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Volvo XC90 vs MB M Class vs Acura MDX vs Lexus RX 350 vs BMW X5 vs Cadillac SRX



  • From my experiences, Lexus dealerships tend to be the better ones..not that there aren't good mb,bmw or maybe even acura ones. It's just that when i was getting my new car..i was in a rental corolla..and when I went into BMW all the staff saw me comming in..didn't even say hi and con't to talk to each other and i had to go ask for some info and even then they just handed me a brochere and left... Mercedes was somewhat better but the sales didn't think i was serious about buying the car..but Lexus was different... I was greeted promptly.. asked if there was anything I needed and tried to assess my needs. I was impressed and and I went on to purchase my next 3 cars from them .
  • swiftmswiftm Posts: 68
    Emunds recently posted a excellent article "confessions of the car salesman" by Chandler Phillips. It really given me much insights of car dealers. swiftm
  • Liked the look of the Mazda Tribute but after sitting in it for just a minute it became PAINfully clear that there was no support for back or head unless you happened to be the person the seat was designed around. There was no way to adjust the head support & no lumbar adjustment. If felt permanently stuck in a fetal position.

    Just put a deposit on an Acura MPX which has good support for both me (short) & my husband (tall) and the seats evidently has some of that NASA developed Swedish support material that conforms to your body shape. I've had sciatic problems in the past, also, and comfort was an important factor in the decision.
  • brillmtbbrillmtb Posts: 543
    Dont forget the Montero 01

    Australian review

    ..."Mitsubishi’s new Pajero GLS (Montero 01 in the US) has raised the standard for four-wheel drives in several areas, and beat the Mercedes-Benz ML320 and Toyota 100 Series LandCruiser GLX to the best 4WD title.

    On the road, the Pajero delivers class-leading ride, handling and steering, and braking, attracting consistently good scores.

    The change to a unitary construction (with no separate chassis) has helped Mitsubishi to deliver best in class dynamics. The new chassis combines with fully independent suspension to provide an outstanding ride/handling compromise.

    In this respect, it makes the LandCruiser feel like a truck.

    Although the Toyota LandCruiser’s 4.5 litre engine delivers more pulling power in the low to mid rev range, the Mitsubishi Pajero’s 3.5 litre V6 also performs strongly.

    New to the Pajero is a five-speed, adaptive auto transmission with a tiptronic-style manual shift mode.

    Off the bitumen, the LandCruiser still has the edge but the Pajero is now very close. With a good approach angle, a smooth and willing engine, solid engine braking and reasonable wheel articulation, the Pajero copes with terrain that would have defeated the previous model.

    For the money, the Pajero GLS also offers a long standard equipment list.

    The ML320 uses the same great engine as the E320 sedan, but has limited off road ability, and the Pajero is at least equally capable on the road.
  • I've narrowed my choices to the RX300, ML320 and MDX. My choice MUST have the nav. system...Does anyone have any input? There are +/- to each I think. The ML320 has no auto climate control. The MDX looks way too much like a minivan. The RX300 has this awkward stick shift that looks like an afterthought...

    Any suggestions on these 3 suv's?
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    There's no perfect SUV since everyone's needs are different. As far as the nav system goes, do you need it for larger cities or for remote areas?

    If your questions go beyond just comparing the vehicle' nav systems, I suggest you list your priorities in a vehicle to yourself; what are the most important factors to you -- what can't you live without, what is important to you, what isn't? Which of the items can be "traded off" and which ones are absolutes?

    The RX300, ML320, and MDX are all excellent vehicles, but each is better at fulfilling some needs than the others.

    Questions include, but are not limited to:

    How important is cargo room? How much do you need?

    How important is passenger room (and for how many adults and children)?

    How important is reliability (e.g. really great reliability vs. above-average reliability, or vs. average or below-average reliability). Is "projected" reliability adequate in determining reliability, or does that give you the willies?

    Do you consider minor differences in crash-test results important, when the vehicles themselves all have the highest rating category?

    Do you want as much safety measures as is possibly available in your range of choices? E.g. what if one vehicle has 12 measures, the other 14; does that make you automatically go for 14?

    Do you really need 4WD (since the Lexus is available in a cheaper 2WD version)?

    Is off-road capability important?

    What type of weather conditions do you have to handle? Will you frequently drive in snow and ice?

    How important is acceleration?

    How important is car-like handling and/or car-like ride comfort? Do you want the maximum softness of ride, or do you want the rough stuff?

    Would you prefer a truck-like SUV or a car-like SUV?

    How important is towing? How much would you tow?

    How important is it to have a prestige brand? Do you prefer Japanese or German brands?

    Do you have any special requirements (e.g. you want to be able to exclude a moonroof, you're especially tall or short).

    Are there critical budget constraints? Is one vehicle being a couple of thousand cheaper than another going to weigh heavily?

    If you like your Audi and its characteristics, the ML320 might be right up your alley (personally, I think it looks even more like a minivan than the MDX, but that's just an opinion). And while the ML320 doesn't have automatic climate control, you can think of it as "semi-automatic."
  • clchuclchu Posts: 2
    Ah which SUV, every manufacture under the sun wants our SUV dollar. The one you choose will be the one that has the features you value the most per poster #29. Drive and sit in all of them on the same day is my recommendation. We drove the MDX and the next day the ML and you get a very different impression vs trying them side by side.
    All of them are good for different things and depending on your budget you'll find your winner.
    We ordered the MDX but after the side by side comparison bought the Mercedes and love it for what we bought it for. If the NAV is important than the MDX will win you over.

    We choose safety ( truck construction, 6 air bags ) and ability to seat 7 to be the most important features. The Mercedes won by a long shot. If the navigation unit is important as is most bang for buck the MDX will probably pull ahead. Also if you like the really neat folding seats than MDX wins over the Mercedes. I don't know how you value "reliability" ML has a bad reputation from the first several years and the jury is out on the 2000 and 2001. The MDX is a first year, generally Honda has been good but their minivan had all sorts of little problems and the MDX is being built in the same factory. The RX is a Lexus, you either love it or feel its a pretender as a SUV. It has all the things that people who love Lexus love, but it doesn't seat 7 and is probably the most car like of the three. I think you'll be happy with any of the three just as long as you figure out what is most important to you and score the three correctly.
  • alingaling Posts: 598
    "If the NAV is important than the MDX will win you over"

    I disagree. The ML320 has an optional navigation system which is made by the same company (Alpine - same displays and all) as the MDX's system. This system is available for about US$1500, which is comparable, if not slightly cheaper than the MDX's system.

    As for reliability, the early to mid-year MY2K MLs have about average reliability according to JD Power's Initial Quality Survey.

    Like William, I think that we need to know more criteria for basing the decision before we can offer more insight into the +/- of each vehicle.

    Good luck!
    Townhall Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    I noticed the U.S. MB web site doesn't list the nav option for the ML320; is it a dealer-installed option in the U.S? (Though other dealer-installed options were listed.) If it's $1,500, it's definitely cheaper than the $2,000 Acura wants for the nav system (factory installation only).

    My understanding is that Acura's system earns raspberries for coverage that is more limited outside urban areas, but it earns kudos for ease-of-use (even though Alpine makes the base system, the controls and usage differ).

    bjacob1, you can access JD Power quality ratings at:

    1st-half model year 2000 ML320's have roughly average reliability, as mentioned in Healey's article: "Though improving, M-class quality remains below average, according to a J.D. Power and Associates survey. Owners of new vehicles registered in March and April [2000]reported 165 problems per 100 vehicles. Industry average: 157." Technically, I'd think that 165 is close to the average of 157, unless the standard deviation is very low. Unfortunately, the results still leave the M-class in the bottom 30% according to JD Power, albeit probably near the top end of that. Take it for what it's worth, as posters here report an improvement.

    Odyssey also is not rated that well by JD Power; as clchu pointed out, the MDX is based on it and made at the same plant. Dunno yet if they're putting more effort into the higher-end vehicle. Note that while JD Power rates the Odyssey lower, Consumer Reports rates it above average.

    Lexus RX300 rated very well in JD Power, though only "average" by Consumer Reports.

    Other criteria to consider:

    - How important is it to have Xenon headlamps?

    - Are foglamps required? Any qualms about them not being street-legal?
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Thanks for your comment. As I said, everyone needs to put together their own list of priorities.

    In your case, it sounds like reliability is a very high priority (probably to above average or better, and probably with a proven history if I read your reaction correctly), so that would of course affect your selection of vehicle.

    Some folks don't seem to mind having average reliability (or even worse!) as much; warranties cover any fix, and the other facets of the vehicle offset the reliability. E.g. a good example is the Infiniti QX4: seems like excellent quality, but its IIHS crash test scores are "marginal." What do you do?

    The ML320 wouldn't your criteria, based on the currently available historical information (technically, it's actually slightly below average, based on numbers from the first half of the 2000 model year). Similarly, the MDX may not fit that bill either. While I don't see it doing worse than the present-day ML320 (it'll probably be as good, which certainly isn't what one would expect from Honda/Acura, and it could be better, though first year models always suffer; see my Odyssey comments), we won't know about MDX numbers for quite some time.
    SUV's in general are more complex vehicles than basic sedans, so it's understandable, even though it may be disappointing, that you don't find a wide range of them with the highest quality scores. Hopefully over time that will change. Even the Lexus RX300 doesn't carry the highest reliability score (does well with JD Power, only average by Consumer Reports's surveys). The Lexus carries the second-best proven reliability scores among the $40k luxury utes (after the QX4), but it is definitely a cut below Lexus's mroe reliable sedans. So you either "settle" or break out of this class of vehicle.

    Spending $40k on a high-reliability sedan is an alternative, though most folks looking for an SUV wouldn't make that choice.
  • alingaling Posts: 598
    If excellent reliablity is a top priority, I think one has to rule out all of the European name brands (BMW/Jaguar/MB/Volvo/Saab) since they have about average or better than average reliability. Acura, Infiniti or (especially) Lexus will be the main choices as far as luxury brand names go.

    I know that a couple of my parents' friends have upgraded from Toyota Camrys to Lexus LS400s precisely because of this. Interestingly, those who have moved from Japanese to European makes haven't gone back (Mazda/Subaru to MB, and Lexus to BMW). Perhaps they feel that the superior driving/ownership experience and cachet of the brand name is worth the extra dealership visits. Parts cost isn't really a factor around here since (as the CAA report showed), the pricing is comparable to Japanese and domestic makes.

    Townhall Community Leader/Vans Conference
  • I suggest you add one more vehicle to the list of SUVs that you are considering: the Infiniti QX4. I made multiple test drives in all of the SUVs you mentioned (except for the MDX which wasn't out then) as well as several others and decided a 2001 QX4 was the best of the lot. It is solid, has an excellent silky smooth and powerful engine, looks very luxurious inside and out and has an outstanding reliability record. It is also more of a "real" SUV than a station wagon on steroids like the RX300.

    I also insisted on getting a navigation system in my SUV. The nav system in the QX4 is EXCELLENT. It has a very easy to use touch screen, it has the best voice guidance I've ever heard, and it has thousands of points of interest built in. But the unique feature of the QX4 system that no other brand has is the "BirdView" display. Rather than showing a planar map view, the BirdView display is from from a point behind and above the vehicle looking in the direction you are driving. So you see your "car" on the road and then see the road winding off into the distance. Because of the natural perspective effect, the closer roads are larger and in more detail, but you can see what the road is doing far into the distance and you can see cities near the horizon. You can touch a button to switch between BirdView and normal planar map view, but I use BirdView 99% of the time. I looked at a number of other navigation systems, and I believe the Infiniti is the best and easiest to use.
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Interestingly, those who have moved from Japanese to European makes haven't gone back (Mazda/Subaru to MB, and Lexus to BMW). Perhaps they feel that the superior driving/ownership experience and cachet of the brand name is worth the extra dealership visits.

    No doubt that MB and BMW carry more cachet for more people than Lexus (and even more so for Acura, which many consider a step below Lexus).

    "Superior" ownership experience depends not just on the brand you buy, but also a lot on your dealership, and which model you buy. I daresay at most MB dealerships, you get a lot nicer ownership experience if you buy an S-class than a M-class. That's not to say M-class ownership experiences aren't always superior either, but you don't get the same type of treatment at many dealerships (e.g. you get a Dodge Neon for a loaner, someone doesn't come over to pick your vehicle up for servicing). My point is, the ownership experience for buying an under $30k Subaru or Mazda for $200 above invoice is certainly going to be different than buying a $40k+ M-class or a $55k+ E-class.

    Interestingly, those who have moved from Japanese to European makes haven't gone back (Mazda/Subaru to MB, and Lexus to BMW).

    That could be more than just cachet. When you go up from Mazda/Subaru to MB, you're probably getting a better vehicle, even without the three-pointed star; so it's not surprising that you don't go go back (since people's incomes and ability to afford more sophisticated and costly vehicles tends to grow higher). Lexus to BMW, not just cachet, but also the driving experience you mentioned.

    If these are your parent's friends, then it's also likely that they're older, and the longer histories of MB and BMW as prestige brands also becomes a factor. That's why a lot of Cadillac buyers are typically in a significantly high age demographic.

    Also, in some ways, older buyers tend to be more tolerant of lower quality and less-frequent visits to the dealerships, because they grew up with vehicles that have lower quality than what many younger buyers have experienced. E.g. I complained when the tranny on my Integra went out at 26k, that it wasn't supposed to happen (at least statistically, based on survey numbers, but I got "lucky"), but my in-laws do the usual, "one major problem in 26k miles? you're spoiled ... let me tell you about that Vega we had ..." ;-)
  • I've taken your advice and put together a list of what I want in an SUV (re:your prior post). The question now is where to I find the answers? I saw the link to the reliability comparison but where do I find crash tests? Right now I'm leaning toward the Lexus RX300 fully loaded w/ Nav. pkg + tow, pkg + heated seats (MSRP $44,400) w/ the best price I can find at $40,000 + taxes in Maryland/Va. area.
  • Similar to many people here, we are also hindering between the RX and the ML.
    I noticed that RX does not have the rear passenger's air bags, where ML offers this safety equipment as a standard.
    still confused about how much risks on the MB quality I am willing to risk......
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Up to you, but if you still feel you need advice, you can share some of your priorities with us and we'll try to help. Obviously every individual has their own little preferences and biases but hopefully we'd try to be objective to help you, if you'd like.

    There are two types of crash tests you can review: IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and NHTSA (National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, part of the U.S. government. NHTSA publishes the famous "star" ratings, for front and sometimes side collisions. IIHS, so far, publishes ratings for offset-frontal collisions, which many believe is more "real-world" than the NHTSA front collision test.

    IIHS ratings are at:

    NHTSA ratings are at:

    The RX300 has done very well in the IIHS crash test, earning an rating of "good," which is the highest IIHS rating (note that the ML320 also earned a "good"; the MDX has not yet been tested but most think it will be "good," but that's not yet proven). NHTSA results for the 2001 model won't be released until sometime in December (I could have sworn it had been tested in the past, though).

    The RX300 is an excellent vehicle, and I think a good fit if you have some of the following priorities:

    - You want a very car-like SUV; the RX300 is the most car-like, for sure. The ML320 is truck-based, and while relatively car-like compared to most SUV's, is the least car-like of the three you mentioned interest in. The MDX is in-between, probably closer to the RX in being car-like.

    - You want an SUV with a very smooth ride. The RX300 isn't an LS430 in terms of ride, but it is noticeably smoother than an MDX, and much smoother than an ML320, which can be quite jarring for those expecting a car-like smooth ride.

    - You want an SUV with a luxurious, plush interior. The RX300's has high-quality materials in abundance. The ML320 has some high-quality materials, but is more understated and uses them less (e.g. the "all-leather" front seats have hard plastic shrouds covering most of their backs). The MDX definitely doesn't have as many high quality materials as the other two (fake wood, more hard plastic, leather-trimmed seats).

    - You want the most luxury features; overall, the RX300 is the best in this category. E.g. one-touch power-up/down windows for all windows.

    - You want a high degree of proven reliability; the RX300 has the best quality scores of the three, from Consumer Reports and JD Power. The ML has historically been well below average, and the most recent surveys available (on 1st half 2000 models) show it as very close to average, but still slightly below. The MDX is an unknown; it'll probably fall somewhere in between.

    - You want xenon headlamps; they are available on the RX300 as an option. They are also available on the ML320, but as factory options, only as part of an expensive sport package. The MDX does not offer xenon headlamps.

    The RX300 doesn't meet some of the following priorities as well as the others; these may not be your's, of course:

    - If you need a lot of cargo room, the RX300 is the most limited of the three, though it's not too bad (you can adjust the position of the second row seat, and/or fold it down).

    - Similarly, you do not need a lot of payload capacity; the RX300 has a relatively limited payload compared to the the ML320 and MDX. Perhaps someone can chime in here with the number but I thought it was under 900 lbs (ML320 and MDX are in the 1,300-1,400 lb range). Exceeding recommended payload greatly increases the risk of rollover.

    - If you need to occasionally seat more than 5 passengers, the RX300 will not meet that need. The MDX will seat 5 adults plus 2 children in a third-row seat, the ML320 will seat 5 adults plus 2 (slightly larger) children in an optional third row seat.

    - You want off-road capability. The ML is the beste for this, though it's supposedly only for "medium" duty off-roading. The MDX is supposedly capable of some light off-roading but the ML was at least designed for this (low range, underbody protection). The RX isn't aimed at the off-roading customer profile.

    - You want a higher degree of driving feel. The RX300 is the most softly sprung of the three, and has more body roll and less road feel (though its steering feel is excellent). Lexus has stiffened up the suspension a bit to improve it. The ML320 probably has the sharpest handling (though the MDX Touring beats it on the skidpad), and the MDX is very close. This is a highly subjective category that you'd have to drive yourself to decide.


    The RX300 should be quite safe, when driven within its limits (e.g. don't overload it, be careful about body roll). It has stability control and braking assist, which the ML320 also hss, but the MDX does not.

    The RX300 lacks the rear side airbags of the ML320 (the MDX lacks them too). The ML320 probably has the most solid construction of the three, and there are documented photos available to show how it stands up to collisions.

    However, the ML320 is not as child-friendly as the RX300. E.g. it doesn't have pinch-protection for the power windows (MDX doesn't either), though you can at least lock them, and still lacks door-ajar warning indicators. Child-proof door locks are now available as a retrofit (probably around $300 installed by your dealership). The RX300 has the ISOFIX/LATCH system of securing a child seat, which is better than the conventional lap/shoulder belt attachments of the MDX and ML320.
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Everyone's tolerance of quality risk is going to be different. If it makes it any better, most problems found in the ML320 seem to be easily and permanently fixed by qualified dealership service departments. Please make sure that the dealerships in your area are good; you can ask in the ML forum or the M-class mailing list, regarding the quality of dealership service departments in your area.

    If you're shaky about service quality, then that could give you major pause. I had read some pretty negative comments about MB service in my own area, including problems requiring repeated fix attempts, and the service technician just giving up, not being able to figure out the problem.
  • thor8thor8 Posts: 303
    To me it sounds like a record stuck repeating the same thing over and over, quality and reliability in the ML, dubious.
    Two years ago when I bought my 99 ML 430 I did not know about edmunds, months later after the purchase I found edmunds and started readings about the bad reviews, the lowest rating in quality and build, oh boy, I became concerned, I have a pile of junk, suchs were the negatives.

    Two years later and 38,000 miles and going from border to border I had ZERO problems, only oil changes (more frequent than recomended) not even a rattle. I tow two big jet skies in a big trailer with other gear in a cargo area, total weigth about 4800 lbs and cruise about 80 and no strain, in very steep boat ramps the traction is superb and the availability of deep reduction is a plus I will never do without. Monitoring the ML forum for over a year, 99% is chit chat about little stuff, never read about someone being stranded on the road, what reliability concerns?

    Visiting the plant in Alabama, I bougth several books about mercedes, in their 110 years they have tens of thousands of patents, safety being their main concern, they are the leaders in the area and pioners in crash testing, crashing more cars than anybody, the methods they device become standardt for goverment agencies, offset crashing being one of them, one of their leading designers in structural design has over 2500 patents, the crumple zone being one of them in 1951, and keeping with mercedes policy they never enforced a safety patent.

    My ML experience
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Please consider that the reason M-class quality discussions sound "like a record stuck repeating the same thing over and over" is exactly why there is a problem, and concern among prospective buyers -- MB's slowness and/or inability to respond to quality control problems, especially at the Alabama plant. Many problems in year 1, many problems continuing in year 2. Year 3, some slight improvement but based on statistical info currently available, still slighly below average.

    This is not to suggest that other vehicles are trouble-free. However, when someone compares, say, an RX300, there's a clear separation. I'm not suggesting the RX300 is a better or equivalent vehicle than the ML320, this is just focusing on quality.

    The M-class is an excellent vehicle, and MB has superb technology -- absolute, positive agreement from me on this. But to suggest "what reliability concerns" may be a tad bit optimistic. Everyone's mileage is going to vary, and there's no doubt that there are many happy M-class owners with trouble-free vehicles. But there are indeed a significant amount of problems, and there's plenty of documentation on the message boards here about them, especially in '98 and '99 models (that have greater history with them). And some of them have indeed stranded drivers, though I would say from what I've read that the greater majority of problems are more fit and finish items.

    Folks who have been "spoiled" by the tremendous quality available in their past vehicles, such as Toyota Camry's, Nissan Maxima's, etc. do need to realize that SUV's as a whole will probably be less reliable, and they'll have to adjust their expectations. And, of course, some models will be less reliable than others. Whether or not it sways one's buying decision is up to them.
  • thor8thor8 Posts: 303
    I apreciate what you are saying, but maybe you are missing my point, I was not suggesting that no ML has left no one stranded, I know just like everybody else that any vehicle can by any reason, any time leave anyone stranded, but after monitoring the ML section for over a year and a minimun of couple of thousands of posts, I have yet to read one, which means it must be a rare event.

    That takes me to the reliability issue, I dont know what unreliable means to you, but to me "unreliable vehicle" means a vehicle of such a poor quality that there is a higher than average chance that it will not deliver you from point A to point B, I had a few of those in my life, I can name a Vega and a Pacer. To me words have to be used in their proper definition, if not they loose their meaning and can not accurately describe an event, I worked in engineering and I pay attention to words, I translate them into real entities with exactitud not into loose proximities.

    Would it not be a more correct description to say, I heard they had problems with fit and trim, than to say unreliable, then what do I call an unreliable vehicle?

    Or do I have it all wrong?

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