So what's the big deal about the 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 Bluetec? Simple: Its clean-burning 3.0-liter V6 (shared with the GL320 and R320) is the first diesel-fueled engine (other than Dodge's heavy-duty truck diesels) to pass the stringent 2010 EPA emissions requirements for 50-state certification. While diesels are a fixture in European-market vehicles, the U.S. government has long been leery of the high particulate emissions endemic to these engines. Thanks to Bluetec, stateside Mercedes buyers can enjoy all the benefits of diesel, including superior fuel economy and a reputation for durability, with the full blessing of Uncle Sam.
Sounds like a win-win proposition, right? And it would be, if this Benz boasted the expected instantaneous turbodiesel torque off the line. However, there's an exasperating delay when you floor the throttle from a stop or forward creep, as though the transmission has been caught off-guard. Forget Mercedes' claim on its Web site of "V8 power in a V6 configuration." Thanks in part to this conservative shift logic, the ML320 Bluetec would have its hands full keeping up with an ML350 and its gasoline-powered V6.
Fortunately, the Bluetec does deliver considerably more miles per gallon when it's time to refuel, though diesel continues to outpace gasoline in the price column as of this writing. Whether you'll enjoy yourself between fill-ups is another matter. Granted, the sumptuous interior appointments are beyond reproach — our test car's upper-crust cabin made the $61,200 asking price seem downright reasonable. But given its gooey steering and ho-hum performance, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 is probably best experienced from somewhere other than the driver seat.
Nonetheless, this Benz's combination of top-shelf luxury, superior fuel-efficiency and environmental friendliness is bound to win over a good number of deep-pocketed SUV shoppers. In this era of volatile fuel prices and an uncertain automotive future, clean diesels hold considerable appeal as a green alternative to the status quo.
The four-wheel-drive 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 Bluetec is motivated by a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that has been engineered specifically to achieve 50-state emissions certification. The U.S. imposes more stringent tailpipe particulate emissions standards than diesel-crazy Europe, so Mercedes added a tank of AdBlue urea and water mixture (hence "Bluetec") to the exhaust system. When the engine is running, AdBlue is automatically injected into the exhaust stream, catalyzing a chain reaction that results in the conversion of polluting nitrogen oxides into harmless water vapor and nitrogen. Voilà! A diesel that even the Green Party could get down with.
The Bluetec diesel V6 cranks out 210 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic with manual-shift capability — the only available transmission — routes the power to all four wheels, with selectable low-range gearing. At our test track, the ML320 ambled from zero to 60 mph in an adequate 8.5 seconds. Braking was superlative for such a heavy vehicle — at just 121 feet from 60 to zero mph, the 5,129-pound ML320 stops better than most midsize sedans. Maximum tow rating is an impressive 7,200 pounds.
Not surprisingly, the ML320 is hardly a driver's SUV in the real world. The diameter of the steering wheel is buslike, and that about sums up the steering feel, too. There's an unpleasant amount of play in the ML's tiller, and it feels like it's communicating with the tires via telegraph. Handling limits are perhaps a smidge above average for this segment, but there's too much jello in the suspension to encourage enthusiastic driving. Our test car's optional Airmatic electronically adjustable suspension seemed pointless, as cycling from Comfort to Sport merely dialed up the impact harshness while failing to rein in excess body roll.
We expected things would take a turn for the better when we put the Benz's pedal to the metal. No such luck. The Bluetec diesel does provide a satisfyingly torquey kick, but not until the ponderous transmission says so. When you floor it, there's an exasperating delay (one-one thousand...) while the seven-speed slushbox unhurriedly mulls over your command, rather than the prompt rush of torque that we'd expect. The only way around this is to brake-torque the ML320 from rest, which isn't a technique owners are likely to employ.
Where the Bluetec shines is at the filling station. The ML320's EPA ratings of 18 mpg city and 24 highway trounce the gasoline-powered ML350's ratings of 15 mpg city/20 highway. We observed an admirable 21.1 mpg over more than a thousand miles; remarkably, this matches the lifetime average of our long-term Honda Accord EX-L V6 midsize sedan. When SUV versatility meets family sedan fuel economy, you know there's something special happening under the hood.
Despite the ML320 Bluetec's undisciplined body motions in corners, it rides rather firmly, even with the suspension in Comfort mode. As is typical of German vehicles, though, impacts are rarely intrusive (unless you're tooling around in Sport). While there's plenty of diesel clatter outside the ML320, noise levels inside are luxury-car low at all speeds. The optional power-adjustable leather-trimmed front seats were supremely supportive, with firm bolstering that helped keep us alert on longer journeys. The backseat is nearly as inviting, boasting a chairlike seating position and ample headroom. Only passengers of above-average height will find rear legroom a bit lacking.
Visibility in the 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 is superb, thanks to an elevated driving position and plenty of glass all around. The center stack controls are a nightmare, however, as the ML320's COMAND interface lacks the control knob we've come to expect in premium vehicles, forcing you to use four directional arrow keys and an "OK" button instead. Predictably, most audio and navigation commands require numerous clicks — up, down, right, "OK," down, and so on. Compounding the problem is the smorgasbord of identical-looking black buttons, which fail miserably at making your life easier.
Some thoughtful touches elsewhere helped to mitigate our frustration somewhat. For example, there's a nifty two-mode switch mounted on the inside lip of the tailgate — the first function closes the tailgate automatically, while the second closes it and then locks the entire vehicle. Also, the glovebox-mounted iPod interface works seamlessly, allowing song selection by artist name, track name, playlist name and so on. Disappointingly, the uplevel Harman Kardon stereo lacks clarity and provides generally mediocre sound.
In our real-world usability tests, a rear-facing child safety seat fit fine in the ML320's accommodating rear compartment, though taller front passengers may have to slide their seats forward a little. Golf clubs are a different story. We expect a midsize SUV to have plenty of club storage space, but the ML doesn't provide enough horizontal room for even a compact carry bag. Depending on the length of your driver, you might have trouble fitting your bag lengthwise as well, leaving you with two options — go diagonal, or fold down one of the rear seatbacks.
Design/Fit and Finish
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML320 boasts a beautifully constructed interior, with high-quality materials virtually everywhere you look and touch. Indeed, the Benz's interior design and quality may be its most outstanding feature. Compared with the rival Lexus RX 400h, the ML320 feels (and is) thousands of dollars more expensive. Fit and finish was excellent with the exception of a slightly misaligned steering wheel cover.
Who should consider this vehicle
Shoppers who want a luxurious SUV with solid green credentials. Be advised, though, that the Lexus RX 400h offers superior performance and fuel economy in a more affordable package, the Mercedes-Benz GL320 Bluetec or R320 Bluetec will give you near-identical fuel economy and considerably more interior space, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD is both swifter and far cheaper.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Is the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2009 M-Class featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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How do people like the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2009 M-Class 4.3 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2009 M-Class.
Review I own 3 Mercedes Benz's. A 2006 S500 with 120,000 miles, a CLK550 with 50,000 miles and the 2009 ML350 with 53,000 miles. Out of these 3, the first 2 are manufactured in Germany. The ML is made here in the USA. The first 2 get 24-27 mpg on a long trip. The ML350 gets around 20mpg. Heres the issues. The ML is not made as well as the other 2. It has had rear hatch issues, sunroof issues (just had to replace the switch on the sunroof, cost almost $1,000) and multiple other very minor issues that always seem to cost between $500 and $1000. The cover of the drivers rear view mirror popped off. Everything functioned, but the cover would sometimes pop off in the car wash. Cost to repair $630.
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What options are available on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class?
Available Mercedes-Benz M-Class 2009 Submodel Types: SUV, Diesel, ML63 AMG
Available Trims: ML350 4MATIC, ML350, ML 350 4MATIC, ML320, ML350 BlueTEC, ML500, ML 250 BlueTEC 4MATIC, ML 400 4MATIC, ML320 BlueTEC, ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC, ML550 4MATIC, ML430, ML63 AMG, ML320 CDI, ML550
Exterior Colors: Black, Iridium Silver Metallic, Polar White, Arctic White, Palladium Silver Metallic, Steel Grey Metallic, Lunar Blue Metallic , Diamond White Metallic, Obsidian Black Metallic, Brilliant Silver Metallic, Capri Blue Metallic, Desert Silver Metallic, Sand Beige Metallic, Dakota Brown Metallic, Pewter Metallic, Cinnabar Red Metallic, designo Diamond White Metallic, Alabaster White, Diamond Silver Metallic, Alpine Rain Metallic, Barolo Red Metallic, Brilliant Silver, Desert Silver, Orion Blue, Pearl Beige Metallic, Platinum Blue Metallic, Azure Blue, Azure Blue Metallic, Black Opal, Bordeaux Red Metallic
Interior Colors: Black leatherette, Almond Beige leatherette, Cashmere leatherette, Black leather, Black leather/suede, Auburn Brown/Black leather, Grey leatherette, Macadamia leather, Macadamia leatherette, Almond Beige leather, Charcoal, Ash, Ash leather/suede, Ash leatherette, Grey/Black leather, Almond Beige/Black leather, Ash leather, Black Dinamica/MB-Tex Leatherette leatherette/suede, Black premium leather, Brown Nappa, Gray, designo® Auburn Brown premium leather, Java, designo Ash, designo Black premium leather, designo Java/Borneo, designo Porcelain premium leather
Popular Features: AWD/4WD, Alarm, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Stability Control, Auto Climate Control, Rear Bench Seats, Power Driver Seat, Trip Computer, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Aux Audio Inputs, Sunroof/Moonroof, Post-collision safety system, Bluetooth, Pre-collision safety system, 6000lb Towing Capacity, Automatic Emergency Braking, Heated seats, Navigation, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Electronic Folding Mirrors, Back-up camera, USB Inputs, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, Upgraded Stereo, Towing Hitch, 5000lb Towing Capacity, Upgraded Headlights, Parking sensors, Keyless Entry/Start, Leather Seats, Cooled Seats, Rear Entertainment System, Adaptive Cruise Control, 3500lb Towing Capacity, Upgraded Engine