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



  • 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?

  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    I see your point. I agree with you that many folks consider reliability as the vehicle running dependably, namely from a mechanical standpoint. Quality problems with cosmetic areas, rattles, etc. can be annoying, but they're not the same as not being able to start and run the vehicle. I agree that most of the M-class problems are not with the vehicle itself running, but with a lot of the fit and finish items.

    (There are, of course, exceptions. The most recently notable was the fuel pump, which did have the capability of failing and leaving one stranded, and I did read a message on the M-class forum in the last few months about someone breaking down in such fashion while on a vacation. But hopefully these are rare.)

    I don't know what the correct terminology is. From an English language standpoint, quality problems with accessories, trim, etc. can be legitimately described as a lack of reliability. I suppose what could be preferrable would be a more accurate and descriptive context around the reliability, and again, I see your point.

    Consumer Reports obviously bundles all of this into a general "reliability" category. However, JD Power does break down its quality survey into categories: mechanical quality, feature & accessory quality, and body & interior quality. That may well be a good way to extrapolate an accurate term; mechanical reliability.

    Indeed, the JD Power results rates the M-class with a score of "4" for mechanical quality, which places it in the top 11% to 30% (or, better than average). It's the other categories that the M-class has traditionally suffered in.

    Of course, there are a substantial number of folks for whom even having good mechanical reliability is not adequate; they expect reliability in accessories, paint, etc. But that's up to the individual.
  • brillmtbbrillmtb Posts: 543
    I commend you all for comparing apples to apples here. The MDX, Lexus, MB and Infinity are in a different class then the Montero, LC, Land Rover and a different class still with the Yukon, Sequoia, etc.
  • My 99 ML430 had one service issue the year I owned it, this was in the 7th month, a resistor had to be soldered into the A/C harness to get the A/C compressor to run properly in cold weather to aid defrosting, no other problems, rattles, etc. My 00 ML55 has had one service issue as well, the GPS was DOA upon delivery, the problem was an improperly crimped cable end from the antenna splitter to the GPS Module. I've had the ML55 11 months without any further problems, it has been spectacular. I know this is only 2 vehicles, and maybe I've been lucky, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the M Class to anyone, based upon my experience, & the excellent service I have received.
  • kiiwiikiiwii Posts: 318
    RX is a car that rides like a truck.

    ML is a truck that rides like a car.

    MDX is an Odyssey with larger wheels.

    all are good choices. it really depends what your preference is.
  • Has anyone researched leases for the new Acura MDX or the Lexus RX300?
  • sean2gsean2g Posts: 17
    I own a MDX and it is the best! I have had for about three weeks now, and it is fully loaded. I have the navi, touring package, and side steps. The Acura MDX won Motor Trend SUV of the year, some people might want to look into that. Every Suv was in that competition. This year's competition included the BMW X5, Ford Escape, Ford Explorer Sport, GMC Denali XL, Hyundai Santa Fe, Infiniti QX4, Mazda Tribute, Mitsubishi Montero, Pontiac Aztek, Toyota RAV4,Toyota Sequoia and the Acura MDX.
  • Qx4..sluggish and no load capacity. Nice interior though
    Rx300...Nice ride but didn't like the ex or interior design
    MDX...Nice, but to wide (5" bigger)takes up to much room in garage.
    Also, first year in production, never know what's gonna happen.
    ML430...bought it. :-)
  • What I don't like about our RX:
    1. The stupid parking brake that in not a lever but a foot pedal.
    2. The Audio, AC, and trip computer are all on the center display. You have to go through several windows to change radio stations, or to see outside temps or setting on the AC. Too much distractions from the road.
    3. Memory is for the seats only not the mirrors. Also could be programed into the key like the MDX.
    4. Horrid turning radius.
    5. Sound system is not as good as the Bose System in my 98 Audi
    6. The fold down arm rest interferes with fasting the seat belt on the driver seat.
    7. Only a four speed automatic transmission.
    8. Wind and road noise is more than I thought acceptable for a luxury vehicle.

    Wish I could have convinced my wife to look at the MDX.
  • I work for a Mercedes Dealership and I sell parts for both Mercedes and BMW. To me, there seems to be a lot of little problems wrong with the ML. I would agree that no one would be stranded while driving their ML on a daily basis. However, I am first to admit that these were rare exceptions to the excellent Mercedes build. BMW's are not perfect either. BMW is currently experiencing a problem with thermostats and their housings. In the bitter cold that we have been experiencing up North, the housings have cracked. Now, many customers are without heat. To make matters worse, there is a back order. My choice would be the new MDX, but I would wait to the next model year. JD Power's recently named Acura the number one name plate for initial quality (do not confuse this number with JD Powers reliability rating). The Acura combines performance, practicality, and quality into one stellar package. It is not a truck and compromises had to be made in the development process.
  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    I test drove an RX300 recently, I just had to chime in:

    "1. The stupid parking brake that in not a lever but a foot pedal."


    "2. The Audio, AC, and trip computer are all on the center display. You have to go through several windows to change radio stations, or to see outside temps or setting on the AC. Too much distractions from the road."

    Isn't this amazing? I run an information technology division, and this thing drove me nuts.

    "3. Memory is for the seats only not the mirrors. Also could be programed into the key like the MDX."

    Yup. And that's why I'll probably get a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. I love the seats, mirror, and radio memory feature.

    "4. Horrid turning radius."


    "5. Sound system is not as good as the Bose System in my 98 Audi"

    I'm on the fence with this one. It was ok. I agree that the Bose in our '97 Pathfinder is excellent.

    "6. The fold down arm rest interferes with fasting the seat belt on the driver seat."


    "7. Only a four speed automatic transmission."

    Disagree here. I was very impressed with the "programming" of the transmission and how ell it adapted to the engine load at a given momented. Very smooth shifts under hard accelaration.

    "8. Wind and road noise is more than I thought acceptable for a luxury vehicle."

    Didn't take it to a high enough speed so can't comment.

    Wow. It's refreshing to see a similar experience to mine. At least I know I'm not crazy.

  • Glad we agree so much. I have to say the new Jeep GC Ltd was on our short list. What killed it for us was the extremely poor crash test results. It was two catagories down from the Lexus, MB, X5 (and probably the MDX - not tested but data indicates that Honda was trying to make it in the same catagory as the RX-300). We had a 87 Jeep Cherokee and a 93 GC Ltd and were set on getting the new model.

    I would suggest you look at the MDX. It has a lot of good qualities going for it, but will be much cheaper than the MDX as their sales are off and are making some good deals now.

  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    Did you mean look at the RX?
    If so, we did.

    Yup, the crash tests threw some cold water on us. I couldn't believe how bad the Pathfinder we are currently driving was.

    One of things holding me back about the RX is cargo capacity... I will haul stuff from Home Depot every once in awhile, and the inability to open the hatch window (to let long items hang out) is another downside.

    Again, thanks for the comments.

  • I meant look at the Acura MDX. I believe it has more cargo space with the folding seats. It is also about 4-6K cheaper than the RX. It will have a waiting time to order one.

  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    Huh? I guess you haven't been pricing them lately. Acura dealers are gouging the public and adding all kinds of after-market fluff to jack the prices up.

    Meanwhile, Lexus dealers are actually knocking $$$ off of the MSRP.

    Plus, we really can't wait any longer, our '97 Pathfinder is already 2 months past it's original lease and out of warranty.

  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    Make sure you research the Jeep GC reliability record. I don't know about the 2000 models, but for what it's worth, Consumer Reports rated the reliability of the 1999 Jeed GC as Much Worse than average. They listed it in last place among all the new SUV purchases. This was never the case with their previous generation of the GC, but I know a couple people who owned the previous generation who have said they will never buy another GC.

    The crash test results and my complaints about the ride quality on pavement are two other reasons I didn't choose the Jeep GC.

    I agree with you that the recent deep discounts offered by Lexus dealers are making the RX300 more appealing. I also would not buy an MDX from any dealer who is forcing expensive accessory purchases or selling above MSRP. However, all 3 Acura dealers in my state are selling the MDX at MSRP without requiring any add-ons or accessories. I bought the base model at just under $35K. I appreciate the performance, the ride characteristics, and the additional passenger/cargo space enough to definitely NOT regret this purchase -- even though I could now buy an RX300 at a deeply discounted price.

    Have you also considered the new Toyota Sequoia? I've seen posts where people are now buying them at over $1000 off of MSRP, and so I'm guessing they are easier to find than the MDX. I don't know if they offer the ability to open the hatch window?
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    The Sequoia has the neat power rolldown window, just like the Toyota 4Runner. However, I think it is out of Tony's price range (about US$36K). He has been considering the ML320 as well...a leftover '00 ML320 can be had for about that price (a tad more actually).

    Vans and Aftermarket & Accessories message boards
  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    Is too much truck for me really... I just don't need for something that big. Mid-size SUVs are where we are at. Thanks for the info though.
  • cotmccotmc Posts: 1,081
    With the way that most Lexus dealers have recently been deeply discounting the 2001 RX300 models, I wonder how the introduction of the new Toyota Highlander will be affected? I know the Highlander is supposed to be a little bigger, but aren't they similar enough, such that an RX300 at $1000 over factory invoice (with the new value package pricing) will cut into the sales of fully-equipped Highlanders?
  • tonychrystonychrys Posts: 1,310
    I think it's the OTHER way around... A fully loaded HL will be equivalent to the Lexus w/Value Package. Except for anti-pinch windows. And the HL will be cheaper.

    Say goodbye to Lexus sales...
  • msu79gt82msu79gt82 Posts: 541
    I know I'm entering this discussion late, but tskyplayer's question (Post #5)intrigued me. A fully loaded RX300 (4wd, Nav) MSRP's at about $42,800 and can be bought for about $39,500. I believe that is too much to pay for a car that it seems everyone else owns. We are in the market for a 3rd vehicle and have looked hard at the RX300. What I have begun to notice is that everyone has one! They are all over the road. Lexus began as the upscale/exclusive end of Toyota. Upscale and exclusivity are tied closely to the concept of class (in the way I believe tskyplayer is asking). Therefore it seems to me that if everyone has one then it is not as upscale &/or as exclusive as the term classy seems to conotate.

    In this way of looking at classy, the MB, BMW, Acura could be called classy because they still qualify for upscale/exclusive by virtue of numbers alone.
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