the optional "Premium Sound" system, we couldn't listen to a CD — this would be unforgivable in a $40K luxury vehicle, let alone one priced 50-percent higher than that. Back on the positive side of things, the seats, front and rear, offered solid support for performance driving and long-range comfort for unwinding the miles on the interstate. Room was adequate for backseat passengers, but no third-row seat is offered, a potential deal breaker for those with kids.

A quick glance at the specs show that the X5 4.4i is still powered by a 4.4-liter V8, but for 2004, the engine is new and makes 315 horsepower (25 horses more than last year) and 324 pound-feet of torque (same as last year). Along with a new six-speed automatic transmission, the X5 4.4i also boasts a new all-wheel-drive system dubbed xDrive.

Performance is what the X5 is all about, and it didn't let us down. A few comments from our evaluation sheets best illustrate the impressive powertrain of the 4.4i: "It's turbine smooth with plenty of gusto everywhere," wrote one editor, while another penned, "Smooth, linear and explosive power (along with) an exhaust note packed with bravado." The tranny boasts three modes: normal, sport and manual-shift. While the general consensus was that it was an agreeable partner to the V8, one driver noted that when in normal mode, it didn't shift quickly enough and at times felt lazy. We found the sport setting the best, as it kept the X5 on its toes, ever eager to charge forward, and also knew enough to hold a gear through a turn so one could smoothly accelerate out. One editor witnessed a few instances of clunky gear changes (out of character for a BMW automatic), and nearly everyone disliked the counterintuitive movement of the gear lever when in manual mode — "up" to downshift and "down" to upshift.

Apart from a pedal that some thought too firm, the powerful brakes were fully up to the task of reining in the 5,000-pound SUV, even on long, rapid descents. At 116 feet, the X5's stopping distance from 60 mph was tied for first with the FX45.

Whether on the winding two lanes or the rough terrain portion of our loop, the X5 shone; we can say without hesitation that this is still the best suspension setup of all the SUVs in this test. When being flicked through S bends, the X5 felt utterly composed, with virtually no body roll and a nicely weighted and positive feel to the steering. Working in concert with the stability control system, the xDrive system seamlessly varied the torque split to the front and rear wheels, decreasing understeer and adding to the crisp feel of the X5 when running through the tight, decreasing-radius turns in the twisties. And unlike the similarly sporty FX45, the X5 didn't get flustered when faced with the ugly reality of our off-road section. The ruts and bumps were absorbed without undue shock to the cabin and there was no instance of bottoming out. Squeaks and rattles never presented themselves either, as the X5 felt as if it was carved out of a block of steel no matter what the driving conditions were.

So the X5 almost has it all — dynamite performance, superb build quality and a classy, comfortable cabin. But in the end, its lofty price tag and lack of practicality when compared to our winner placed it in the runner-up position. Still not bad for one of the more senior competitors in this comparo.

Second Opinions:

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
It's easy to see why the X5 is widely viewed as a class leader. There are some things that it manages to do very, very well.

Number one on this list is handling. Slip behind the wheel and stomp on the gas, and you'd swear you were piloting a sedan. On the freeway, the 'ute felt taut and composed — firm enough to keep you feeling connected to the road, yet forgiving enough to soak up most bumps and inconsistencies. And when pushed on winding mountain roads, the X5 navigated the twisties with less body roll than one has a right to expect from a two-ton SUV. Slide into the X5's cabin, and it's hard not to be impressed. Words like "sumptuous" and "opulent" come to mind. I thoroughly enjoyed being enveloped in this cocoon of gleaming wood and softly textured leather. But there were also some disappointments. Cargo space is cramped relative to the competition; if you're looking for a 'ute with lots of room for hauling, look elsewhere. And while the engine was smooth and the tranny efficient, the 'ute didn't jump to attention like the ML500 did when I put my foot on the gas.

If you like oodles of luxury, and razor-sharp handling — and if your cargo-hauling is limited to trips to the grocery store — the X5 deserves a serious look.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
This SUV still amazes me with its ability to carve up a twisty road. You can throw it into a turn hard and fast and it responds with the stick of a sport sedan. The steering is solid, the stability control unobtrusive and the brakes never fail to deliver plenty of bite. If I had to pick one of these SUVs based on handling alone, the BMW would be the hands-down winner. Of course, this kind of performance is typically pretty low on most buyers' "must-have" lists. Although most drivers appreciate a responsive vehicle, they would probably give up absolute performance for improved interior packaging and better passenger comfort — two areas where the X5 lags behind its competitors. As much as I like the X5's dynamics, if I were buying a luxury SUV of this type, the BMW's lack of cargo space and family-friendliness would push it a little further down the list than some of the others. Performance and prestige is one thing, but happy campers in back is another and the BMW doesn't deliver both.

Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
Even though BMW's world-class SUV is starting to get a little long of tooth, it still sets the standard for on-road refinement, stability and flat-out handling prowess. This platform feels like it's carved out of a single piece of steel, and the 4.4-liter V8 delivers smooth, linear, explosive power. Transmission shift timing is perfect, and putting the trans in sport mode turns the X5 into a snarling road burner capable of taking aggressive mountain roads and dirt trails with equal aplomb. The ultrarigid and refined chassis soaks up bumps with ease, and the interior is as quiet as a sensory deprivation chamber. Speaking of the interior, fit and finish is exemplary, the leather soft and supple and the wood trim is downright gorgeous. As a bachelor living in the city, this would probably be my personal choice for a daily driver out of all the vehicles in this test. However, most SUV shoppers are looking for something more than handling ability and gobs of power. While the Bimmer's interior is luxurious, the seats aren't quite as comfortable as the softly padded thrones in the SRX and ML500. The lack of a third-row seat, limited storage space and complicated climate and audio controls also hurts the X5 just enough to push it into the second-place spot on my short list, right behind the big Cad. However, if seating for seven isn't a priority and you're looking for the "Ultimate Driving Machine," look no further…the X5 is your ride.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
I love BMWs. With their traditionally superior driving characteristics, it would be hard not to. That's why it is most surprising to me that I didn't fall head over heels for the X5 in our test.

Sure, it was great fun to press the accelerator and feel the X5 surge forward. Yes, I thought it was the most handsome SUV in our group. But those two items aside, I found myself getting irritated with many of its supposedly life-simplifying features. I nearly went nuts trying to use the navigation system. I was driving my daughter to a birthday party at a house I had visited only once. I knew the general area, had the street address, but couldn't figure out how to get the nav to allow me to enter a new destination. After 15 minutes (and admittedly without consulting the owner's manual), I gave up, both frustrated and disappointed. Another item of contention was the parking sensors. I know they're designed to prevent drivers from hitting something, but I was annoyed when I found that I couldn't even back in or out of my parking garage without a barrage of beeping sensors. I never turned them off, but I did notice later during our test week that a member of our staff shut them down. I was relieved.

The X5 was also the most expensive SUV in our test at over $60,000. For that kind of money, I'd also like to see an entertainment system. Or better yet, an assistant to ride shotgun and decipher the navigation system.

First Place: 2004 Cadillac SRX V8

Gads! A Cadillac has beaten a field of illustrious competitors and captured the gold medal. What gives? Has BMW stopped sending us big checks and dancing girls? Just kidding. Well, for starters, the wreath and crest folks did their homework and put forth a solid effort in every area that counts big in this segment. The fruit of their labors is a sport/luxury SUV that won our staff over with its well-rounded personality and easily enjoyed luxury features. And this wasn't a "skin of its teeth" victory, either, as the SRX topped the X5 by a full four points.

Built on the same platform as the CTS, the division's Euro-flavored midsize sport sedan, the SRX follows the current Cadillac design direction of sharp creases, big taillights and wide-set headlights. More than one staffer remarked that it looked like a tall sport wagon, not necessarily a bad thing and most agreed that this design theme works better on the SRX than on the CTS, where it appears too busy. Even the wheels, not a typically strong area for a GM product, aesthetically speaking, were elegant seven-spokers that looked more aftermarket than original equipment.

This Caddy's cabin will be familiar to anyone who has sat behind the wheel of the CTS, as the dash and door panels are identical. The angular design and odd crosshatch texture of some surfaces didn't work for us, but the big, comfy seats did for every driver, whether they were a slim, 5-foot-7 woman or a 210-pound, 5-foot-10 guy. The second-row seats were deemed the most comfortable of these SUVs, as they were as well padded and supportive as the fronts and offered more legroom than any of us needed. Our SRX also had a nifty power-folding third-row seat that made increasing cargo or passenger capacity as painless as pushing a button.

Showing off some Yankee ingenuity, the SRX boasts a huge sunroof that allows all passengers to enjoy an al fresco drive, and the DVD entertainment system is mounted low, behind the console. Located there, the DVD system doesn't obstruct the driver's view out the back and makes it easy for passengers to load the player and enjoy the movie without craning their necks.

With 320 horses and 315 pound-feet of torque, the SRX's Northstar V8 puts up the numbers on paper. And at the test track, it laid down some solid numbers on the asphalt, hitting 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and running down the quarter in 15.6 seconds. Yes, the numbers are a few tenths slower than the X5 and FX45, but the power delivery is uncannily smooth and remains so right up to redline. The quick-witted automatic gearbox never missed a beat, delivering perfectly timed, lag-free shifts that were virtually transparent. Most of the time, the only way you could tell that a gear change occurred were the tell-tale drops in the tach needle and engine note.

Taking care of the other end of the performance spectrum, the SRX's big brakes proved their worth during one driver's spirited 30-minute run coming down out of the canyons. His notes were bubbling over with praise, as he reported that the brakes were strong and fade-free, quickly hauling the SRX down from speed for each downhill corner with linear, confidence-inspiring power.

Striking a nice balance between a cushy ride and taut, sporty handling, the SRX's suspension likewise prompted effusive praise from four out of five drivers: "Cornering is very flat — a real feat for a vehicle that sits up pretty high"; "On road or off, the Caddy was utterly composed"; "A great balance between a comfortable ride and taut handling"; "It felt much more carlike than anything except the FX45." And the fifth driver? He noticed more body movement than the X5 and FX45 when strafing apexes, but still agreed that the SRX exhibited a "good compromise between handling and comfort."

Curiously out of sync with the SRX's sporting character was the too-light steering. The overboosted assist seems more suited to a 1974 Fleetwood Brougham than for something as capable on a curvy road as the SRX. We appreciated the light effort when parking, but this is supposed to be variable-assist steering — at higher speeds, we'd like to feel more meat in the wheel.

Another minor weak point for the SRX is its relatively meager towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, which ties it with the FX45 in that respect. We get the feeling that this isn't going to matter much; those who actually intend to pull something really heavy with their luxury SUV would be better served by truck-based 'utes such as Cadillac's own Escalade.

So how did the American upset the German favorite in these games? Decisively, that's how. The Caddy offered performance that was equal or very close to that of the X5 while providing much more in the areas of utility and value. For example, a third-row seat is available in the SRX, while in the X5 it's not. The SRX also, at a base price nearly $4,000 less than the X5's, has more standard features, including rear park assist and heated seats, and more room for passengers and cargo. In short, the SRX proved itself nearly as entertaining for the enthusiast, while being more practical and a better value, two qualities that anyone can appreciate.

Second Opinions:

Content Editor Warren Clarke says:
Remember that well-rounded kid from high school? Good at math and chemistry, captain of the debating team, and just as impressive on the basketball court? The SRX is that kid, scoring high marks in virtually all categories.

When cruising on the freeway, the SRX never felt less than competent. Last-minute lane changes were no problem, as there was more than enough juice beneath the hood to handle sudden bursts of acceleration. And on steep mountain roads, the SRX carried itself with admirable composure, exhibiting little sway and body roll as it went about its task. Most luxury SUVs never muddy their tires with actual off-road experience, but should you venture into gravel and dirt, rest assured that the SRX is more than up to the task. This is one of the rare SUVs that's impressive both on and off pavement.

The 'ute's cabin also wins praise. There was ample head- and legroom, and lots of space for hauling. The design was also pleasing to look at, with a sleek center stack and rich, burnished wood.

What's not to love? Well, while the SRX was good in a host of areas, it was hard to point to any one in which it truly excelled relative to others in its class. While capable on pavement, I didn't find it as much fun to drive as the ML500. Its unremarkable exterior was more reminiscent of your dad's station wagon than a premium SUV, offering none of the flash and glamour exhibited by competitors like the FX45. And while its cabin left little to complain about, it didn't knock your socks off the way the X5's did. The SRX wasn't what I'd call "lust-inducing." But there's no doubt that it's an excellent choice for those seeking an SUV that's universally capable.

Senior Editor Ed Hellwig says:
The fact that the SRX scored so well in this lineup didn't surprise me at all. Although it may not be quite as athletic as the BMW or the FX, the SRX is the kind of well-rounded package that makes it appealing on so many levels. The light steering and comfortable ride quality make it an easy daily driver even if it can't tackle corners with as much enthusiasm at the imports. A smooth drivetrain and a quiet cabin further contribute to its likable personality that rarely offends. The interior still isn't on par with the Euros but the functionality is there and the available passenger room in back makes up for the lack of high-quality materials. I'm not a big fan of the exterior style, either, but step back and look at the vehicle as a whole and it offers just about everything you could want in an SUV in this class. If I eliminated the emotional aspect from the buying process, the SRX would get my vote, but as it is I would take the FX and deal with the hassles.

Road Test Editor Dan Kahn says:
On the first day of this comparison test, I couldn't quite figure out where the SRX fit into the group. It looks like a station wagon on steroids, drives like a sport sedan and has more room than most SUVs. Cadillac has made huge improvements in the fit and finish department, and while it still isn't quite up to German standards, I'd say the SRX is put together just as well as anything Japan has to offer, if not better. Soft leather seating surfaces, real wood trim and a spectacular panoramic sliding sunroof made the interior a fantastic place to spend time on the road, and the highly refined and powerful drivetrain propelled the hefty wagon with ease. The all-wheel-drive system worked flawlessly, and I found myself grinning like a hooligan as I carved through canyons, enjoying the Caddy's sporty and confidence-inspiring suspension. Thanks to perfectly tuned stability and traction control systems and an incredibly rigid body, the SRX makes driving seem easy. Factor in cool little extras like an automatic trans with sport mode and a true fold-down third-row seat, and it becomes apparent why the Cadillac earned a place at the top of my list. My only complaints are minor, including the extensive use of plastic in the interior and power steering that feels a bit too sensitive to me. Overall, the SRX is a great choice for buyers who need to own an SUV but want to own a sport sedan with just a touch of American attitude.

Manager of Vehicle Testing Kelly Toepke says:
In a comparison test with three import vehicles (two Germans and one Japanese,) I would never have guessed that the Cadillac would have been my favorite. I typically favor German handling characteristics to most current domestic products in everything from sport sedans to SUVs. But this time, it was truly the Cadillac that caught my attention.

Exercising the SRX on the paved windy roads illustrated its fine handling. It's a lower, sleeker model than most of its competitors, and felt the least like an SUV, along with the Infiniti FX45. But unlike the Infiniti, it doesn't lose its SUV cargo capacity. The cargo area was adequate, even outfitted with an optional third-row power seat, although it's truly meant for occasional use only. The cargo cover was integrated into the right cargo wall, and fully retracted until it was nearly out of sight. A nice advantage compared to removing standard covers in order to optimize storage space.

The front touchscreen operated both the audio and navigation systems which were displayed in some of the brightest colors I've seen. It was also extremely easy to switch back and forth between the nav map and the audio system, a feat not so easily accomplished on the German contenders. Another great feature is the enormous one-touch power sunroof with power sunshade; although, with the roof open, it made it difficult to read the orange LED climate control display.

There's no doubt that the SRX is a great package. The best part being that our test vehicle, complete with a DVD entertainment system, is still $4,500 or so lower than the BMW X5 we tested alongside it.


Cadillac is making a mighty effort to restore the company to the glory it enjoyed many decades ago. The SRX is solid proof that, yes, Cadillac can once again be held in high esteem. Beating a BMW is no mean feat, but in the end, the SRX was the clear winner by dint of its well-rounded performance and value proposition. While we certainly wouldn't steer anybody away from buying the X5 if they had their heart set on one, we would feel obligated to tell them not to make a decision until they drove the Cadillac.

That said, we still thoroughly enjoyed the Bimmer, and several staffers would've picked it for themselves if money and passenger capacity were no object. The fact that the highly desirable X5 is going to be entering its sixth year in its current form is testament to the ability of BMW to nail it the first time around.

The FX45 struck us as being too much of a one-trick pony. Yes, it performs like a sport sedan, but it has a rather drab, small cabin compared to the top finishers, and it's not like it has a lower price tag to compensate for those shortcomings. We see this vehicle appealing to those who place performance and high style above all else.

The Aviator's fourth-place finish was a disappointment to some staffers, who really liked the Lincoln at first blush. But when put into the crucible known as an Edmunds comparison test, the polish wore off and the lack of refinement under pressure brought it down. Under less challenging conditions, the Aviator is a stylish, roomy and comfortable ride that offers the advantage of stout towing capacity.

That the ML500 finished fifth is testament to how fast things move in the auto industry. Six years ago the ML was praised for its carlike ride and handling, but compared to the agile front-runners in this group, it felt like an athlete whose glory days were far behind. Fortunately, an all-new ML is set to debut for 2006, and we're confidant that it will once again be in the hunt.

With its rather brash American styling, the SRX seems almost cocky, like a jock who knows he's the best on the playing field. And all things considered, the Caddy was the best. By offering the performance of a sport sedan, the comfort and luxury of a DeVille and the utility of an SUV, the SRX has earned the gold medal in this Edmunds.com Olympics.

We asked the editors who participated in the test to pick the top 10 features that they would want if they were buying an SUV in this category. Any feature that was standard equipment on all five vehicles was thrown out. Points were awarded based on whether each feature was standard or optional and whether our particular test vehicle was equipped with that feature.


  BMW X5 4.4i Cadillac SRX V8 Infiniti FX45 Lincoln Aviator Mercedes-Benz ML500
In-Dash CD Changer O S S S O
Navigation System O O O O S
One-Touch Windows (All) S S* S N/A S
Power Lumbar Support (Driver) O S S S N/A
Rear Climate Control S S N/A S S
Rear Park Assist O S O S O
Rear-Seat DVD Entertainment System N/A O O O N/A
Satellite Radio N/A O O O N/A
Stability Control S S S S S
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Wheel S S** S S** N/A

*The SRX had one-touch up-down front and one-touch down rear
**These vehicles only have a tilt wheel, but also have power-adjustable pedals

S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

In-Dash CD Changer: In-dash CD changers allow you to load multiple discs without leaving the driver seat — a real plus when you're traveling alone. Be forewarned that on many vehicles with navigation systems, an in-dash changer is typically not an option because there are only so many electronic gizmos that can be fit into the dash.

Navigation System: With one of these electronic road atlases onboard, asking for directions at gas stations and arguments with your significant other can be avoided.

One-Touch Windows (All): This is one feature we wish every vehicle had. Curiously, the SRX had one-touch up-down for the front windows but just one-touch down for the rear windows.

Power Lumbar Support (Driver): A sore back can ruin a long road trip; this feature helps prevent that by properly supporting the back's most troublesome area.

Rear Climate Control: With most of these vehicles serving as family car substitutes, we considered rear-seat comfort a top priority.

Rear Park Assist: This high-tech feature emits an audible tone when the rear of the vehicle approaches an object, keeping both the bumper and small children outside the vehicle safe.

Rear-Seat DVD Entertainment System: A boon on long trips when the kids (or adults) in the rear seats get restless. Pop in a movie and those in back (listening through their own headsets) should be content, eliminating the cries of "Are we almost there?" for a few hours.

Satellite Radio: With so many commercials on the radio these days, it can be hard to listen to actual music. What could be better in a family vehicle than 100 (or more) channels of commercial-free (Sirius) or almost commercial-free (XM) radio with something to please both adults and kids?

Stability Control: This is an important active safety system that uses sensors to monitor how closely your vehicle's path matches your intended path based on steering, throttle and brake inputs. When appropriate, such a system can apply braking forces to individual wheels and reduce engine power to help prevent dangerous skids. It's especially useful on slippery roads. Although impressive, this technology still can't repeal the laws of physics — caution is still required when driving in adverse conditions.

Tilt and Telescopic Steering Wheel: This basic feature allows drivers of all sizes to find a more comfortable relationship between their body and the steering wheel.

Evaluation - Drive
Evaluation - Ride
Evaluation - Design
Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Evaluation - Drive

Engine Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.6 1
Infiniti FX45 8.2 2 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.2 2 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 8.0 4
Lincoln Aviator 7.2 5
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 8.6 1
BMW X5 4.4i 8.2 2 (t)
Infiniti FX45 8.2 2 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.4 4
Lincoln Aviator 6.2 5
Vehicle Score Rank
Infiniti FX45 8.6 1
BMW X5 4.4i 8.4 2
Cadillac SRX V8 8.2 3 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 8.2 3 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.6 5
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 9.2 1
Cadillac SRX V8 8.4 2
Infiniti FX45 7.0 3
Lincoln Aviator 5.6 4
Mercedes-Benz ML500 5.2 5
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 8.0 1
BMW X5 4.4i 7.8 2
Lincoln Aviator 7.4 3
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.8 4
Infiniti FX45 6.4 5
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.8 1 (t)
Infiniti FX45 8.8 1 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.4 3
Cadillac SRX V8 7.2 4 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.2 4 (t)
Vehicle Score Rank
Lincoln Aviator 7.8 1
Cadillac SRX V8 7.6 2 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.6 2 (t)
BMW X5 4.4i 7.4 4
Infiniti FX45 5.4 5
Fun to Drive
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.4 1
Infiniti FX45 8.0 2
Cadillac SRX V8 7.8 3
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.0 4
Lincoln Aviator 5.0 5

Evaluation - Ride

Seat Comfort Front
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.4 1 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 8.4 1 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.0 3
Infiniti FX45 7.4 4 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.4 4 (t)
Seat Comfort Rear
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 9.0 1
BMW X5 4.4i 8.0 2
Infiniti FX45 7.2 3 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.2 3 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.0 5
Wind & Road Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.8 1 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 8.8 1 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 8.2 3
Infiniti FX45 8.0 4
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.4 5
Rattles & Squeaks
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 9.0 1
Cadillac SRX V8 8.6 2
Infiniti FX45 8.4 3
Lincoln Aviator 8.2 4
Mercedes-Benz ML500 5.4 5

Evaluation - Design

Interior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.6 1
BMW X5 4.4i 8.0 2 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 8.0 2 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 6.6 4 (t)
Infiniti FX45 6.6 4 (t)
Interior Material
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 9.2 1
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.8 2
Cadillac SRX V8 7.6 3
Lincoln Aviator 7.4 4
Infiniti FX45 6.8 5
Climate Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Lincoln Aviator 8.8 1
Cadillac SRX V8 8.6 2
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.4 3
Infiniti FX45 7.0 4
BMW X5 4.4i 6.2 5
Audio System Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Infiniti FX45 9.0 1
Cadillac SRX V8 8.0 2 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 8.0 2 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.0 4
BMW X5 4.4i 6.0 5
Secondary Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 8.0 1
Lincoln Aviator 7.4 2 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.4 2 (t)
BMW X5 4.4i 7.2 4
Infiniti FX45 7.0 5
Exterior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Infiniti FX45 8.2 1
BMW X5 4.4i 7.6 2 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.6 2 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 7.4 4
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.8 5
Headlight Illumination
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 8.0 1 (t)
Cadillac SRX V8 8.0 1 (t)
Infiniti FX45 8.0 1 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.0 4
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.0 5
Overall Build Quality
Vehicle Score Rank
BMW X5 4.4i 9.4 1
Mercedes-Benz ML500 8.4 2
Cadillac SRX V8 8.2 3(t)
Lincoln Aviator 8.2 3(t)
Infiniti FX45 7.8 5

Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 8.6 1
BMW X5 4.4i 7.8 2 (t)
Lincoln Aviator 7.8 2 (t)
Infiniti FX45 7.0 4 (t)
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.0 4 (t)
Expanding/Loading Cargo
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 9.0 1
BMW X5 4.4i 7.8 2
Lincoln Aviator 7.6 3
Mercedes-Benz ML500 7.2 4
Infiniti FX45 5.6 5
Storage Space
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 7.4 1
Lincoln Aviator 7.2 2
BMW X5 4.4i 6.8 3
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.2 4
Infiniti FX45 5.6 5
Vehicle Score Rank
Cadillac SRX V8 7.6 1
Lincoln Aviator 7.4 2
BMW X5 4.4i 7.0 3
Mercedes-Benz ML500 6.8 4
Infiniti FX45 6.6 5

2005 Mercedes-Benz ML500

"This is not one of those unibody car-based SUV styled vehicles. It has power, refinement and is ready to navigate the Snake River Canyon with its all-time 4WD. Never had a repair. It's my 16th car. I love the style and the power. I'd like to see better fuel economy." — maryland jay, July 18, 2004

"My ML500 has seen Canadian winter (Toronto) so I can attest to its snowbound abilities. It is an excellent and fun vehicle to drive. Currently own an 02' Audi 3.0 6-Speed as well and driving the wife's M-B is always a pleasant treat. HID headlights are a severe nuisance to other drivers at night (their problem!). Only negatives are gas mileage is so bad you'll think you have a leak in your gas tank, and you'll go thru tires relatively quickly. Positives — great fun, excellent build quality, superior power (and I mean SUPERIOR), great all-weather vehicle offering outstanding stability and grip, also, did I say lots of power in that 5-liter engine yet? I'd like to see third-row seating for adults." — CanadaML500, March 17, 2004

"This car is probably the best I have ever owned. Everything about it is exceptional. The only downside is that it is always in the shop for little things like the power seats, the running board lights and a hose for the radiator. All minor things but still too much. Luckily, Mercedes has excellent service and all the problems were covered by the warranty. The ESP makes driving in the snow fun. For improvements I'd like a softer ride and more room for those riding in the back." — winwillme, Jan. 10, 2004

2004 Lincoln Aviator Ultimate

"I love this SUV. I had an X5 and like the Aviator better. I prefer driving it to my E500. I recommend this car. Powerful engine, smooth ride and handles great. Lacks a few features I might like but the plusses make up for any shortcomings. The reverse-sensing system is great, as it alerts you before you back into something. Also like the adjustable pedals and the easy-to-read and set clock. Would like to see the exterior temperature displayed all the time instead of trading off with the interior temperature setting." — Don Hendricks, Dec. 1, 2003

"We tried the BMW, Denali, Yukon and Volvo before settling with our Aviator. The BMW and Volvo were just too small for traveling plus rear-seat room for persons my size (6 feet 2, 240 pounds) was really uncomfortable. The ride wasn't acceptable. The Yukon and Denali were a close second. The mileage was very acceptable for this vehicle. On a trip to Maine from Florida (5,100 miles) average mileage of 22.8 per gallon. Air was increased in the tires however to 34 pounds to achieve as a dealer friend had advised. City driving averages 17.5-19.0 depending on how much is stop and go. Everything works fine and one of the best features is the air-conditioned seats. There is a possibility that another brand of tire would improve the ride, so I'm told. But I'm happy with what we have now." — Shriner215, Oct. 14, 2003

"The Aviator has a great ride, handling and power, but expect it to drink more gas. What do you expect from 300 horses? I've noticed that it whistles at speeds over 60 mph and assume that this is a design defect. Lincoln needs to recognize it and make good on some modifications and repairs. The back door jams against the front door, which seems to be another defect and common design flaw amongst these models. Apart from that, the interior is nicely designed and comfortable." — Friscodad, Sept. 13, 2003

Infiniti FX45

"Got rid of my Mercedes ML430 and Porsche 911 and picked up the FX45. Great car that can crossover both functions. Fast, fun and loaded with tech toys. Great car, solidly built. I love the intelligent keyless system, rear camera, DVD player, bird's eye navigation system, 20-inch wheels, AWD and numerous other high-tech toys. Can't think of much that needs improvement but even at 315 hp, one can always use more power." — ray_bay_area, June 27, 2004

"This car will definitely turn heads. The interior is very well laid out. The navigation system is excellent; I don't know how I ever lived without it. The ride can be fun. The engine gives a good kick when you want it to. My only major complaint is that sometimes the handling is too much like a sports car and not like an everyday car. The steering can be very sensitive at times. I don't recommend driving this car off roads or even on bumpy roads, but if you want to pass people on a highway and need to get up to 90 or 100 mph to do it, then this car is for you. It is flat-out fast. I would like to see Infiniti improve the handling of the car on rough roads and perhaps change the design to improve rear visibility." — michael123456, June 4, 2004

"When you push down on the accelerator, you're pressed back into the seat with alarming G-force. This is a road rocket, with all of the fun of driving a sports car. The one noticeable thing is that the suspension is tuned much like a sports car, with you noticing each pavement seam as much as you would in a Z. However, it's worth it. The other thing that you'll notice if you're a rabid Type A driver like I am is that at the pump, it isn't the most fun vehicle to have, but you have to expect that if the dealer says 15/19 and you drive with the pedal slammed to the floorboard it's going to be more like 11/13. As far as what I don't like, the center console is incredibly busy, hard to use when at highway speed. Also, if there is a way to make a more forgiving suspension without sacrificing performance it should be done." — ScottyVA, Feb. 9, 2004

2004 BMW X5 4.4i

"Truly magnificent. As smooth a ride as one can imagine, powerful engine that is great on the highway and in the city. Fun to drive…one feels 'at home' right away. We're getting 21.5 mpg on the highway, around 15 in town, only 500 miles on it. You need to watch your speed, though, since you don't realize how fast you are going. Simply love the engine, the ride and the 'solid' feeling all around. Disappointments include the lack of a compass and a lack of storage space." — milano-michigan, June 14, 2004

"This vehicle is fun to zip around in. The ride is stiff but sporty compared to other luxury SUVs. The biggest problem I had with the vehicle was that its A/C broke down three times during the first year. Only thing hotter than the Texas temperature was my temper during this period. To have plunked over $50K for a vehicle with an unreliable A/C is unthinkable. Once this problem was resolved, I have had a very nice experience overall with the vehicle. The standard audio system for this vehicle is a joke; it's the worst in this category of vehicles. That said, I enjoy the performance, styling and handling." — khalsamd, May 17, 2004

"I've now covered 5,500 miles, with no problems, other than moisture appearing in the parking lights. After driving a 2000 528i sedan for three years, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the switch to this SUV. After three days behind the wheel I was sold, and will probably never go back to a sedan again. This handles and rides like a BMW, but offers the typical function SUVs offer. It's luxurious, yet tasteful and not overdone. The smoothness and power of the 4.4 V8 is incredible, but gas mileage suffers as a result. My combined city/highway is around 15 mpg on premium. The 16-way comfort seats are excellent, as is the visibility. Top-quality BMW fit and finish throughout. On the downside, the factory navigation system is the worst system I've ever experienced! The aftermarket system on my 2000 528i sedan was far superior, and at a lower cost three years ago! Entry and exit are difficult, but I added BMW accessory running boards and solved the problem." — alanmg, April 12, 2004

2004 Cadillac SRX V8

"I have waited a long time for Cadillac to come out with a vehicle for 'me' and they have made me one happy person. I get in and the car just moves with such ease. I love the Bose stereo system, steering wheel controls, OnStar and obviously, the ultra sunroof. I can't think of anything to improve upon as of right now!" — Aud, July 13, 2004

"This vehicle is fun, fun, fun. I am a mom and a realtor, and I get looks of envy from other parents and clients. This vehicle is easy to get in and out of. It has the look of sophistication needed for my clients and the durability of the minivan to take the kids where they need to go. Enough room in the back to keep my golf clubs handy, and storage to keep napkins and such handy for the kids. You can pull out in traffic and never have to worry about causing a traffic jam. I love my Bose stereo system, my third row of seats and the fact that everyone can't see what movie we are watching. I also love the comments I receive when I pull up at a valet. I wish the center row was modular and that we could fold down the middle seat. It would also be nice if the back row could watch the DVD screen. I wish the gas tank was larger. Everything else is perfect." — Jane Mack, July 10, 2004

"This is a great car — very well thought out, extremely comfortable, nice engine, very workable third row seating and plenty of cargo room. This is our first American car — (was) stuck on Audi — needed an SUV for third-row seating and didn't want to cut back too far on performance or luxury. The SRX is as good as you get. Porsche and BMW — what about the third row of seats? My favorite features are the engine, Ultraview roof, Magnetic Ride Control, nav system, DVD entertainment system, OnStar and the third row of seats. I would like to see the dashboard improved, as it's weak and unremarkable, though completely functional." — CaddyConvert, June 15, 2004

Stereo Evaluation: 2005 Mercedes-Benz ML500

System Score: 7.0

Components: Our ML500 came with the optional Bose system that included a six-disc CD changer and nine speakers, including a subwoofer. Each door contains a midrange speaker as does the rear compartment. A pair of tweeters is found near the windshield pillars, and the subwoofer is mounted under the rear seat. A multitude of buttons flank the navigation screen. A telephone button-style keypad on the right stores radio presets, and the magazine-style CD changer is mounted back in the cargo bay. Notably absent are steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Bose's "Audiopilot" sound processor prevents ambient noise (such as wind and tire roar) from intruding on the listening experience.

Performance: A wide range of musical tastes can be accommodated on this system. There's ample power to please rockers as well as enough separation and clarity to appeal to jazz and classical enthusiasts. The tweeters' high placement assures that high notes won't be lost, and the subwoofer manages to complement rather than overpower the sound. At lower volume settings, we were still able to enjoy the selections being played thanks to the Audiopilot system. We were disappointed by the fact that this high-end vehicle lacked steering wheel controls and that the CD changer was located in the cargo hold.

Best Feature: Audiopilot noise suppressor.

Worst Feature: No steering wheel-mounted controls.

Conclusion: A very good system in terms of sound quality, but a lack of user-friendly controls and the antiquated location of the CD changer drag the score down a few points.

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Lincoln Aviator Ultimate

System Score: 8.0

The system, like many others, uses the navigation screen as a control center. Though its layout was simpler than the BMW's, the virtual "buttons" sometimes took a rather determined poke with one's finger to operate. Usability is enhanced by steering wheel controls for volume, memory and seek-scan.

All four doors contain a four-inch midrange speakers mated to a one-inch dome tweeter. While these specifications are nothing special, the system's pièce de résistance is an 8-inch subwoofer ensconced in the passenger-side rear-quarter panel. We suspected that this sub would produce excellent bass response, and we weren't disappointed.

Performance: As mentioned above, bass was stellar in this system. We found the low frequencies tight and accurate, with excellent attack on kick drum and percussion. Likewise, midfrequencies displayed an openness and intricacy that is better than that of most SUVs in this class. Our one complaint was reserved for the high frequencies, which, while smooth and velvety, were poorly served by the position of the tweeters (in this case, built into the doors rather than mounted in the A-pillars or on the dashboard). As a result, much of the high frequencies are lost at one's kneecaps rather than radiating into the cabin, and we did knock off some points for that. Other than that, this is a fine-sounding system.

Best Feature: Eight-inch subwoofer that produces excellent bass response.

Worst Feature: Poorly positioned tweeters.

Conclusion: This is a great-sounding system that's easy to enjoy. Take a listen, and see if you don't agree. — John DiPietro

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Infiniti FX45

System Score: 9.0

The optional premium Bose audio system comes with all the ingredients needed for plenty of great sound. Six discs or a cassette tape can be loaded into the dash and played through 11 speakers with the help of 300 watts. There are three midrange/tweeters in the dash, 6.5-inch drivers in the front doors, 5.25-inch speakers in the back doors, a pair of 2-inch tweets in the rearmost roof pillars and, believe it or not, two woofers in a tuned enclosure inside the spare wheel hub. Dash controls are frustratingly similar in size and shape, though this gripe is offset by the simple steering wheel-mounted controls and a large orange display placed high in the dash. A mute button is a nice touch.

Performance: Let's get the gripes out of the way. It takes a long time to load CDs, and the woofers in the trunk are a waste. Other than that, there's a lot to love about this stereo system. Vocals and guitars are strong and clear at all volumes. Higher tones, such as cymbals, are very loud, but tend to splinter at the edges when the amplifier is pushed. Bass is very punchy and accurate, but lacks the full-bodied feel that comes with large subwoofers. The multiple speaker locations include a driver in the middle of the dash that helps create a wonderful soundstage. The sign of a good setup — the sound envelops the driver and front passenger without any particular speakers standing out. The steering wheel-mounted controls are large and easy to use and include an uncommon feature for a factory system: a mute button.

Best Feature: It won't work on backseat drivers, but the mute button is very handy.

Worst Feature: Tiny woofers mounted in the spare wheel. Why?

Conclusion: Great sound and all the features you expect in a luxury automobile. — John DiPietro

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 BMW X5 4.4i

System Score: 6.0

Components: This is an upgraded audio package that boasts 12 loudspeakers total, including dual subs and a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) unit. Each door contains a 6.5-inch midrange driver as well as a tweeter above. A small pair of midrange drivers on either end of the dash completes the speaker array. Our test vehicle offered a GPS navigation system, routing many of the controls for the stereo through the GPS screen. This design lacks user-friendliness. Unlike other nav systems that utilize a touchscreen, the BMW's has a cumbersome two-stage procedure where the operator selects a setting and then hits an enter key. Unfortunately, the two main controls for this are located on the far side of the faceplate, away from the driver, and were quite a stretch for us, as we would guess they'd be for most operators. Furthermore, and unforgivable in a $60,000 vehicle is the fact that adding the nav system deletes the CD player, though it does replace it with a cassette player. Of course, for $995 the dealer will gladly install a six-disc CD changer in the rear cargo area.

Going a long way toward alleviating the aggravation of the screen controls are comprehensive steering wheel controls for volume and seek-scan functions. An LED display at the bottom of the main instrument cluster reads out radio station call letters and station ID. We wish more automakers would do this.

The combination of plenty of power and a multitude of specialized speakers provides crisp sound quality and a realistic soundstage. Even at higher volume settings and when listening to hard, crunching rock (such as old Van Halen), the speakers didn't buzz, guitars were distinct and the bass was tight. Knocking down the system's grade, however, are the frustrating control interface and the lack of even a single CD player when the nav system is optioned.

Best Feature: Tweeters mounted in each door.

Worst Feature: The lack of an in-dash CD player if the nav system is added.

Conclusion: Although this system sounded great, the annoying controls, lack of a CD player and the $1,200 extra charged for the system are absolutely criminal. — John DiPietro

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Cadillac SRX V8

System Score: 8.0

Components: Our test vehicle was outfitted with the optional Bose audio system, which includes a 212-watt amplifier, an in-dash six-disc CD player, Radio Data System (RDS) and digital sound processing (DSP) technology. Eight speakers are arrayed throughout the cabin in the following areas: a pair of one-inch dome tweeters in the A-pillars, a 2.5-inch centerfill speaker in the center of the dash, a 6.5-inch woofer in each front door, a 5.3-inch full-range speaker in each rear door and a 5.3-inch woofer in the right cargo panel. The system also utilizes "AudioPilot" noise compensation technology. "AudioPilot" consists of a microphone located in the overhead console that monitors overall sound levels and adjusts specific frequencies to overcome ambient noise (such as tire or engine noise) that affects said frequencies. With the exception of basic volume and scrolling buttons located on the steering wheel, the system must be operated via a touchscreen in the center of the dash (a control system we've not been particularly fond of on any vehicle we've tested).

Performance: The extremely tight bass response and effective imaging exhibited by the Bose system effectively lit up the SRX's interior with high-quality sound. Highs were clean, though with certain music types and in certain DSP settings it seemed as if the treble had to be turned up to near maximum levels to properly capture the high notes. We were impressed by the effectiveness of the system's various DSP modes, which could focus the sound on the front- or rear-seat positions. The "spaciousness" mode was also well executed and added noticeable depth to the music without the artificial hollowness that often accompanies such settings.

Best Feature: Highly advanced DSP settings.

Worst Feature: Touchscreen interface, though it's not bad as far as these types of systems go and it's alleviated by steering wheel-mounted controls.

Conclusion: The system's sound quality was impressive, but its control operation wasn't. Carmakers still haven't figured out how to combine complex technologies with simple, straightforward control systems. — Karl Brauer

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
  Cadillac SRX V8 BMW X5 4.4i Infiniti FX45 Lincoln Aviator Mercedes-Benz ML500
Personal Rating (10% of score) 7.6 8.4 4.4 4.8 4.8
Recommended Rating (10% of score) 8.8 7.6 4.8 4.4 4.4
Evaluation Score (20% of score) 16.1 16.0 14.7 14.8 14.4
Feature Content (20% of score) 16.7 12.7 15.3 15.3 10.0
Performance (20% of score) 17.4 19.2 18.8 12.8 16.4
Price (20% of score) 16.9 15.5 18.3 20.0 19.2
Total Score 83.5 79.4 76.3 72.1 69.2
Final Ranking 1 2 3 4 5

Personal Rating: Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating: After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

24-Point Evaluation: Each participating editor ranked every vehicle based on a comprehensive 24-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from engine performance to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content: For this category, the editors picked the top 10 features they thought would be most beneficial to the consumer shopping in this segment. For each vehicle, the score was based on the amount of actual features it had versus the total possible (10). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Performance Testing: Each SUV was tested on the same course and driven by the same driver. The course consisted of a standard slalom, a 0-to-60-mph straight-line acceleration test and a straight-line braking test. Each vehicle was tested with traction and stability control systems both on and off, and the best time was recorded as the official number.

Price: The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the least expensive vehicle in the comparison test. Using the "as tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicles receiving lesser scores based on how much each one costs.

Model year2004
ModelSRX V8
Engine type32-Valve DOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4.6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)320 @ 6400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)315 @ 4400
Transmission type5-speed automatic
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)7.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.6 @ 90.8
60-0 mph (ft.)122
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)61.7
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)15/20
Edmunds observed (mpg)13.5
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4442
Length (in.)194.9
Width (in.)72.6
Height (in.)67.8
Wheelbase (in.)116.4
Turning circle (ft.)39.7
Legroom, front (in.)42.1
Legroom, rear (in.)41
Headroom, front (in.)40.3
Headroom, rear (in.)38.4
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.7
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.6
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)70
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/ 50,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/ 100,000 miles
Roadside assistance4 years/ 50,000 miles
ModelX5 4.4i
Engine type32-Valve DOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4.4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)315 @ 5400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)324 @ 3600
Transmission type6-speed automatic
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)7.1
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.3 @ 91.7
60-0 mph (ft.)116
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)62.5
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)16/22
Edmunds observed (mpg)14.1
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4927
Length (in.)183.7
Width (in.)73.7
Height (in.)67.2
Wheelbase (in.)111
Turning circle (ft.)39.7
Legroom, front (in.)39.3
Legroom, rear (in.)35.4
Headroom, front (in.)39.9
Headroom, rear (in.)38.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)58
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.2
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)69
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/ 50,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/ unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/ 50,000 miles
Model year2004
Engine type32-Valve DOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4.5
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)315 @ 6400
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)329 @ 4000
Transmission type5-speed automatic
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)6.8
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.2 @ 92.2
60-0 mph (ft.)116
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)59.6
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)15/19
Edmunds observed (mpg)12.6
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4309
Length (in.)189.1
Width (in.)75.8
Height (in.)65.9
Wheelbase (in.)112.2
Turning circle (ft.)38.7
Legroom, front (in.)43.9
Legroom, rear (in.)35.2
Headroom, front (in.)40.8
Headroom, rear (in.)39.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)56.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.4
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)65
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 60,000 miles
Powertrain6 years/ 70,000 miles
Corrosion7 years/ unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/ 60,000 miles
Model year2004
Engine type32-Valve DOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)4.6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)302 @ 5750
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)300 @ 3250
Transmission type5-speed automatic
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)8.1
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.2 @ 87.9
60-0 mph (ft.)132
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)58.9
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)13/18
Edmunds observed (mpg)11.2
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4805
Length (in.)193.3
Width (in.)76
Height (in.)71.4
Wheelbase (in.)113.7
Turning circle (ft.)40.5
Legroom, front (in.)42.4
Legroom, rear (in.)36.8
Headroom, front (in.)39.9
Headroom, rear (in.)38.4
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.3
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.6
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)77
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/ 50,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/ unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/ 50,000 miles
Model year2005
MakeMercedes Benz
Engine type24-Valve SOHC V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)288 @ 5600
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)325 @ 2700
Transmission type5-speed automatic
Track Test Results
0-60 mph (sec.)7.4
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.7 @ 89.2
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)60.3
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Braking rating122
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)14/17
Edmunds observed (mpg)12.8
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)4874
Length (in.)182.6
Width (in.)72.4
Height (in.)71.7
Wheelbase (in.)111
Turning circle (ft.)39
Legroom, front (in.)40.3
Legroom, rear (in.)38
Headroom, front (in.)39.8
Headroom, rear (in.)39.7
Shoulder room, front (in.)58.2
Shoulder room, rear (in.)57.8
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)81
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/ 50,000 miles
Corrosion4 years/ 50,000 miles
Roadside assistanceUnlimited years/ unlimited miles
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