Mercedes-Benz 3.2L SOHC V-6 What's not to like here? Although Mercedes' first-ever V-6 offers its utmost of 215 hp at a relatively high 5,500 rpm, this engine's urging 233 lbs.-ft. (316 Nm) dollop of torque peaks at just 3,000 rpm, making it a surprisingly energetic motivator for the ML320 sport/utility vehicle (SUV).

The ML hits the scales at the 4,387-lb. (1,990-kg) mark, and several office doubting-Thomas types figured Mercedes' 3-valve V-6, efficient though it is, would be overmatched by the ML320's curb weight.

Not so. We've said it before, we'll say it again: The ML320 has the best on-the-road acceleration and cruising power of any V-6 equipped SUV. And there's no quibbling with this modular V-6's non-power/torque credentials. The twin-spark cylinder ensures exacting use of the intake charge andkeeps emissions low.

And we're convinced about Mercedes' Flexible Service System (FSS), the electronic watchdog that monitors engine conditions, oil level and driving style, optimizing the interval between oil changes.

Mileage is beginning to pile up on the ML, largely because the word is out regarding what a truly rewarding drive the M-Class delivers. Dynamically, Mercedes' SUV is way ahead of what everyone else selling truck-based SUVs offers; ride and handling are unsurpassed and the steering is an absolute dream.

You doubtless have been exposed to the idea that the M-Class, built in Alabama, is not constructed to Mercedes' legendary standards. Although we've had some brief skirmishes with minor components, there's been little else to cause umbrage. The chunky windshield-wiper stalk turned out to be not so robust as it appears when a clumsy move snapped it off at the base. And the small washer-nozzle fitting on the rear wiper arm lost its life to the winter-time whacking of an ice scraper. Both items Mercedes happily replaced under warranty, although, in truth, both were broken as the result of negligence.

Fuel economy from the spunky 3.2L V-6 has proved a fully acceptable 18.2 mpg (12.9L/100 km). Not a killer number, but certainly not bad for a heavyish vehicle, all-wheel drive and V-6 power. Our only concern continues to be with occasionally sleepy low-speed throttle response and sometimes-lazy coordination with the 5-speed automatic transmission.

We're hugely impressed with this engine and the ML in general. Most of us find SUVs generally annoying to drive, but not so the M-Class. And the 3.2L V-6 serves more than just yeoman duty here: It performs far better than its numbers would suggest, displays far more refinement than many SUV makers deem necessary, and is so far quite economical to operate. Consider the outstanding driveline and genuinely entertaining dynamic abilities and the ML320's base price of $34,950 is a bargain.