Mercedes-Benz moved upmarket with the second-generation ML, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

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Engines – Petrol and diesel engines are well represented here, although the popular choice will always be the latter if you plan on keeping at least some of your money in the bank. The rate of progress in recent years has been such that you’ll barely notice the difference refinement-wise, and diesel will always win the day when it comes to towing and off-roading.

Exterior – Presenting a more refined and streamlined profile than its predecessor, this second-generation M-Class has been styled to closer resemble its premium saloon car stablemates. And like its sport utility vehicle rivals, the M-Class is a big beast – there’s no mistaking this for anything else in the supermarket car park.

Interior – Along with the exterior styling overhaul, the ML’s interior was redesigned to be more luxurious than previously. There’s no shortage of space either, and the refined cabin ambience is easily a match for that of an E-Class saloon.

Driving – While the first M-Class was a bit rough around the edges this second-generation model will be a revelation to fans of the Mercedes SUV. More car-like in its behaviour and boasting more powerful and refined engines, this ML takes urban, rural and motorway driving in its stride. It’s also a handy tool for off-roading or towing, with the former activity boosted by an optional ‘extreme’ off-roading pack designed to give the transmission and suspension more versatility in tricky conditions.

Ownership – If you’ve got the space for one outside your house and are adept at driving something the size of an ML around town then Mercedes’ premium SUV will easily slot into your life. As a high-rise E-Class it does a fine job of cosseting occupants, while its spacious cabin offers many different loading options. Pick a torquey diesel and you’ll have no problems off the road and you might even benefit from unexpectedly modest running costs.

What to look for – Given the usual habitat for such cars there’s more chance of seeing a parking dent on an ML than underbody damage due to over-enthusiastic off-roading. That said, always check underneath for signs of damage and, if fitted, ask what the tow hitch has been connected to. Inside the cabin it should be spotless as exaggerated signs of wear and tear could signal a particularly hard life. And along with evidence of a detailed service history don’t forget to conduct a thorough test-drive of this complex car.

Model history – 2005, Mercedes launches its second-generation M-Class SUV with a greater emphasis on refinement and occupant comfort. Above-average kit levels and engine (diesel and petrol) choice result in genuine premium feel and performance, with off-road ability comparable to Range Rover products.

Reasons to buy – Off-roading and towing ability, cabin refinement, on-road performance, looks.

Reasons to beware – Large vehicle for urban use, thirsty petrol engines.

Pick of the range – ML 320 CDI SE.

What to pay – 2005 55 £14,400; 2006 06 £15,925; 2006 56 £16,500; 2007 07 £18,125; 2007 57 £18,750; 2008 08 £20,900; 2008 58 £21,650. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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