2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Bob McHugh

Photo Gallery: 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI

Surrey, British Columbia – Two very different vehicles have been added to the M-Class line-up for the 2007 model year, a high-performance ML63 AMG and the long-awaited diesel-powered ML320 CDI, the subject of this review.

In addition to good fuel economy, the new 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine can produce a whopping 398 lb-ft. of torque: that’s more pulling power than the big V8 gasoline engine in the ML500 can provide.

It’s been nine years since we were introduced to ML, the first sport utility vehicle produced by Mercedes-Benz, and its first North American built vehicle. On the forefront of an industry-wide shift to a more car-like “crossover” utility vehicle design, the M-Class had a four-wheel independent suspension attached to a specially designed chassis, instead of one borrowed from a truck.

The original ML won numerous automotive awards, including Canadian Car of the Year, and last year (2006) it was completely redesigned. Beneath sleeker new styling there was also a switch to a fully integrated unit-body chassis as well as a double-wishbone front suspension and a new four-link rear suspension.
Although bigger all around and roomier on the inside, the second generation ML still isn’t so large that it’s difficult to park or manoeuvre. It provides seats for five, lots of cargo space and an adaptable interior that still lives up to luxury buyer expectations.

2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI. Click image to enlarge

The base price for an ML320CDI is $59,800, which is $1,500 more than the ML350, but still $13,000 below the ML500. My test ML320CDI came with both Sport ($2,500) and Premium ($4,300) packages and a total price tag of $66,600.

Last year’s redesign of the ML followed the curvaceous and bolder styling theme that’s been transforming the Mercedes line-up. It also expanded the ML’s vital statistics by making it 150 mm longer, 71 mm wider and gave it a 93 mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor

An aggressive looking grille has a jumbo version of the famous three-point star up front. The sculptured hood has an eye-catching central power-dome and the shape accentuates massive headlamp assemblies.

2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI. Click image to enlarge

Inside, my test ML came with an upholstery upgrade with rich looking suede inserts – it’s all part of the Sport package that also includes blue-tint glass, 19-inch wheels and race-style pads on the foot pedals.

Four large, circular air vents dominate a dash design that features a heavily hooded instrument panel with a trip information display between chrome trimmed dials. Rear passengers are the primary beneficiaries of the extra inside room, by way of extra knee and legroom.

There’s up to 2,050 litres (72.4 cubic feet) of flexible cargo room, via a fold-down rear seat that’s split 60/40. Two handy options that aid loading and unloading are a power liftgate and an adjustable bar storage system, for different size loads.
The power seat controls are no longer positioned on the door panel: instead they’ve been moved to the side of the seat cushion. Not sure why other than cost, as it’s definitely not as convenient.

New options for 2007 are a rear seat entertainment system, a rear-view camera, and a Bluetooth interface for cell phones for hands-free operation.

For rollover safety, a sensor that can activate the seat belt tensioner and the side curtain air bags if the vehicle senses an imminent rollover is included. An electronic stability control (called ESP) system is also standard.

2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI. Click image to enlarge

Although a good rear seat child seat installation wasn’t too difficult there were some hurdles. To get a level fit on the sloped seat cushion requires some padding (a rolled towel), the tether anchorages are awkward to reach from the seat position and the head restraints may hinder some child seat installations.

On the road, the ML treats you to an upper-class driving environment with a comfortable yet supportive driver’s seat and a steering wheel with a nice substantial feel. Driver vision is particularly good, although the side mirrors are on small side.

Still the ML is less of a “driver car” than you normally expect when you get behind the wheel of a Mercedes. I point to functional and space saving driver controls like the steering column-mounted stalk-style electric shifter and the foot-operated park brake.

I never did get completely used to push-button “Park” and the limp shifter movement wasn’t particularly satisfying. On the other hand, rocker switches on the backside of the steering wheel, that allowed you to shift gears manually, were fun and easy to use.

The new 3.2-litre diesel engine is also another matter. It’s as clean running as the ML’s gasoline engines and almost as quiet. When you’re inside the ML, the difference is even less noticeable, acceleration is about the same as the ML350 but fuel economy is significantly better, it goes considerably further on a tank of fuel, and diesel fuel is generally less expensive.

2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI
2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI. Click image to enlarge

While this CDI (common-rail diesel injection) engine meets tougher new Canadian and most US state emission requirements, it’s not a Bluetec – the cleanest of all diesels. Currently the only vehicle with a Bluetec diesel engine is the Mercedes E320.

The ML comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system. A new feature of the ML’s electronically controlled four-wheel drive system is a hill-descent feature that Mercedes calls a Downhill Speed Regulator.

The steering is well balanced and precise and despite some body roll the ML is a very predictable through the curves. There’s plenty of passing power, even though the diesel engine red-lines at 4500 rpm. And around town it’s a fairly easy to manoeuvre and park.

Overall, I found that the Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers a nice balance of style, utility and performance. The ML320 CDI makes fuel conservation enjoyable.

Pricing: 2007 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI


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