2008 Mercedes-Benz M Class Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is an appealing SUV with good road manners and a lofty price tag.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com’s resident experts also drove the M-Class to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, and to add more impressions and details and provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the story of lessons learned. When the M-Class first arrived in the late 1990s, it was scolded by the press for its iffy interior quality and me-too styling. Ten years later, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class looks great (its current design is two years old), and it has powerful engines and a great interior. And it's risen steadily upward in price, far above the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee it originally targeted.

At the top of the ladder, the 503-horsepower Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG remains unchanged, with unapologetic 11/14 mpg fuel economy and supercar performance cloaked in its handsome, neatly detailed body. Next up is the ML550, which wears some of the AMG model's body add-ons. A 5.5-liter V-8 grants it 382 hp, and a seven-speed automatic ushers out the power urgently and smoothly. This version can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, or faster than some two-door sportscars--but it gets 13/18 mpg.

Two V-6 engines are also offered in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. One's a 3.5-liter gas V-6 with 268 hp, a seven-speed automatic, and 15/20 mpg fuel economy. The other's a V-6 diesel with 18/24 mpg fuel economy.

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The 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class comes equipped with full-time four-wheel drive and three mechanical differentials, which keep the ML planted on light off-roading, and even some of the hardcore stuff the Jeep crowds crow about. It helps that the ML550 sits on 255/55R-19 tires and wears big 13.8-inch front brakes and 13.0-inch rear vented discs. It can tow 7,200 pounds. On-road handling is the opposite of what you might expect--the steering is communicative, the ride is pretty well-controlled for a capable off-roader, and braking is good.

In overall size and room, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class is more than competitive with the likes of Ford's Explorer, Jeep's Grand Cherokee, and their ilk. Its wheelbase is 114.7 inches and overall length is 188.5 inches. With the rear seats folded down, cargo volume is 72.4 cubic feet and 29.4 cubic feet with the seats upright. The front- and backseats have good headroom, and even in back, there's plenty of adult-sized space. There is no third-row seat option; that's the job of the larger GL-Class ute.

The luxurious interior is what you'd expect from a vehicle in this segment. Burl walnut wood trim and a multifunction steering wheel and dash display are included, as are an 80-watt audio system with AM/FM/CD stereo, two deep cup holders, dual rear cup holders, and too many other features to list in a short review. Sirius Satellite Radio is available, as is Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system, and a DVD entertainment system.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a NHTSA five-star crash rating and a four-star rollover rating. Stability control, anti-lock brakes, and traction control are standard, along with front, side, and curtain airbags.

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