Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV Review
With so many premium-badged luxury SUVs available now, it's easy to forget that just 10 years ago Mercedes-Benz was one of the first with its M-Class. The original, truck-based (body-on-frame) M-Class was a strong seller for the brand, despite a number of early build quality issues related to its new U.S.-based production. A few years ago the second-generation model debuted. Evidently realizing that about the same number of people who actually use their home fitness machines use their SUVs to go off-road, Mercedes gave the new ML (officially now referred to as the M-Class) a carlike unit-body architecture and a revised suspension design that brought a more on-road-biased personality to this premium sport-utility. In addition to improved handling and ride qualities, the second-generation ML received more aggressive styling, higher-quality cabin fitments and new engines.
The M-Class rolls into 2008 with mostly detail changes that include a celebration of its 10th birthday. Mercedes offers the widest array of power plants in the segment, from a fuel-stretching diesel in the ML320 CDI to a supercar-worthy 507-hp V8 in the ML63 AMG. There's also a new mainstream V8 this year. Found in the ML550 model, this latest-generation 5.5-liter V8 cranks out 382 hp -- 80 more than the 5.0-liter V8 found in last year's ML500. The rise in power hasn't come at the expense of fuel economy, either, with the ML500 and ML550 having very similar EPA estimates.
The new engine is welcome, but the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class faces some serious competition in the $50,000 luxury midsize SUV segment. It's not the only fresh-faced ute on the block, as the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and BMW X5 were all- new or redesigned just last year, and the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg 2 have been heavily revised for 2008. The advantage of the M-Class is that it offers what most folks typically buy Mercedes-Benzes for: a vaultlike feeling of quality and luxury, visible prestige and state-of-the-art safety. What it doesn't offer is a third-row seat. But one can always consider its stablemate, the larger GL-Class, if the ability to carry up to seven passengers is a must.
performance & mpg
A variety of engines are available for the 2008 M-Class. The ML320 CDI has a 3.0-liter turbodiesel rated at 215 hp and a stout 398 pound-feet of torque. Being a diesel, it provides better fuel mileage (rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway) and range (more than 600 miles) than a comparably sized gasoline engine. Note that due to stricter emissions standards, the ML320 is unavailable in California-level emission states. The ML350 has a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Offering brisk performance, the ML550 boasts a 5.5-liter V8 that pumps out 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. Should that not be enough, there is the ML63 AMG with a 6.3-liter V8 making a stunning 503 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to propel this SUV from zero to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. All models are fitted with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Maximum tow capacity when properly equipped is 5,000 pounds.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, hill descent/ascent control and a full complement of airbags (front seat side and full-length side curtain) are all standard. In government crash tests, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class posted perfect five-star scores in both frontal- and side-impact testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the SUV a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal-offset crashes.
Although the 2008 Mercedes ML's steering is precise, it doesn't offer much feedback and feels a little dead in the center. The brakes, however, offer a sure-footed pedal and stop this SUV quickly. Despite some body roll, the near 5,000-pound, all-wheel-drive ML is a predictable and stable handler. It offers a confident feel during inclement weather as well as when negotiating twisty mountain roads on the way to the hiking or mountain biking trailhead.
Generous fillets of bird's eye maple wood and brushed aluminum trim lend the cabin a warm, upscale ambiance. Large front cupholders and adequate storage cubbies come in handy on road trips. Passenger room is especially impressive, as the ML affords rear-seat passengers more than 39 inches of legroom -- nearly 6 inches greater than the RX 350 offers. Folding down the rear seat provides a maximum 72 cubic feet of cargo room, which is on the small side for the segment.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.