$8,890 - $10,309

2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class was new.


Performance: 7.8

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a smooth ride, with reviewers' only complaints centering on the slightly numb steering. The new for 2009 ML320 BlueTec diesel model received mostly praise because it doesn't drive or sound like a diesel, and gets high fuel economy.

  • "Aside from some low-speed impact harshness over most bumps, M-Class models are admirably comfortable and rewardingly composed. The available air suspension has Comfort, Sport, and Automatic settings. It's uncomfortably choppy in Sport, and the other modes have little evident effect on comfort or control." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Its ride is smoother and its handling is more poised than the best of Detroit's truck-based sport utilities." -- The New York Times
  • "Overall: Unusually pleasant to drive." -- USA Today
  • "The highway ride is as smooth as you'd expect from any of the automaker's stately sedans, with the added benefit of being able to negotiate large rocks (or parking blocks) with exceptional composure. It's this silkiness that makes the SUV's confidence-inspiring cornering ability just that much more impressive." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The ML350 features a 3.5-liter 268-horsepower V6, while the ML550 comes with a 382-horsepower V8. The high-performance ML63 comes with an AMG 6.3-liter V8. The ML320 Bluetec features a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel that produces 210 horsepower. Most reviewers agreed that the gasoline-powered ML350, though the least powerful of the M-Class models, is more than adequate. According to the EPA, it achieves 15/20 mpg city/highway, while the diesel model achieves 18/24 mpg.

  • "The ML350 delivers plenty of smooth power around town and on the highway, though it can feel labored climbing long grades. The ML550 furnishes noticeably more thrust, but unless you tow heavy loads, it may be overkill." -- Consumer Guide
  • "This muscle SUV had me flooring it whenever I could to get the engine to come to life." -- Cars.com
  • "Five speeds are common, six exemplary, so Mercedes' seven-speed gearbox is a bragging point. To manually use those seven gears, you tap buttons on the back side of the steering wheel (the side toward the front of the vehicle). That works dandy." -- USA Today
  • "My ML320 tester's BlueTech was almost as vibration-free on start-up and acceleration as a six-or eight-cylinder gasoline engine. No oily diesel smell could be detected inside the vehicle. And acceleration was strong from a standing start thanks to a turbocharger and four valves per cylinder." -- Newsday
  • "The ML350 BlueTEC that I drove delivered seamless power without a bit of noisy clatter or oily stink. Whether driving around town or at highway speeds, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference in refinement from a gas engine." -- Arizona Republic
  • "Punch the pedal at a stop sign with the ML320 BlueTEC and, despite its weight of nearly two and one-half tons, it fairly leaps forward. Once moving, there's no lack of power at any time. The same engine is used in the heavier R320 and GL320 but they feel nearly as spirited." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • "[T]here'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." -- Edmunds
  • "This diesel is touchy and uppity. It takes some time to figure out how to finesse it because it's pretty hyper. I was snapping everyone's heads around for a day or so until I got used to it. Technically it's called torque, but I call it herky-jerky. Whatever you call it, it required me to make some adjustments to the way I drove." -- Mother Proof

Handling and Braking

The 2009 M-Class features a body-on-frame structure with twist resistance, giving it a solid feel. But its power rack-and-pinion steering and brakes received mixed reviews.

  • "Test drives on twisting mountain roads showed the M-Class to have quick steering with Mercedes' slightly heavy, but reassuring, feel." -- MSN
  • "The steering is slow and slightly numb to the touch, discouraging maneuvers that might upset a copasetic cruise." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The one failing in the M-Class' performance repertoire is its braking -- I'm not sure how you build such a powerful vehicle and don't give it the most responsive brakes possible. The 13-inch ventilated four-wheel disc brakes stopped the car, but the mushy brake pedal feel led to poor response at almost every stop sign, light or congested road." -- Cars.com
  • "Handling of this five-passenger mini-truck is superb for an SUV or even for a passenger car, and ride can be adjusted from comfy to extra-firm with the optional suspension system." -- Newsday
  • "ML handles well, particularly for a tall heavyweight, but I found the steering to be vague and numb, especially straight ahead at highway speed." -- Arizona Republic
  • "Straight-line stability is great, but these wagons are too tall, weighty, and top heavy to be truly agile. The steering is impressively linear and accurate, though its effort in turns can feel too heavy. Strong stopping control is augmented by outstanding brake-pedal modulation." -- Consumer Guide

Towing and Hauling

All M-Class models are rated at a 5,000-pound towing capacity with the available Class III trailer hitch. Several reviewers recommended the high-torque diesel model for towing needs.

  • "For those who want the towing capability of a V8 with the fuel mileage of a frugal four-cylinder, the ML320 CDI diesel is an excellent choice." -- Kelley Blue Book

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