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

drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
edited March 2014 in Mercedes-Benz
As requested, here is the 7 passenger mid-size luxury or near luxury SUV comparison topic. Feel free to compare the pros and cons of each vehicle, but please keep it civil and agree to disagree if need be. As mentioned, all of these SUVs are available with either standard or optional 7 passenger seating.


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  • tincup47tincup47 Posts: 1,508
    You forgot one Mid-size near luxury SUV with 7 seats as an available option, The Land Rover Discovery. They have had 7 seats available since 1994. This predates all of the others.
  • sirknightdsirknightd Posts: 96
    might as well add the mitsubishi montero
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    What about the Toyota Landcruiser?
  • tincup47tincup47 Posts: 1,508
    Has 7 seats, but is much more expensive. Nice vehicle though.
  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    You get what you pay for. The MDX and ML simply out class the other vehicles, the ML in terms of body-on-frame vehicles and the MDX in terms of unibody vehicles.

    This topic is done before it even started.

    If you are looking for the "cheapest" vehicle, that's another story.
  • bjk2001bjk2001 Posts: 358
    Which one is better ML or MDX?
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Well, I'm reposting this from a post I made on the rendezvous board. As I see it, here is how they rank...
    RDV=Buick Rendezvous, ML=Mercedes ML320
    MDX=Acura MDX, Explorer=Ford Explorer/Mountaineer

    Safety - ML,MDX,RDV,Explorer
    Power - MDX, ML, Exp, RDV
    Handling - ML, RDV, MDX, Exp
    Interior - ML, RDV, MDX, Exp
    Refinement - ML, RDV, MDX, Exp
    Versatility - RDV, ML, MDX, Exp
    Towing - Exp, ML, MDX, Rdv

    Overall, I'd have to say ML in the 40k range, and Rendezvous in the 30K range.

    Explore has questionable quality, fit and finish are terrible. Handling is "mushy" with little to no road feel. One can easily tell its a gussied up Ford Ranger.
    Rendezvous has a fold flat rear seat that is actually usable by adults. Good build quality,great fit and finish, unfortunately underpowered. A good budget choice.
    MDX is great, as long as you realize 3rd row is for young children only. Access is very poor, and interior is typical Honda..good fit, good integrity, but thin leather, fake wood and cheap switchgear. Nice engine though.
    ML seats 7 adults, but not as much luggage room as others. Good sedanlike handling, good acceleration, good offroad ability. Overall the best choice IMO.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65 depends what you need seating wise. Both are good vehicles, with good handling, brakes, acceleration. If you need versatility with cargo, MDX is the way to go. Fold flat seats(both rows), lots of room. However 3rd row seats are almost unusable by adults,and access is very tricky.
    If you need 7 adult seating, good offroad ability, towing >3500lbs, then ML is the way to go. However, MDX has much more room for cargo, and is slightly cheaper too...
    Drive em both.
  • tincup47tincup47 Posts: 1,508
    I don't think so, it tests very well. The 2002 has side curtain airbags along with all the regular safety features. The Rendevous comes from a very checkered platform that has tested miserably in IIHS tests, and it's sibling the Aztek has mediocre results at best. In real world statistics the Explorer has a very low death rate for SUV's. Proteus has been trashing the Explorer on every board I've seen him on, certainly he does not give objective advise.
  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    As previously stated, it depends on what your needs are. The ML is "truck" based and the MDX is unibody or "car" based (actually a minivan, but you get the idea).

    One of my main criteria is safety and the ML wins hands down. On paper (active safety systems) and in independent testing (IIHS) it's one of the top three SUVs, along with the X5 and RX300.

    Maybe safety isn't important to you and speed is. I suspect a Explorer with a V8 option is pretty quick (though I admit I haven't seen test results). Again, all depends on your needs.
  • bjk2001bjk2001 Posts: 358
    So ML is the safest SUV in the group, MDX is not as safe as ML? Does that mean best head on, side impact and roll over rate? Please educate me. Can someone tell me where the web sites are for all the independant or non-independant results?

    ps 1: If I am looking for power and money is not issue. I will get SAFE and FFAASSTT ML55 AMG 342 HP 376 ft lb torque which will leave Explorere V8 in dust. Only costs $66.5 K price tag.
    ps 2 Edmunds review comment for ML
    Pros: Safe, comfortable, car-like ride and handling, excellent bad-weather vehicle.
    Cons: Reputation for poor build quality, looks like a minivan, not particularly adept off-road.
    "end quote
  • Proteus,

    Jeez, I seem to keep running across your messages wherever I go. You keep talking about the fit and finish, and the rattling in the Explorer. It's funny, but the one we drove demonstrated none of those qualities. It was tight and refined, as was the Sport-Trac my friend took delivery of on Friday. My 97 F-150 is as tight and rattle free as the day I picked it up...4 1/2 years ago. I know all manufacturers' have problems, but it seems you like to pick on the Fords. I'm a soon to be owner of a 2002 XLT Exploder, and maybe I'll hate it after 3 months, but I'm trying to remain optomistic.

    Please, give me a break with the Ford bashing.
  • robsmithrobsmith Posts: 71
    I owned a '98 ML before the 3rd row was available and traded it for a Land Cruiser. I saw a ML(with 3rd row) at the auto show and sat in the 3rd row and I can only imagine putting babies back there because there wasn't much leg room at all unless you sacrificed the leg room of the middle row.

    If anyone is getting this because it can seat 7 they should really re-think it. It's great if you only need seating for 5.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    The 2nd row can be moved forward to make room for the 3rd row passengers. There enough legroom back there for average sized adults to be comfortable for short (45 minutes to 1 hour-ish) trips. I suspect the ML that you saw had its 2nd row moved all of the way back for maximum 2nd row legroom/comfort. Don't forget that those floor panels behind the 2nd row seats also conceal the 3rd row's footwell.

    The ML's 3rd row legroom is definitely more than the Acura MDX's and the Land Rover Discovery II's in my experience.

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  • robsmithrobsmith Posts: 71
    I saw that the seats moved forward on the ML but if you put adults in the 2nd row(with the seats slid forward) and adults or even teens in the 3rd row I think you would have unhappy passengers in both rows.

    I did miss the foot well though.

    I've never seen the MDX or LR but I was impressed with the Buick Rendezvous and thought the 2002 Mountaineer was adequate.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    I've sat in the 3rd row for 45 minutes with 3 adults in the 2nd row. No one was complaining since there was adequate room for everyone. The 3rd row footwell (which is normally covered) is the most important part! Without it, siting back there would be unpleasant indeed.

    The Explorer's 3rd row is okay (better than the Acura MDX's, but the seatback angle is not), but the seats are not as comfortable as the ML's and neither is the legroom. In my humble opinion, they're too thin and too flat. They also seemed to be a bit cheaply made, especially with the thin head restraints.

    Just my two cents. Your mileage may vary of course.

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  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    robsmith (and others): How is the 3rd row in your Landcruiser? How easy is it to put kids back there?

    Seems to me that minivans provide much easier access to the 3rd row. What SUVs can do a comparable job?
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    Tincup-Unfortunately the Explorer lacks acceptable emergency handling, and stability control..its scary to corner at any speed in the thing. Real world statistics? just HOW many safety related recall as the "Exploder" had?
    BJK- I rated safety based on features, and test results if available. The Acura lacks two things I felt are important in any SUV, rear side airbags, and stability control. Ditto the ford. However, MDX is based on Odyssey platform which does get good results. Remember..these are PERSONAL ratings, based on my research, and experience driving all of them. YMMV. BTW, that Edmunds review was for earlier models...the 2001's are much nicer, and more competant offroad.
    Footballfan. First, Ford quality used to be better. My observations are just that, based on my experience driving 1 2002 Explorer Ltd, 1 Explorer EB, and 1 Mountaineer. Perhaps I got unlucky....All I would suggest is don't take my word for it, check out an ML320, MDX, etc and see for yourself. If you're used to typical ford interiors, the explorer may be fine. I currently drive an Audi A4 (which has a very nice interior) so my standards are pretty high.

    I'm with Drew here on the ML 3rd row. If you need more room, you'll have either go to a minivan, or move up to a full size SUV like landcruiser/sequoia. The new 2002 Escalade is supposedly the best of the domestics. Yukon/Tahoe and Expedition/Excursion have some more room, but are major land barges, with horrible handling, gas milage, and body integrity. The Excursion is downright scary to drive. need to go as high as the ML55 if performance is a concern. The ML430 will blow the doors off the V8 Fords..for that matter even the ML320 comes pretty close. Of course, if performance is what you're after, a eurowagon might be the way to go.
  • robsmithrobsmith Posts: 71
    I beleive all SUV's use the flip/fold method of some type. The LC is pretty easy. One lever folds the seat and another pulls it out the way. For adults to get back it's a little tougher but no problem for teenagers or kids. My 5 year old takes the easiest route and just jumps over the seat. :)

    If you have to use your 3rd row constantly nothing beats a mini-van for ease. Of course the Rendezvous has 2nd row captain chair option and it may allow you to access the 3rd row between the seats but not sure since I haven't seen any with that option.

    The only negative about the LC 3rd row seats is taking them out(since it doesn't fold flat). They are heavy and it take some work.

    Drew - My look at the ML320 was the 5 minute variety and I didn't notice the foot well so I will accept your opinion. Maybe it is more functional than it first appeared.
  • tincup47tincup47 Posts: 1,508
    According to Edmunds, the Rendevous only offers traction control on its FWD versions and does not offer stability control at all. It also does not offer side curtain airbags. The Rendevous sister vehicle Aztek also has very mediocre ratings from NHTSA, and the Minivan the vehicle is based on has abysmal IIHS ratings.I will not argue that the Mercedes is a very safe vehicle, but to put the Explorer below the Rendevous puts your objectivity in question. You can site recalls, which the Explorer has, but real world statistics prove the Explorer is as safe as almost all SUVs.
  • skimmelskimmel Posts: 43
    Thanks for advise on 3rd row. That is very useful. So, do you not use your 3rd row all the time?

    If you plan on travelling with 3 kids in the car all the time (in car seats, boosters), would anyone recommend an SUV? Minivans do seem much more "user-friendly" but there are many features in an SUV that most minivans don't have.
  • robsmithrobsmith Posts: 71
    I have a 3 kids(2, 5, 15) and one on the way. I currently use the 3rd row to separate the 5 and 15 yr old but sometimes they all sit in the middle row.

    Once the baby comes it will be in use all of the time. I'm seriously considering a mini-van because if I have 2 child seats getting to the 3rd row will be a real pain.

    My other alternative is the Rendezvous with 2nd row captain chairs. I really want to keep the 4wd for Ohio winters.

    If you don't care about the 4wd I would go with a mini-van.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    If you read what I said above, you'll see why I put explorer last..."Unfortunately the Explorer lacks acceptable emergency handling, and stability control..its scary to corner at any speed in the thing". Accident avoidence is a very important factor, and the Rendezvous does seem to handle significantly better. The Rendezvous has standard side torso airbags, which provide far greater side impact protection than side curtain airbags, which only protect in a rollover situation. Speaking of which, due to its truck based construction and high center of gravity, the explorer is far more likely to rollover. Stability control is a NECESSITY on a truck based SUV. In a minivan based SUV, with a low center of gravity, its not really needed. Also, Rendezvous is only loosly based on Aztek platform, there have been significan changes to size, suspension and body structure.
  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    I thought the new Explorer had ESP? Ford made a big deal about it being a standard feature.

    Regarding truck based construction and CG, you should know that the ML has a lower CG than an RX300. It's not obvious visually so it's not intuitive. A lot of the weight of the ML is in the frame which is low. The ML also passed the moose test w/o ESP (though of course it adds more safety margin as it would with all cars/trucks/etc.)

    If I had 3 kids, I wouldn't get an SUV, IMHO. 2 would be the comfort limit. You eventually end up going out with parents, friends, etc. and just need more space.
  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    The thing most people (including the media) missed with all the rollover hoopla is that the roof collapsed. It should *never* collapse. It was something I looked for while researching the m-class (including crash pics found on the net) for 2 years before deciding on it. If the roof collapses and your head gets hit, you'll probably get a spinal injury and become a quadraplegic...

    Then you have the shows about the idiots who were killed because they didn't have seat belts on and were thrown out of the car and squished. Particularly amusing was one segment where some family sobbed about how their family member was thrown out and oh by the way, he was sitting in the cargo area w/o a seatbelt. Sitting in the cargo area is illegal in some states for a reason ;-)
  • dforrdforr Posts: 51
    MDX is just fine for use by older teenagers and smaller adults.

    The Rendezvous looked abysmally short of 3rd row space. I crossed it off the list in less than 30 seconds. No statistic can possibly give you a clear picture of how little space is back there, as well as a 3rd row seat that doesn't split and fold.

    MDX split and fold is a superior feature. Explder doesn't do this, ML don't recall, but don't think so.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    "MB M-Class Owners: Photo Gallery" May 30, 2001 2:31am

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  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65
    On that MDX 3rd seat vs the others.
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the MDX I saw, the only way to access the 3rd row was to slide part of the 2nd row forward a few inches, as it does NOT tumble forward. My wife (5'4) and I (5'11) both had to contort quite a bit to get in. Once inside, my knees were touching my chest, and my wife was very uncomfortable. Also no room for a rear facing childseat in there. The second row, as far as I could tell, did not slide forward and back (except for the small 30% section). So basically access was quite difficult, and legroom almost non existant. Did you SIT in the 3rd row of the Rendezvous? at 5'11, it was quite comfortable for me. I had more than enough legroom once I moved the 2nd row forward a bit. ML as well. Note that ML will also split and fold too. In addition, the ML seats seem far more solid than the MDX's.
    Just my observation, from sitting and driving in all these vehicles, YMMV.
  • All,

    I'm reading all of this stuff about the various makes of SUVs, and it seems to me it all boils down to needs of individuals, and planned usage. I must state up front that I'm a Honda fan, but they don't make a vehicle that will meet our needs, so I researched vehicles that would. My wife needs a vehicle to drive to work daily, not too big, as she doesn't like driving our F-150 on a daily basis. Therefore, throw out the Burb/Yukon and the Expi and the Excursion. Now then she needs something to haul her horse trailer, which is right at 5000 lbs, with the hosses of course. Then she needs something to occasionally haul a couple of hay bales or a sack of feed. And finally, we need something where we can occasionally seat more than 5 people. So my research led me to the Explorer/Mountaineer (V-8 with tow package), the Durango, the Jeep, and the new GM trio(GMs don't have the 3rd seat). My research did not lead me to the Benz or the Acura... they simply didn't have the tow capacity. None of the foreign SUVs would do what we needed.

    So here I am looking at our needs, and it came down to the Explorer or the Durango (I wouldn't own a Jeep). I obviously took into consideration the perfect (so far) experience I've had with my F-150. 4 1/2 years old, and not one trip to the dealer. So then it came down to the Ford or the Mercury, and based on price, we ordered the Ford.

    So Proteus and others, I hope this clears things up. Certain people will be happier with an Acura or Benz based on their lifestyle and needs, but for us, the Explorer seemed like a better choice.
  • proteus456proteus456 Posts: 65're absolutely right. I would never suggest hauling feed, hay, or a horse trailer around with an Acura or Benz..LOL!
    Sounds like you made the right decision to go with Explorer/Durango. Honestly, Merc/MDX are designed as luxury people haulers, with some limited off-road and towing ability. For me, thats exactly what I need, an urban combat vehicle..:-)
    To the explorer's credit, it does have a very good emphasis on UTILITY..more so than most other SUV's...Sounds like you made the right choice for your needs...
This discussion has been closed.