The ML320 certainly is a big car, standing 6ft tall, although because of its streamlined, almost car-like shape it doesn't appear that imposing or slab-like on the road - it's certainly more aerodynamic than your usual brick privy-shaped 4x4 with a class-leading Cd-factor of 0.39. The ML320 is powered, as you might expect, by a Teutonically-efficient 3.2-litre V6 18-valve power train, delivering a really crunchy 218bhp at 5,000rpm and allowing 62mph to be reached from rest in just 9.5seconds, which is outstanding for a 4x4.
And it certainly feels like you've got enough power under your right foot to tackle most jobs thrown your way. It's practical, not just pretty, although in many cases I suspect it is more likely to travel the King's Road than off-road. But if you did take to the hills, the ML320 could tackle inclines as steep as 1:1, given the right conditions, and ford streams as deep as 24 inches, while the meaty tow hook on the back is utilitarian rather than just for show.
The ML320 comes with automatic transmission as standard, including a special low range gear ratio for rough terrain, continual four wheel drive and a revolutionary traction control system - 4-ETS - which is considered by many as a milestone in four-wheel drive systems. So it doesn't just pretend at being an off-roader, it really does have serious credentials.