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Mercedes-Benz M-class vs Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer vs Buick Rendezvous vs Acura MDX



  • ncjudgencjudge Posts: 30
    I, too, have driven the MDX, Rendezvous, Explorer and Mountaineer, most several times.

    Contrary to a post above, the 2nd row seats do tilt forward in the MDX. Getting to the third row, is easier in the RDZ and the Explorer. But I sat in the third row of the RDZ, and had less legroom than in the MDX AND felt physically walled off from the rest of the vehicle with the 2nd row seatbacks upright. THe Explorer and MDX 3rd rows were much more comfortable to me, at 6"0" and 185 lbs. I'm not aware of a weight limit on the MDX 3rd row, but if there is one, I would love to have documentation of that, as it would affect my decision on an SUV.

    I realize that this doesn't comport with the published leg room for these vehicles, but this was my impression.

    Also, I would not recommend the Volvo, Audi, or any other wagon with the so-called third seat for children.Those seats are far less useful than the SUV 3rd seats I've sat in, AND face backwards. We would not put our children in them.

    I don't own any of these SUV's yet, and have no axe to grind for or against any of them. Just my observations.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    You just keep giving me more ammunition..
    Yes..I've driven 2002 Explorer, not the 2001. If you want to compare, drive them both..treviews are quite subjective. Test drives are free.
    The Explorer Sport is a COMPLETELY different vehicle. Its a two door version of the 2001 model. The "sport" has a solid rear axle, different transmission, and has none of the safety or handling improvements of the 2002 comparison.
    There is NO manual available in the 2002 Explorer.
    Crash tests? I was using the IIHS figures, the 40mph offset crash and rollover test..far more "real world" IMO.
    Why would you pay more for ML than for Explorer Limited? Drive one and find out. Same reason you'd pay more for a Porsche when a Mustang Cobra is just as fast. Same reason you'd buy a Lexus versus a Toyota.
    Why the lower sales numbers?
    1) Its a luxury vehicle...fewer people can afford em. Using your example, how many Explorer LTD/EB models sold vs the ML? Direct comparison please. The base model isn't even in the same class.
    2) People (like you?) haven't driven the ML and don't know any better
    I seriously wonder if you've actually driven the ML..take a look at Thor's pic above if you want to see an example of the design and quality of these vehicles. I suggest you actually drive the Mercedes before making comparisons.
    Oh.. a final point...The free market seems to agree with me on Mercedes durability vs Ford. 4 year lease residuals are at 52% for ML320, and 40% for the Explorer (
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Good point on those seats. To allow access to rear seat in MDX however, the 40% section slides, and seatback folds. However, that section does not tumble forward like on Expl, ML, or Rendezvous. The entire 2nd row of the Rendezvous (and ML) slides forward to allow more legroom for rear occupants. Like this, you can fit adults comfortably in the back, while still enough room in 2nd row. The ML probably has the most comfortable 3rd row, however, also the hardest to configure. Unlike the others, the ML 3rd row does NOT fold flat into the floor, and you have to use the supplied floorplates to get a flat loadfloor with 2nd row folded down. Its basically like most german cars...hard to use, but works beautifully when you do.However, if you plan to change configurations often, ML is not a good choice.
    Just as an aside, I was in the same position as you. I came into this completely objectively. I've owned 1 Ford before (happily) and no GM, Mercedes, or Acura vehicles. I've driven and researched all the vehicles talked about here, and basically..I just call em like I see em. While I may upset some of the diehard "Ford Truck" purists be it. I loved my Taurus SHO...Ford still sells quality cars..unfortunately they stay in Europe and never seem to make it over here..(Mondeo...sigh).
  • Although I'm not gonna argue the EB vs Limited vs Benz deal, I thought I'd throw in my two cents worth.

    We just picked up our 2002 XLT tonight. V-8, tow pack, 3rd seat, premium sound (the one mistake the dealer made...we didn't order it), and side airbags. Got it for invoice, but had to wait 6 weeks. It was just a tad over $28K out the door, and given our needs and choice of finances, it was the best vehicle I could find to meet them. Now for my impression.

    Fit and finish are excellent. Not a Benz, but I didn't expect that. Ride is very good, although admittedly I didn't take it over anything challenging. Acceleration felt very good...took it on the freeway, and although I didn't romp it, it got up to 70 quickly. It was very squeaks or rattles. Handling and driver input/feedback were impressive. I noticed a little hesitation shifting occasionally, but have read it is common when they are new. Stereo is good for a factory unit, but I'm used to the tunes in my F-150 and Legend which are fairly high-dollar aftermarket units. But I guess the thing that suprised me the most was the 3rd seat. Although I had looked at them before we ordered, I had never actually sat in the rear seat. I was impressed. I'm 6' 2", and though the seat sits low, there was adequate legroom. My knees did not touch the 2nd row seats. I wouldn't want to ride in it for 1000 miles, but it's a good design for occasional use to carry more than 4 people. And as far as I'm concerned, the 2nd row tilt-forward design is very good.

    Overall, I'm very impressed with the new design, as well as the build quality. This is my wife's car, and she likes it so far also. It will tow my boat, her hoss trailer (in fact, probably both at the same time), and a gaggle o' kids once or twice a year to birthday parties or Whitewater Bay. I can't say I drove a Benz to compare it simply didn't meet our needs, nor would it fit my budget. I could afford it...I simply chose not to. Now for the killer...

    It's got a V-8, that WONDERFUL new car smell, and I don't get to drive it!!!
  • rpageaurpageau Posts: 94
    This discussion is a real hoot, and I would love to see more people weigh in with their opinions. I have no standing here to add anything, as I am not in the market for any of these vehicles (in fact I bought a 2002 TrailBlazer in March). I just enjoy reading some of the other discussions on the board for educational purposes.

    I have no love for Explorers, don't trust them, wouldn't own one. However, I am beginning to feel a little sorry for them, and wondering how a truck got sucked into a comparison with a bunch of very nice minivans. Didn't seem fair. Oh yeah, that's right, it's because they tried to be something they weren't by adding a third row seat. Oh well, maybe I don't feel so bad for them after all seeing they brought it on themselves.
  • I got a hoot too...reading all of those posts from pissed off Trailblazer/Envoy/Bravada owners who's cars were sitting idle for 30 days waiting for parts from GM due to the recall. Especially liked the ones where the GM dealers were taking the replacement parts and putting them on units for sale on the lot, as opposed to fixing the customer's vehicles. As for the 3rd row seat, it will actually work very well for us. It will only be an occasional thing, but it's there when we need it. Too bad the engineers at GM couldn't figure out how to add one.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Still trucks, with typical truck quality and build, but they have a damned nice engine. That DOHC I6 is a real gem. Now, if GM would put it in the'd have about a perfect SUV. The pathetic 3.4 pushrod dates back from the chevy citation. Someday they'll get it right..:-)
  • rpageaurpageau Posts: 94
    Footballfan777...I believe GM is introducing a third row seat version later this year, which I personally believe is a mistake. I'll stick by the old maxim "If you want a truck, buy a truck....if you want a minivan buy a minivan". I hate seeing the lines continually being blurred by this melding of different vehicles. I'm afraid the truck version will be a thing of the past before long.

    Also, can't deny the recall, it happened. I also got a kick out of some of the posts, as a few people sure didn't take it very well. Personally, I think it was great! The net effect to me was I had to drive a brand new 2001 instead of a 2002 for 21 days, got a free extension of my bumper to bumper warranty to 5 years/60000 miles, and free service for two years to top things off. Sorry, but you are not going to get any defensive reaction from me over the recall.
  • rpageaurpageau Posts: 94
    I can't help but think the I5 in development will make it's debut on the 2003 Rendezvous. It would probably still make it tops in its class for power, and be able to at least maintain the same fuel economy. The I6 would make it a great vehicle, but don't you think it might be overkill. The RDV is 400# lighter than the TB/Envoy, and most people buying it will probably never tow anything. 270HP would certainly make it a screamer, but you might lose a segment of the market over the loss of fuel economy (19/26 vs. 16/21).
  • jmfreshourjmfreshour Posts: 57
    Hi all, llloooonngg-time lurker, just recently decided to join in on the posting game. I had to join in after reading the blatantly misleading comments that some have tried to pass off as fact. Proteus, I kindly request that you confirm your facts before posting any further comments about your beloved ML and the hated Explorer/Mountaineer. I refer to your comment that "There is NO manual available in the 2002 Explorer." Actually, the 2002 Explorer XLS comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission. Any halfway intelligent consumer can obtain this information on the Ford website, as well as right here on Edmunds. Posting misinformation, especially when you draw attention to it using capitals, only makes you look like a moron. I am glad that you think that the ML is superior in every way possible. I, however, have driven both the Explorer and Mountaineer, and think that they are leaps and bounds above the previous model. I have always owned foreign cars in the past, but these new products are changing my mind about domestic automobile production. An interesting note, when test driving the Mountaineer, I noticed that the engine and transmission come from Germany and France, respectively. Is any vehicle truly American anymore? Does that mean that the Mountaineer is like the ML in that the ML's engine/tranny come from Germany but is assembled in Alabama? Hmm.
  • dindakdindak Posts: 6,632
    After a little bit of lurking I will say this..

    Best of the bunch is the Mercedes followed closely by the Acura.

    In terms of value, the new Rendezvous wins hands down. Although it doesn't have a sophisticated engine it does have great looks, space and quality (from what I hear). The 0-60 times really don't suffer much from the smaller engine which is surprising and you get the best gas mileage in class.

    Since I can not afford a Mercedes or an Acura, I will be looking at a base Rendezvous for sure when our next lease is due next spring.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65 might be nice to keep things civilized here. I certainly would not call my comments blantantly misleading. Yes, I just now noticed the low end explorer has a manual..forgive me. I've been comparing with the Explorer LTD/EB editions, not the sport, and not the lower end trims, as they are not in the same class as the vehicles being discussed. The point I was making remains the same. The sport is based on the old live axle chassis. The gas milage I listed is completely accurate 15/20 for the Explorer, vs 17/21 for the ML. Finally..where a vehicle is made, or where the parts are made have little to do with the overall engineering and quality.
    Nobody denies that Ford/GM are entirely CAPABLE of providing quality engines/transmissions. For example, most BMW transmissions are manufactured by GM! Ford has been making excellent multivalve engines in Europe for a long time. For some reason however, perhaps cost, Ford and GM still insist on selling that obsolete pushrod designs that everyone dropped decades ago. Yes..the Explorer V6 is SOHC, but is still remarkably inefficient by modern standards. Its a bigger engine, gets worse milage, far less refined, and produces less power to boot.
  • barresa62barresa62 Posts: 1,379
    Just curious, do you have anything good to say about Fords or the 2002 Explorer/Moutaineer in particular? If you have already, I apologize. I must have missed it through the onslaught of ML comments you ceaselessly post.

  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Actually I do. My biggest complaint with Ford is a lack of refinement, which is why they don't compete well in the luxury segment. Cheap plastic, fake wood, heck..the mountaineer has fake alumininum trim!. In the US, Ford is good at creating cheap vehicles that do the job for most people. Explorer XLT is a case in get a lot of utility for your money. In the XLT price range (20-30) Explorer is a good deal. Mountaineer/EB/LTD? these are marketed as luxury brands, and priced that way (30K+). Ford is not competitive here, as people expect more. More refinement, more safety, more reliability and more luxury. Fords problem in this country is that they cut too many corners, leading to a lack of refinement. This is fine in the lower price ranges, but not acceptable in the luxury segment.
    Its not like Ford can't build world class cars. Ford Europe sells the Mondeo, and Cosworth Escort. They own Jaguar and Aston Martin...they have the ability, they just need the will!
    Anyway, to sum up?
    Explorer is a good vehicle in the 20-30 range, but there are much better choices in the 30K+ range.
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    Just to keep things civil, lets agree that the ML320 only competes with the Explorer/Mountaineer in that they are both near-luxury SUV's capable of carrying 7 passengers. Otherwise, they aren't really peas from the same pod.

    Certainly the ML320 can match or exceed the performance of a similarly equipped Explorer/Mountaineer in most areas. However, a FULLY loaded EB Explorer/Mountaineer AWD can be purchased for just over invoice ($33,300 for audiophile sound, moonroof, luxury package, convenience group, and side airbags). A similarly equipped ML320 typically sells at or just slightly below MSRP (about $41,200 with similar equipment).

    Is the ML320 a more desireable SUV? Sure, it has VSC and has better crash test ratings. However, the Explorer/Mountaineer also has good crash test scores and safety features, and it costs about $8,000 less in the real world. (I won't address roll-over stats here, it is for consumers to decide if Ford has addressed those issues satisfactorily...and soon to arrive VSC should satisfy those concerns).

    I looked at both SUV's very closely and found both to be very well put together and desireable. Both vehicles look and feel the part of an upscale, near-luxury SUV. The ML has a great ride and a feeling of quality throughout. The ML320 "intangibles" were also superior and very real. The Mountaineer also me impressed with it's tremendous improvement over last year. It's ride was more truckish, but it was smooth and quiet by any standards, and the interior, while clearly not as nice as the Mercedes, was well executed and attractive (I liked the aluminum look no less than the wood in the ML, which looks fake to me).

    My local Mercedes dealer and I assembled a MINIMALLY equipped ML320 with 3rd row and it came to $38,500. That's as low as you can go with cloth seats and no luxury package. The Explorer/Mountaineer, nicely equipped, can be purchased for about $30,000.

    One caveat, if you want to lease, the Mercedes is probably a better value because of it's superior residual value. Monthly payments should be very similar to the Ford/Mercury, and the maintenance is included for 4 years (length of warranty). It's a good lease value.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    ML320 is now selling at invoice, due to model year changes. A loaded model can be had at 40K (My dealer tried this on me when I preordered a 2002 model). I personally would consider the ML320 in the luxury, as opposed to the near luxury catagory, other than that, your points are all very valid.
    Also note that considering trade in, you'll do much better as well. Explorers have MASSIVE depreciation, with 38-40% residuals after 4 years. ML and MDX are running at 51-53%.
    Mountaineer isn't bad for the money, but it does lack refinement. For some people, this may not be much of a concern. For me personally, I'm willing to pay more to get the better vehicle.
    Speaking of which, has anyone heard when the BMW X5L will be out?
  • fedlawmanfedlawman Posts: 3,118
    You're absolutely right about the Ford depreciation and the availability of MY 2001 ML320's at invoice. Getting a MY 2001 for invoice is a great opportunity to get a "bargain" on a new Mercedes...especially if you plan to keep it for many years. By keeping the car for a long time, you offset the end of model year depreciation that has already taken it's toll on your new, one year old, Mercedes.

    BTW, I think most would agree that buying a used Mercedes is much less risky than buying a used Ford. The comparative residual values of these two vehicles demonstrates the long-term value of the Mercedes (the longer you keep it, the better the value).
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Have to agree there...Rendezvous with that I6 engine would be a class leader. If they could keep it under 38K, it would be one of the best deals going! Unfortunately, it looks like the best Rendezvous will get is an 5cyl version of the same engine. Anyone sell a supercharger for the 3.4?..:-)
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    There's a simple reason for that. The I6 engine is simply too long to fit in the Rendezvous or the Aztek. Fitting an I6 would also require a high hood line, and there just isn't enough space in the minivan platform to accomodate it.

    MB abandoned the I6 style (which they have been using for eons) for a V6 mainly because the I6 wouldn't fit underneath the hood of the M-class. They wanted to be able to have a short and slopping hood line (which is actually part of the reason why the ML looks a bit minivan-ish from some angles) for improved visibility and much improved packaging reasons. By better packaging I mean this...the BMW X5, which has an I6, is about a couple of inches longer than the ML, but yet has much less room inside. The long hood eats up a lot of what would've been cabin/cargo space. Fitting an I6 to the ML without compromising any interior room would've increased the overall length of the vehicle larger than what MB wanted.

    Hope this helps!

    Vans, SUVs, and Aftermarket & Accessories message boards
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    That explains it..I always wondered how Mercedes was able to fit 7 adult size seats in an SUV that was shorter than everyone elses. No wonder the X5 is so small inside!
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