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New for 2013, the Mercedes-Benz gets an optional rear-wheel drive, as well as electronics to reduce the risk of accidents. Staying on the outside, LED running lights are standard, and the more aggressive look is complimented by lighter weight materials and 19-inch wheels. Moving to the inside, designers went the opposite way with the ML350, rounding more surfaces.
See our picks for best SUVs in the CarsDirect SUV Buying Guide.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV now has improved build quality on the inside both with the leather as well as A/C controls. There is also the seven-inch navigation and information center. Seating is comfortable for four, though it could be tight for five on longer trips. For those longer trips, though, standard heated front seats and optional massage features may help. So, too, would the Bluetooth-accessible stereo which also works with CDs, DVDs and mobile device inputs.
The driver will also appreciate the 3.5-liter V6 making 302 horsepower while still getting 18 MPG in the city and 23 on the highway. There are also diesel and turbocharged options for those who want better fuel economy or quicker acceleration, though the base model can still get to 60 MPH in just under seven seconds. If the curves come a bit too quickly, the ML350 has a nine standard airbags and lane-departure detection systems as an option.
In spite of both the power and the safety features, the ride is comfortable for a mid-size luxury SUV, yet offers good handling through the curves and a light feel behind the wheel. An optional Dynamic Handling package can tighten things up even more.
Of course, there are alternatives that some buyers may want to consider. The BMW X5 has a full-seven seats, but can't store things on the roof and turns a bit more slowly. The 2013 Lexus RX350 gets better fuel mileage on the highway, but those in the north will worry about the lack of ground clearance. The 2013 Volvo XC90 allows for shifting on the fly, but the cramped rear seats may irk passengers. Those who want seven seats may want to opt for the 2013 Acura MDX, but it also suffers from a smaller rear cabin and fewer airbags.
However, there are strong options within the ML350 line thanks to various optional packages for buyers to consider.
The ML350 offers a variety of features especially entertainment and navigation features for the driver. For the audiophile, there is an enhanced stereo with 10 GB of storage, iPod and MP3 capabilities. To help keep drivers' eyes on the road, there is voice control of the navigation and stereo systems, as well as the Bluetooth cell phone connection. A rear-view camera adds safety, while an AC outlet in the back can provide options for young ones. Comfort for the driver is also improved, with power tilt and telescoping steering column and a 10-way power driver seat.