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The M-Class SUV first made an appearance in the U.S. market in 1998 in the form of the ML320, but that wasn’t enough for the SUV-hungry American market. The ML430 and ML500 quickly followed suit. In the 2008 model year, the ML-Class grew yet again with the addition of the ML550, which was placed just below the range-topping ML63 AMG.
For the 2013 model year, the ML550 is completely unchanged from the 2012 model year. It comes fitted with an impressive twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8 engine that pumps out 402 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. This powerful engine mates to a seven-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to all four wheels through the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system.
This powertrain is perfectly balanced for utility and sport, as it can get the ML550 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds and to a 130 mph top speed, yet also affords a 7,200-pound towing capacity. On top of that, the it gets a respectable 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
The ML550 completes the package with plenty of features. It features top-end items like an in-dash DVD player, 19-inch alloy wheels, sport ground effects and heated front seats. Safety is also a top priority, as the ML550 comes standard with 11-way airbag protection and a host of systems like Attention Assist and adaptive braking.
With a price tag near $60,000 -- high when compared to its competition -- the ML550 should have leather upholstery, not the fancifully-named MB-Tex vinyl. The ML also gets a black eye for its numb steering system, which dulls the driving experience in this performance-oriented SUV.
The ML550 has plenty of standard features: an automatic-adjusting suspension system; adaptive braking; Trailer Stability Assist; 19-inch five-spoke wheels; LED daytime running lights; a power rear hatch; aluminum roof rails; sport ground effects; a leather-wrapped, four-spoke multifunction steering wheel; burled walnut trim; MB-Tex (synthetic leather) upholstery; heated and power front seats; a universal garage door opener; and an AM/FM/CD/DVD audio system with Bluetooth audio streaming and a 7-inch LCD screen.
Low base price, sports-car-like handling and tons of luxury, but underpowered and expensive options
Super-luxurious interior and Infiniti's build quality, but slightly pricier and not as quick
Lower base price and xDrive50i performs similarly, but also has faux leather as standard and low base power
Stylish new body, fully loaded and much cheaper, but lacks power and much slower to 60 mph