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Popes to parents to anyone in between will revel in the beauty of Mercedes’ ML400

CASEY WILLIAMS  | Auto Reviewer

My mother drove my grandmother around in her Mercedes for years, so she knows what a world-class German car is like. But because my father worked at General Motors for 30 years, she’d never owned anything but a GM. So when I left her and my daughter in the ML400 while hopping into a coffee shop, I thought nothing of it.

“I could take this one home,” she said when I got back. “Usually when you tell me the price of your cars, I think, ‘I wouldn’t pay that, even if I could afford it.’ But, this one, I would. There’s nothing I don’t like about it.”

It’s an easy car to like. The interior of our ML came in auburn brown and black leather. Heated and ventilated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel take the sting out of any weather. My mom also liked the retractable panorama glass roof, divine Harman/Kardon audio system, and matte-sanded ash wood trim.

While my mom didn’t realize it at first, the ML is loaded with technology. Navigation, rearview camera and Bluetooth/audio streaming are as expected, but our ML also came with a surround-view camera system, lane keep assist, radar-guided cruise control and forward collision avoidance systems. She never even noticed the joywheel-controlled infotainment system.

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Mom was also struck by the exterior — especially the steel gray metallic paint. She’s a big fan of blue. Add 20-in. AMG 5-spoke alloy wheels, chrome doorhandle surrounds and chrome valance in the rear to sport it out. There’s no mistaking the big three-pointed star that dominates the grille, LED driving lamps or the rear fender creases taken from the half-century passed Ponton models.

Mother is a lead foot, and if she had been behind the wheel, would surely have earned a ticket. The truck’s 3.0-liter biturbo V6 delivers 329 horses and 18/22-MPG city/hwy. A 7-speed automatic transmission is super smooth and optimizes fuel economy. The vehicle’s size and all-wheel-drive aren’t exactly ideal for counting calories, but start/stop technology helps save dollars. Step on it off the line or hauling down the freeway and you’ll know a Mercedes is pushing your bum.

The same is true of the chassis. The adjustable 4-wheel independent suspension can be set for Comfort or Sport, the former providing an old-world wafting Mercedes ride while the later reminds you who owns AMG. In either mode, the big wagon is composed over any surface, although Sport will rattle your teeth on rough roads. Need to ford a stream or whisk through a foot of snow? Raise the suspension and go forth.

If you don’t want to take my or my mother’s word for it, Mercedes has a slightly higher endorsement. An ML is among the Pope’s official fleet. While his predecessors did not quibble over cost, Pope Francis may balk at the ML’s base price of $48,300 (a whopping $79,310 as tested). One ride and he may decide it’s too heavenly to pass up.

Competition comes from BMW X5, Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7 and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 9, 2015.