From September 2009 issue

List price when tested: £40,912
Kerbweight: 2185kg
85% match: 1857kg
Max towing weight: 3500kg
Towball limit: 135kg
30-60mph: 10.7seconds
30-0mph: 10.5m

WITH A KERBWEIGHT north of two tonnes, there’s little the ML can’t tow. The high legal towing limit and hefty towball download speak of a car made with heavy-duty towing in mind.

The big diesel engine is more than strong enough to pull any suitable match. We hauled a 2008 Swift Charisma 650 from 30-60mph in just 10.7 seconds. The way the Merc stops is every bit as efficient as the way it goes, slowing from 30-0mph in just 10.5 metres on a damp test track.

Without a tourer the ML is just as impressive. The seven-speed automatic gearbox is responsive and smooth, and the ride is very comfortable. On twisting roads the Merc doesn’t match the agility of BMW X5. There’s more body roll and changes of direction aren’t so immediate. However, many drivers will be happier with the ML’s more supple suspension.

Inside, there’s plenty of head and legroom, but unlike most rivals the ML only has space for five passengers. If you want a seven-seat 4×4 with a three-pointed star on the bonnet you’ll have to pay the extra for a GL. The ML is expensive enough as it is, with a price tag the wrong side of £40,000. Respectable resale values are some compensation.

We say       
Towing: 4/5
Solo: 4/5
Practicality: 3/5
Buying & owning: 3/5

Verdict: 4/5 – A very competent towcar, but there are just five seats and the price is high.

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