The 2010 Mercedes ML450 Hybrid is the first full hybrid vehicle from Mercedes and, to better understand the experience of owning one, I sat in horrendous Los Angeles traffic for an hour.
Having driven the ML320 in diesel trim, I've never been convinced of the need for something like a hyrbid in the lineup. But it's what buyers want and the ML is a good platform for the company to test out their first full system.
This is an Atkinson cycle V6 with 279 HP and a pair of electric motors. Total power output is a robust 340 HP, giving it V8-like juice with a considerably better 21/24 MPG; the 2010 ML350 BlueTec diesel returns 18/25. The only trim this is available in is 4MATIC permanent AWD, which hurts it in terms of fuel economy but responds to market desires in this segment.
On the road it's clear traffic was maybe the best choice for driving this, as you get to experience the frequent starting-und-stopping and gobs of brake regeneration. Other than the fuel economy meter and "eco" or "sport" settings, the concept behind this hybrid is to make you feel good about yourself without paying for it in terms of driving feel.
Compared to clunkier systems, this stop/start engine is almost unnoticeable but for a slight kick in certain quick starts. Brake feel is fantastic, without a hint of regeneration. It allowed me time to act like a real LA driver and scream at others while tweeting about Tiger's mistress.
Overall it drove just like an ML but without the rush of torque you get in the diesel. If you must have a Mercedes SUV with a "Hybrid" badge, you can lease one (Mercedes isn't letting anyone buy one yet). Our advice? Put a hybrid sticker on an ML350 diesel instead.