First Drive: Mercedes-Benz ML320 BlueTec

By Jonathan Spira on 23 November 2009
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Mercedes, which pioneered diesel-powered passenger cars back in the 30s, has continued to demonstrate its commitment to diesel in the United States with a variety of models over the years including the legendary 240D and, more recently, an E-Class sedan with a diesel engine.2009 ML320 BlueTec

With the introduction of Mercedes’ BlueTec technology, which allows the company to sell diesel cars in states with strict emissions laws such as New York and California by virtue of a system that injects urea into the exhaust stream to chemically remove oxides of nitrogen, the company has several new diesel-powered models to choose from.

One is the ML320 BlueTec.  The second-generation M-Class was refreshed for 2009 with new bumpers and headlights, a modified grill, bigger mirrors, and updated seats and door panels – not to mention the diesel engine.2009 ML320 BlueTEC_Vermont_BlueTEC_111_MLa_large

The interior was typical Mercedes, with comfortable seats and good ergonomics although the ML is starting to show its age.

Driving was a different story.  It was also the only diesel we’ve tested thus far that felt, well, slow.  Slow is how diesels used to feel but that’s not what one expects from today’s offerings.  Indeed, passing slower vehicles on a highway required planning ahead as the engine’s power peaks at 2400 rpm.

Fuel economy was also somewhat low.  I averaged 24 mpg on the highway but 20 mpg overall, somewhat lower than I expected although close to the EPA figures.  Still, there figures are far better than most other vehicles in its class.


Mercedes ML320 BlueTec
Base price/price-as-tested $49.475/$62,610
Drivetrain Front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine 3.0-liter V-6
Max hp 210
Max torque (pound-feet) 398
Curb weight


Wheelbase (inches) 114.7
Length x width x height (inches) 188.5 x 76.3 x 71.5
0-60 mph (seconds) 8.0
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 18/24