Like the ML350, the silver ML550 I tested had a big, bold grille with a large three-pointed star in it. This predominant feature lets everyone on the road know some money was spent on this SUV. I'm not sure if that was the intended effect, but if you want status, the M-Class has it displayed right out front.

The emblem doesn't detract from the overall styling, though; everything about this SUV is big and bold. Unlike the middle-of-the-road previous generation, the current M-Class can stand out on the road. Small details like carved taillights and numerous creases along the body show that Mercedes spent some time on the design. Silver is, of course, the most boring of car colors, but matched with the large exhaust outlets, the metal-topped sideboards and that grille, it looked great. During the 10 days I had this car, I passed a number of models in black, white and dark red that were all equally striking.

Inside, the cabin is dark and elegant — dark because the black leather in our test car covered every inch of interior space. There's little room left for the dark wood accents, which I thought were too subtle in this color scheme. Gray and tan leather are also available, as is aluminum trim.

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