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.