The ML320 is a small SUV with a diesel engine and surprising off-road capabilities. The car can be had with skid plates, and its air suspension and off-road mode prepare it for tackling the mud.
The front of the hood drops down pretty radically from the windshield, giving the front grille a sedan-look.
The 3-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine puts out 398 lb-ft of torque and 215 horsepower, giving the ML320 good initial acceleration.
In configuration, the ML320 resembles other small SUVs, with seating for four and a rear cargo area.
The ML320 needs low sulfur diesel fuel, which has been mandated for passenger cars in the U.S. But diesel emissions mean the ML320 isn't available in five states, including New York and California.
We like how the rear window seems to wrap around to the rear side windows.
The cabin of the ML320 has the luxury fit and finish we would expect from Mercedes-Benz.
The car has good steering response, although its high center of gravity precludes fast cornering.
The speedo and tach have nice, watch dials, while the screen between them shows useful information.
The fiddly knob on the lower right of the screen is very annoying to use. The keypad is useless unless you have a phone hooked up to the car.
The buttons below the climate controls offer off-road and suspension settings.
The navigation system includes this compass screen, useful for off-roading with information such as degree of wheel turn and elevation.
The maps on the navigation system have great resolution, but they don't show enough street names.
With this interface, you must pull the joystick down to select items from the screen, or press the bezel buttons to change modes.
We like the route guidance on the ML320, which uses rich graphics to indicate upcoming turns.
To load CDs, you need to press the Eject button, which causes the LCD to motor open.
An optional six disc changer is mounted in the glove box, along with an auxiliary input.
The big screen makes it easy to select radio and satellite radio stations.
With the MP3 CD interface, you can play a folder or drill down to the individual tracks. Unfortunately, the stereo doesn't show ID3 tagging information.
The ML320 includes optional sonar park distance sensors and a rear-view camera, essential in an SUV.