The only noticeable changes on the new model that arrived with us a couple of weeks ago compared to the old are the colour, a metallic green to a dark metallic gun-metal grey - which my wife swears is a deep metallic blue, but then we never did see eye-to-eye over colour schemes! - and the spare wheel.
Not significant in its own right, you might think, but the new spare wheel (as opposed to the previous model, where the spare wheel was housed in a bracket attached to the chassis) is mounted on an external wheel bracket of tubular steel construction, attached to the tailgate and which needs several fit men working together to open and physically move. Only joking! But it is heavy, and appears to have a slightly unwieldy effect. I certainly feel aware of that extra weight when cornering and during other maneouvres.
Another problem is in ensuring the wheel carrier is securely fastened and you need a hefty size 10 boot to close it firmly shut, making sure it fits home with an audible click.
To do any less is to risk it swinging open while on the move - which can be rather disconcerting when driving along in tight packed lanes of traffic, to say the least. Mercedes-Benz is aware of this and the driver's manual carries the sound advice 'when locking the spare wheel bracket, ensure the catch engages properly' and the further warning 'do not drive with the spare wheel bracket swung out' - although you can't always rely on the driver to the follow the advice, of course!
On one occasion for example, my wife, on borrowing the ML320 to go to the Royal Horticultural Show, forgot to make sure the spare wheel carrier was firmly shut before driving home and was surprised when several motorists started flashing her.
The thing had broken loose and was swinging all over the place, which she found very nerve-racking at the time, forcing her to pull over on to the hard shoulder to sort the problem out.
Once you get used to it, of course, it becomes less of a problem and you soon become accustomed to applying your foot in the right spot - but I feel there ought to be some more obvious and easy way of securing the device which does not catch out first time users.
On a more satisfactory level, the ML320 has again shown its versatility in the load and people-carrying areas, coming to the fore at a recent jazz festival in our local town of Oundle where we needed to move a large number of trestle tables to accommodate our party of 20 revellers.
A rearrangement of the rear seats at a push of two buttons, and the station wagon swallowed up six tables and 20 folding chairs in one gulp, as well as carrying three people to help set them up. Now that's what I call load-carrying!