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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The ML550 is the quickest non-AMG M-Class ever
Car and Driver
Regular V-6 is short on low-end torque
“predictable and stable handler”
Confidence-inspiring cornering ability
Kelley Blue Book
Reviewers from across the Web ranked the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class at least above average for its performance—and some found the AMG version thrilling. Aside from pure speed, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class also offers exceptional handling in all weather conditions, most reviewers noted.
The top-end ML63 AMG with its hand-built 503-horsepower engine defies all established SUV speed conventions. Forbes Autos raves about the ML63's "blistering straight-line speed" and notes that the "hand-built engine spurs the big Benz to 120 or 130 mph with ridiculous ease." Its 11/14 mpg fuel economy is unapologetic.
Not to be left behind, the V-8-powered ML550 generates 382 hp and has no problem getting the most from each and every one of them. Car and Driver finds the ML550 "to be seriously quick, hitting 60 from a standstill in 5.4 seconds." This version gets 13/18 mpg.
Shaving two cylinders from the engines that propel the top two M-Class SUVs leaves either the V-6 diesel that motivates the ML320 CDI or the gas-powered V-6 under the hood of the ML350. Both offer very respectable performance, and Kelley Blue Book feels that "opting for the lower-priced, higher-mileage ML 350 won't leave you feeling short-changed in the power department." Two V-6 engines are also offered in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The gas-engine ML350 gets 15/20 mpg; the diesel, a good 18/24 mpg.
All 2008 M-Class SUVs feature Mercedes-Benz's seven-speed automatic transmission. TheCarConnection.com found that this transmission earns high marks from reviewers; Automobile.com even calls it "the most advanced transmission in the SUV world." Adding to the M-Class's performance credentials are superb brakes and an adaptive damping system that improves stability and minimizes body roll during turns.
The ML63 features a stiffer, sportier suspension than the other models in the M-Class lineup, and this is clearly evident in ride comfort. Forbes Autos finds that "between the thin 20-inch tires and the suspension's sport setting, the ride [is] noticeably harsh for rear-seat occupants." While the suspension can be set to comfort mode, this limits the handling performance of the ML63.
Other models in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class are better suited to daily driving, and Car and Driver feels that the ML550 is "a fast, confident, poised highway cruiser in which [they] could [spend] all day without complaint." Edmunds calls it “a predictable and stable handler.”
TheCarConnection.com also has extensive experience in the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, 2008 editions and previous generations as well. It 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 can even tow 7,200 pounds--yet, 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.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz M-Class shoots and scores—and rages, in AMG trim.