DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Call me old fashioned, but I expect a lot out of a Mercedes, particularly if it's a five-passenger SUV that stickers for around $63, 000. For those of you who've become desensitized, that's a lot of scratch, despite all the other German trucksters that assume they're worth just as much or more.
To be fair, that money buys you pretty much everything, including Mercedes' excellent COMAND system with navigation, the fancy corner-carving air suspension and enough electronic assists to ensure you'll be notified whenever road conditions require you to look up from your smartphone. Carpet, trim and switchgear are all first-rate, but so are competitors' interiors for significantly less money. Is anyone cross-shopping Lincoln and Mercedes? Probably not, but the MKX, for example, offers an equally elegant environment and most of the e-nannies for $15k less.
I actually find Mercedes' lane-keeping system to be among the least annoying of the pack, and the parking guides perform their function without undue fanfare. Attention Assist can bite me, though - the system wigged out just as I was getting ready to pull off the freeway, making me think I was about to slam into the side of a semi. I was wide awake, but apparently I'd been steady-state driving for too long and the algorithm decided I must be drowsy.
After putting about 200 miles on the ML without even using a half-tank of gas, I began to wonder about the fuel mileage. The trip computer was recording about 21 mpg in mostly highway driving, so I checked the specs and discovered this bruiser has a 25-gallon fuel tank that demands premium. Even my math-averse mind can calculate a roughly $90 fill-up at today's depressed prices, so keep that in mind while you're shopping.
As for me, I'm kind of a cheapskate, so I have trouble understanding the appeal of an ML over something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee or even a larger Ford Explorer. But for those who are cross-shopping against a BMW X5 or the Lexus GX, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 4Matic is a nice-looking, comfortable, capable performer packed full of all the things that make a Mercedes a Mercedes.