It has been a lot of years since I have had a Mercedes Benz ML 350 SUV, and I can tell you that it has not been high on my recommendation list. When the ML came out 14 years or so ago, it was unique and exciting. That gave way to numerous quality issues and frankly, it ruined me on the vehicle, although that was probably unfair. The all-new 2012 has changed all that and made my bad memories fade away.
Much has changed for the 2012 ML 350, from the exterior sheet metal to a much-improved interior. At first glance you don’t know all that much changed, but after you study it a little, you start to notice the aggressiveness of the design, including 19″ spoke alloy wheels.
Under the hood, Mercedes has a 3.5-liter V6 that is super quiet and super smooth. I was concerned about the horsepower, only 302, but it has plenty of power and acceleration. It also comes with one of the best shifting transmissions I’ve ever driven, the Mercedes 7-speed automatic. It totally maximizes smoothness, power, and fuel economy.
The interior had a needed makeover and is now as nice as any SUV out there. The mixture of deep, rich leather and beautiful wood trim is stunning when you open either front door. It is not unlike walking into one of the finest hotels in the world. My test vehicle has the tan interior with a white exterior, a beautiful combination.
Equipment-wise, the ML comes very well appointed but it will cost you $5000 to get the navigation system, rear camera, heated and cooled cup holders, and a few other items like Sirius radio, but all in all, it’s a good package.
The ride is excellent, which you would expect with any 5000 pound vehicle. The surprise was the handling. I jerked it hard left and then back hard right at a little over 40 miles per hour in a test of the stability control and it passed with flying colors. I never felt threatened in the least. All ML models are all-wheel drive, which gives it a nice feel.
One feature I always enjoy is Park Assist. The vehicle will measure parallel parking spaces for proper size, then at your command, will park itself. It’s just a wonderful thing to watch, even though I’ve had a number of cars that will do this, I think the Benz folks do it the most seamless of any automaker.
The DOWN side, the ML 350 doesn’t offer a third row seat. The good news offset to that is a very comfortable second row seat for two or three people and a lot of cargo area, accessed by a power liftgate.
The 2012 ML 350 is pricey at first glance, but all things considered, it is actually a good buy and stacks up nicely to its chief rivals the BMW X5 and Lexus RX350.
If you have owned or looked at an ML in the past and did not love it, take a look at the 2012, it is a whole new ballgame!
What I liked most: The new interior and exterior look.
What I would change if I could: I would like the option of a 3rd row seat.
MSRP as tested: $61,595
Fuel Economy: Rated 17 in town, 22 on the highway, and doing better on the highway.
2012 ML 350 in a few words: A great driving machine with a wonderful interior.