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Steering, suspension and comfort

Mercedes seems to have veered off the dynamism beam, so often found in SUVs like the X5, and the ML is no worse for it. Evidently, Mercedes thinks that not everyone wants an SUV that hopes to display hot hatch levels of keenness.

The M-Class, then, rolls on standard coil springs (as on most rivals bar the standard air-suspended Range Rover Sport) with a relaxed, loping gait. Body control is looser than you’ll find in a Cayenne or X5 but, by contrast, rolling comfort is superior. There’s little wind and road noise (which actually serves to make the engine’s occasional grumble all the more noticeable), and at low speeds the ML steers with surprising lightness

Ask a lot of the M-Class’s chassis and it will display a lazy kind of response that you’d expect

That’s down to a variable-assistance steering set-up that loses its appealing low-speed oiliness as speeds rise, ostensibly filling the gap with a less assisted, heavier feel that’s meant to promote straight-line stability. 

What it does in practice is to give the M-Class a slightly inconsistent theme: a light-steering, relatively easy-going SUV at lower speeds, but one that becomes a less willing and, crucially, less relaxed companion as its pace increases. 

It doesn’t help that the ML feels its weight if you decide to press on a bit. Do so and the car heaves over on to its springs as it displays a lack of agility that would be fine if accompanied by easy-going steering but is curiously unsatisfying with a heavier set-up. No, best to stick with what the ML does best: let it roll, easily and calmly, and don’t upset the balance.

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That is, unless, you’re piloting the ML63 AMG. Here, the active anti-roll bars and ‘Active Curve System’ transform the soft base ML into a responsive, grippy and composed performance car. It seemingly refuses to pitch, roll or dive.