Friday, June 22, 2012

Good gets even better with Mercedes SUV

BULLETIN: I will be blogging from NASCAR's Toyota/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma this weekend - mg

Sacramento, California – Don’t you just love it when good gets better?

Take the 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML550 4MATIC sport-utility vehicle, for example.  The third generation of this all-wheel drive SUV is better in every way.  Bigger, more powerful and more structurally solid than its predecessor, this M-B crowd carrier is a fine addition to any driveway.

Naturally, you have to be ready to pay -- $57,590 to start on my tester, which was liberally dressed up in extras to tip the scales at $66,000 and change.

Never being one to dwell on the irony of testing a vehicle I can’t afford, I dug right in.  So did the ML550.

Just a slight nudge on the gas caused the tires to seemingly immerse themselves in the pavement, pressing me into my cockpit seat and giving my heart a start.  They weren’t telling tall tales with the horsepower and torque ratings of 402 and 443 foot-pounds, respectively.

For all the juice, steering was remarkably just-right firm and comfortable.  Even loaded up with cargo, the tester offered no resistance.  It just moved ahead with smooth and quiet grace.  Luxury liner?  Ah, yes.

The seven-speed adaptive automatic transmission, by the way, was a sweet, seamless piece of engineering.  I actually found time to savor the magnificent cruising sensation amid a blizzard of comfort/convenience features.  Mercedes-Benz did not hold back on the perks in this model, stuffing it with enough goodies to keep even the most relentless button-pusher happily occupied.

It’s a small touch, but one I like: running boards.  Typically, I have to sort of fall out of the cockpit seat of a big-shouldered SUV.  Not so here.  A light step onto the running board, and I’m on my way.

All this is accompanied by an incredibly long list of safety and security features – top tier equipment under Mercedes’ hand.

Fuel mileage was – sheesh! – only 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. That hurts.

I also was not fond of the optional blind spot assistance system, which was slow on the draw.  I don’t need a warning when I’ve blown 50 yards beyond a car that was just recently in a blind spot in the adjacent lane.

Overall, this ML550 does the automaker proud.  Congratulations to those who have the funds to buy one off the lot.

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