2009 Mercedes Benz ML550 4Matic

In terms of looks, the ML sure has come a long way from the first M-class of the mid-1990s, which was a minivan in disguise. I quite like the new face-lift, which gave the ML a larger grille and new headlights, and the way this vehicle looks on the street. I also like the way the ML550 drives. It's a very comfortable everyday driver, not too harsh, not too soft, with plenty of power and, in the guise of our fully loaded, $68,090 test vehicle, brimming with every luxury amenity you could possibly want.

Wow. I just let that sticker price sink in for a moment. I remember, back in 1997, when the then-new M-classes started pouring out of Mercedes-Benz's new factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for a starting price of about $34,000, and there was a lot of talk about what a bargain it was. Those days are long gone, because the current V-6 M-class, the ML350, starts at about $48,000. Admittedly, today's M-class is a lot better vehicle than the original, and even $48,000 is a lot more palatable of a proposition than this staggeringly expensive - if wonderfully decadent - ML550.

The ML that interests me the most, however, is the all-new ML320 Bluetec, which runs on ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel. It costs about $50,000 but is rated by the EPA at 18/24 mpg, compared with the ML350's 15/20 mpg. (Let's not even talk about the ML550's fuel economy. Well, OK: it's 13/18 mpg.) We'll have one here at the Automobile Magazine offices soon and will bring you a full report.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

New Car Research

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