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Mercedes-Benz M-class (ML320, ML350, ML500 and ML55) 2005 and earlier



  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    Regardless of what one thinks about rear side airbags, a child is safer in the center of the rear seat. It's simple physics.

    LATCH is intended to ensure that installation is correct, and to provide convenience in easily removing/reinstallng the seat. However, a LATCH seat is no safer than a properly installed child seat. That said, some people show stats that 75% to 85% of car seats are installed incorrectly (though LATCH does not address all the issues in those percentages!).

    So LATCH "is safer" for those who tend to mess up their seat installation. But heck, those folks should take a class in car seat installation (we did) and/or get a certified person to inspect the installation.

    In fact, and this is just my opinion, based on the marketplace today, a LATCH seat for an infant may not be as safe as a properly installed conventional infant seat, regardless of where in the second row they are.

    This is because there are relatively few LATCH seats available, while there are some excellent non-LATCH child seats that are probably better designed and safer than the models available with LATCH. This will change over time as more LATCH seats become available.

    E.g. I'm not familiar with any LATCH, dedicated infant seats. You have to buy something like the Fisher-Price Safe Embrace II, which is a convertible seat (and Fisher-Price is getting out fo the car seat business at the end of this year). Many people feel that it's better to put an infant in a dedicated infant seat than a convertible because the sizing is more suited for the infant (strap spacing, strap width, etc.). Plus infant seats have the huge convenience of being able to remove the baby from the car without waking them.

    Excellent, dedicated, non-LATCH infant car seats include the Graco Snugride DX5 and the Century Avanta SE. I believe the former was top-rated by Consumer Reports in their testing, with the Century placing second. Many people still think the best convertible seat is the Britax Roundabout/Advantage pair, which are also non-LATCH.

    If an infant has to ride in an outboard position, I think he/she is okay with the rear side airbag because infant seats are like big buckets with the baby well-recessed in the seat, away from the airbag. In that case, the seat contacting the airbag is better than the seat contacting the door or window.

    With rear side airbags, I have greater concerns about some convertible seats, and, especially, booster seats. But I'm still formulating a long-term opinion on them. The rear side airbags are fine as long as children don't lean against them (note that MB and NHTSA post warnings about the leaning). You figure that there'd be no warning if there wasn't at least some danger, though in this case it's just when a child leans against the door and falls asleep. However, children being children, it may not always be possible to prevent this.

    A Britax Roundabout/Advantage has very deep bolsters that can offset any leaning danger, though. And instead of booster seats, there are newer, large 5-point harness seats coming out for youths.

    Consumer Reports seems to think that rear side airbags can be dangerous to children, as their most recent review says they "don't recommend" the optional rear side airbags in the Audi A6 if you are carrying children. However, I think that this is a case of them throwing out the baby with the bathwater (if you'll pardon the expression) and that there are ways to minimize whatever danger may exist (e.g. use very deeply bolstered child seats).

    Note that there are no NHTSA compiled reports on injury to children from rear side airbags! Of course, they're on relatively fewer vehicles. But the danger may be overstated.

    So net-net, I'd recommend a non-LATCH, dedicated infant seat from one of the top models available, mounted in the center position. Assuming the baby outgrows the infant seat before he or she can be forward-facing, then a convertible seat like the Britax Advantage rear-facing, then to forward-facing (also non-LATCH). If the child doesn't outgrow the infant seat before going forward-facing, Britax has a good forward-facing only model that is LATCH (and also supports conventional installation). When the child outgrows that, I'd look hard at the Britax Super Elite instead of a booster.

    Ultimately, it's up to the parent to decide what they are the most comfortable with.
  • spfoteyspfotey Posts: 131
    basically, i have it scored this way.

    X5 upside: Classy interior/exterior, fun to drive, ergonomically sound, with strong safety features and good service. Downside is price, utility, and reliability. I think 2002 will improve on reliability. (if i use 3rd row seat as qualifier this gets thrown out)

    MDX upside: Smooth to drive, plenty of space, 3rd row option is nice, good safety reports, acceptable price, and assuming that reliability will be there with 2002 model. Downside is the interior quality (doesn't seem luxurious), overall sturdiness (not sure how it will last over time), and everytime i go to the acura building i feel like i am in a used car lot.

    ML320: Solid feel, good in my occasional offroad usage, good use of space, high safety record, 5th year of the model so reliability has improved along with improvements such as rear A/C, and excellent service. Downside: Somewhat pricey, rides a little higher than i would like (tho i am used to it), reliability still has me nervous, and i'm a little bored with its looks (tho thats not a big deal)

    I"ve added the Toy HL simply because my Previa was the best vehicle i have owned. I like its ergonomics, reliability, and simple layout. The downside is it doesn't have rear AC (and i promised that to my kids for the next car) and no 3rd row of seats.

    so -- if space and money were not an issue, rather a fun SUV that meets 90% of my reqts, then the X5 wins. If money and space are the main priority (or the occasional 3rd row seat looms larger) then MDX wins. If it's price and reliability then it's Toyota HL. If i end up somewhere in between, then it's probably the ML, which is what i am driving today.

    so, i have to organize my priorities, tho i keep hoping Nissan would come out with their new version and it would be exactly what i want.

    still -- ihaven't yet driven the 2002 ML and maybe that will change my mind.
  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    Nice reasoned comparison.
    I wish more folks would do that when they proclaim that "xxx is the best"... :-)
  • johnnnycjohnnnyc Posts: 166
    in my book (I agree with Ken - no such thing as 'best car' - but 'best car for *me' is what you should be aiming for).

    Then, the 2002 ML's hit the streets.

    More luxurious interior. Minor fascia changes to the exterior helped the looks (although I must admit I wasn't a fan of either car's exterior). The revamped AC system included the rear seat climate control I so desperately wanted (and why I passed on the 01).

    The 02's come with 17" wheels and a retuned suspension. I decided to go for a side-by-side test drive, and in my book, it was clear that the MDX couldn't keep up. To your point, I also felt the construction of the ML was more substantial.

    Those flip-over tests that Drew has were proof positive that this is one tough truck. The fact that it keeps pace with cargo, despite being 6" shorter and 6" narrower also helped, considering in NYC space is always at a premium.

    Reliability was my key concern - but from everyone I've spoken to, including some personal friends as well as internet resources - the reliability issues slowly crept away starting with 99.5. The people I know who have 00's and 01's (can you tell that NYC is MB land?) both have had nothing but smooth sailing, with the exception of one window switch (which was also changed in MY 02).

    I liked your comparison though. I certainly couldn't get close to an X5, after seeing what they did to those people's homes. I'm sorry - BMW sent a very Ford-like message to the people who bought those cars. Rather than recall them all, they were [non-permissible content removed]-footing around the issue. Now, several garages later, it seems to be a bigger issue.

    Thank *GOD* that nobody was seriously injured or killed in any of those burnings. My concentration on safety is what brought me to MB, and the last thing I'd want is for the car to defect and actually cause injury.
  • spfoteyspfotey Posts: 131

    sounds like you could tell the difference between the 01 and 02 model? -- i definitely need to try it out. (i've postponed my decision until 02 models because they all needed reliability improvements)

    i know that there is a substantial diff between 98 and 01 in terms of the smoothness of teh drive.

    however, "best of" is left to each person. i have a friend who just bot an Acura TL and is so overwhelmed with it he wuoldn't even consider another vehicle. Probably he would head straight for the MDX if he goes into that market and wouldn't regret it either. thx for your feedback.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    Re-tuned suspension for the '02s? I'm curious as to where you heard of this. I'm aware not aware of any changes in the suspension based upon the information that I have. It's probably the all-season tires that made the major difference.

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  • johnnnycjohnnnyc Posts: 166
    who is an avid MB fan as well, the 02's sport different suspension parts. I'd have to ask him to elaborate, but it would make some sense that they'd change the shocks to correspond with the larger tire size.

    He was the one that kept pushing me to wait for the 02's, saying that the changes went far beyond cosmetic, and would make the wait worthwhile.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    The tire diameters are unchanged, only the rim sizes for the '02 ML320. The '02 ML320 still uses 255 mm width tires, and the ML500 275 mm width tires. People have gone up to 295 mm tires with aftermarket 20" wheels without having to make suspension changes.
  • gustavmgustavm Posts: 43
    "You mentioned that the ml320 blew away the X5 in all areas, except for man. trans. Could you be more specific?? I have narrowed my search to the ml, x5, or mdx -- all capable vehicles. My 98 ml320 has been a reliability disappointment but a sturdy vehicle otherwise."


    Let me begin by saying that the X5 drove wonderfully and I almost considered getting it, but, after driving it, I preferred to wait for the '02 MLs.

    It didn't make sense to me to get a pseudo-truck with the sticker price of the X5. As I said in my previous post, there is no area, IMHO, in which the X5 is better than the ML320, except that the X5 comes available in a standard transmission, which I would have preferred (if we were in Europe, I would have considered getting the ML 270).

    One needs to have driven both to some extent to be able to understand, and perhaps then agree, with the following.

    The ML feels sturdier (it is heavier) the moment you close the doors or the hatch, it has better maneuverability (shorter, narrower, smaller turning circle), better visibility (the X5 is terrible in this respect). The fact that BMW readily admits that the X5 was not designed to do off-roading is a substantial con against that car.

    With the ML, I know that if I find myself in pretty bad weather (snow, downpour, bad Northeast winter), in a rough dirt road in the desert (New Mexico, Utah), etc., there is a pretty good chance that the car will get me through it, and that I am actually going to enjoy the ride. I simply would not want to ride the X5 under any of the above conditions.

    The price of the X5 is in itself a good example of a luxury manufacturer inflating the value of the car to make it attractive to luxury buyers. The ML suffers to a lesser degree from that tendency. Considering the non-existent off-road handling of the X5, its sedan-sized cargo, its physical size, etc., it becomes as reasonable a purchase as buying $400 silk boxer shorts from Hermes. It is the "status" premium, as it were.

    Don't get me wrong, though. The X5 drives great. It is, however, an oversized, overpriced luxury sedan. The ML320, on the other hand, offers reasonable off-road abilities, outstanding safety, fun driving, great cargo space, traditional MB luxury (at least the '02 models), for a price you'd expect from Mercedes.

    I did not consider the MDX.

    -- Gustav
  • ml320ml320 Posts: 22
    lsweet28 wrote:

    MBUSA (impressive safety feature presentation) and all the professional drivers were great. I'm sorry that hubby doesn't have enough legroom for the tank-like ML (I mean that in a good way). Had to order an X5 but our next car will be the CLK. I just gotta have a Mercedes!

    Linda, the ML has more legroom than the X5. That's one of the first things I tried at the MB Powertrip. The X5 failed miserably, particularly in the rear. (I like to be chauffered at times,and am fairly tall.)


  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    "Probably he would head straight for the MDX if he goes into that market and wouldn't regret it either."

    And that should be the final determinant of whether you are happy w/ your purchase. If you enjoy it and it meets *your* needs, who cares what anyone else thinks of it? It's fairly amusing sometimes when people get bent out of shape when someone says something bad about their purchase.. ;-)
  • Thanks for clarifying that the only "lock trick" is the one in which the vehicle "self locks" if you don't enter after a minute or so after remotely unlocking.

    In response to someone's question about previous luxury vehicles I have owned - yes, the vehicles self locked, and I reopened them using the remote opener upon re-entering the vehicles. This feature has spoiled me, because I never locked a vehicle when I walked away...the automatic locking feature took care of this for me.

    Now I am driving a Mercedes, and have to lock my vehicle..oh well, it's a Mercedes, the benchmark of safety

  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    My 3rd party alarm on my ancient 1988 Integra also had this great feature.
    When I first got the ML, I forgot about it a few times :-)
    You'll remember to listen for the "kachunk" of all the locks going down as you lock the ML...
  • Does anyone know if the cargo divider net(wire mesh)from 2001 would fit on a 2002? And if it is good for big dog? The divider sales for $150 at Clair. I am thinking to buy one for my big Old English Sheepdog. If someone has one on his 2002, would you please check the parts number for me, so I can order it directly from Clair. Or anyone has a better source for MB accesories?

    Or, better yet, any great ideas on how to share ML320 with big shaggy dog?

  • I have found that specs for legroom are misleading. I don't recall how they compare for the ML and X5 but I can tell you that in the front my 6'4" husbands knees are 1/2" away from the dashboard no matter how he adjusts the seat. The X5 will be his first car ever where he will not have to drive with the seat as far back as it will go. I really love the ML but we already have a Lexus where his knees are perilously close to the dash-god forbid he's ever in a nasty accident with only 1/2" to spare.
    I thought the ML had much better braking than the X5, for me they were close on handling. I know I'm opting for bad gas mileage, little cargo room (no kids) and no legendary service all at a premium price. All I can say is our next car will be the incredible CLK!
  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    I found the X5 4.4's braking awesome at the X5 event. 117ft from 60mph. It's amazing for something this heavy. I think the ML500 is somewhere around 132 and the ML320 is around 138 (the ML500/ML55 have bigger brakes).

    The ML has brake assist, so it helps you brake faster in emergencies to compensate for some of this difference.
  • birgerbirger Posts: 80

    I also regret the disappearance of the ___////-roof on the newest edition of the ML. I had it on my first ML, and while the giant wind deflector did cause additional noise (at our speeds!), the cabrio feeling in summer certainly beat the ordinary sunroof.

    It's strange, though, that MB "blaims" the introduction of the window bags for no longer offering this option. On its newest Golf-sized car, the Stilo, Fiat has an option called Skywindow:


    This car also has window bags! So this is to me a little strange as a reason. I was in Italy this weekend and saw the Stilo "in the flesh", and the Skywindow is really something I'd have liked to have on the ML - it's just like the one formerly offered on the ML, except that the roof elements are glass and not steel. When closed, you can still enjoy the scenery - or close it out with the electrically operated sunshade.

    Off topic: It's amazing what this car (the Stilo) offers - as options (or standard, depending on model and market) you can even have radar-controlled cruise control, like on the S-Class, in addition to a host of other things normally found on higher-class vehicles (xenon, parktronic etc.) Unfortunately the website is not very informative.

    Birger (who's NOT about to sell the ML to buy a Stilo!)
  • gustavmgustavm Posts: 43

    Take into account that the ML320 and ML500 are heavier than the X5s. Nonetheless, where did you get those numbers?

    -- Alfredo
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Hi Guys and Gals, I'm ready to buy my ML500. The Mercedes dealer initially offered $1,000 of the $52,615 MSRP. I'm checking at another dealer to see which will give the best price. I'm thinking I'll commit if they go $1,500 off. I'm sure there might be better deals to be had but I'm OK with this one for $1,500 off. I have to order because I want parktronic,M3,M5,M7,Xenon,Bose,etc with an arrival date of mid Nov.

    Currently I'm trying to sell my '99 Jeep GC Ltd. I'd rather sell it myself than trade it if I can.

    2010 Land Rover LR4, 2013 Honda CR-V, 2009 Bentley GTC, 1990 MB 500SL, 2001 MB S500, 2007 Lincoln TC, 1964 RR Silver Cloud III, 1995 MB E320 Cab., 2015 Prevost Liberty Coach
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    FYI, you may only embed images in your messages if you own the copyright to the picture(s), or if the picture is public domain and not copyrighted. Otherwise, please utilise links to the images rather than embedding them.


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  • kenyeekenyee Posts: 738
    The numbers were from various reviews in car magazines.
  • I have a 2000 ml 430 with 60k. I have been experiencing oil consumption problems with the vehicle, especially recently. I purchased the vehicle with 35k from a private seller in January 2001 and have been able to verify that the prior service was done at the recommended service intervals. I do a disproportionate amount of highway driving estimate: 85%/15% The vehicle oil light came on at 40k. I called Mercedes dealer who had done all of the previous service to inquire if there might be a problem. The service advisor advised me to add a quart and bring the vehicle in. After checking the service history the advisor seemed to be perplexed by the situation. He offered to place the vehicle in an oil consumption study that Mercedes was currently conducting and said at the next scheduled service they would change the oil to Mobil 1 synthetic. When I pressed the issue as to if he had seen other ML's with similar problems, he offered the information that Mercedes had been forced to address the consumption problem on the ML. He further stated that his dealership had even rebuilt and replaced some engines due to oil consumption.
    I then had the ML serviced at 49K when the service indicator came on. The oil was changed to Mobil 1. Since then the oil light came on at approx 55k (-1.5L), 59.4K (-1.5L) & now at 60.5K (-1.0L). The dealer states that this consumption pattern is "within MB tolerances". I think this is absurd. I believe that the oil consumption is likely directly related to the fact that MB is pushing the oil change intervals way too long, probably corellated to the fact that they are paying the bill for the oil change under warranty. I have to question whether MB expects that most owners will trade vehicle before situation manifests itself or in my situation, the previous owner was leasing. I also find it interesting that MB issued a service bulletin in early 2001 advising dealers to switch to synthetic. I believe that this is clear evidence that MB has come to realize that they have overextended the oil change intervals, thus causing premature engine wear and oil consumption issues. However, at the dealership they aknowledge my belief that the oil consumption is a problem, but the dealer states that MB only considers oil consumption a problem if the vehicle is using more than 1L every 600 miles!, are you kidding? This is a $50K vehicle. Thankfully,the local dealer did note way back in March that I was expereincing oil consumption issues while the ML430 was still under warrantly. The latest time the indicator light came on, the dealer is now recommending that I have the oil changed again (even though my service indicator says the are still 4500 miles before service). The dealer say the want to better document the problem for MB. I feel there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate significant oil consumption. My opinion is that the damage has already been done and is not likely to be reversed. In fact, as you would expect, it appears to be getting worse. I have asked to speak with the regional MB rep to discuss the problem. My concern is that if I let the dealer continue to draw the situation out by putting new oil in the ML, MB will take position that it is a high-mileage situation that they should have been been alerted to sooner. I have owned several vehicles that I have driven to upwards of 175K, always changing the oil at NO MORE THAN 5K INTERVALS. Not surprisingly, this is the first oil usage issue I have ever had. The dealer answer to that statement is that those vehicles used oil as well, but I didn't notice it since I changed the oil so frequently. I feel like my inteligence is being challenged. I have never heard of any oil manufacturer suggesting going up to 16K between changes. As a sales rep I typically drive 30-40K each year. As such I pay particular attention to the fluid levels, even between services. My livlihood depends upon by thoroughness on maintenance issues. Let me know if anyone has had similar experiences and if anyone had MB rebuild or replace their engines as was reported to me.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    "I believe that the oil consumption is likely directly related to the fact that MB is pushing the oil change intervals way too long, probably corellated to the fact that they are paying the bill for the oil change under warranty."

    Pre-'00 MLs in the US did not have free scheduled maintenance. In Canada, oil changes are not free either, even for the '00 and newer models, so the above is not the case at all. Additionally, other manufacturers such as BMW also have a flexible oil change system which tailors the intervals based on the actual driving conditions of the vehicle.

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  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382

    Just a reminder that the MB chat is on tonight (6-7pm Pacific/9-10 pm Eastern). Hope to see you there!

  • lamkenlamken Posts: 19
    The rear air side bag is a concern if you have a child who is leaning on the door. Even restrained in a child sdafety seat my daughter's head can touches the door if she dose off. That is why I am keeping my 1999 ML. I have two daughter and one of them will have to sit next to a door.

    Attach is a link regarding rear side airbag and children.
  • gpvsgpvs Posts: 214
    So, what happens to children who sit there (assuming that middle seat is taken)when the vehicle gets hit on that side? Do you just risk having them hit the hard plastics, metals , etc of the door? Or would you risk the side airbags deploying and hurting them?

  • lamkenlamken Posts: 19
    NHTSA is suppose to come up with proper testing of these side airbag using standard child dummies this year. Once they are deem safe I'll get the latest ML. For now the only thing I'll do is to make sure my kid is properly strap in their child seat. BMW is shipping the X5 with the rear side airbag deactivated, probably to avoid litigation. Yoy have to pay 750 canadian to have them activated and only after you have sign your life away.
  • drew_drew_ Posts: 3,382
    The NHTSA has already tested the side impact airbags with child dummies, AFAIK. After their testing, they asked that any manufacturers, who have found that their side impact airbags do harm properly restrained children, to de-activate them. MB's position is that if the rear occupants children or adults alike, are properly restrained, that the side impact airbags are far more beneficial than the risks involved, and as such they refuse to de-activate any side airbags. As was mentioned above, if you do not have any side impact airbags, it is the hard door structure, even though it has some energy absorbing padding, that will make contact with the outboard passenger, rather than the airbag.

    As the driver, you still do have the responsibility of making sure that any adults or kids are not falling asleep leaning against the doors. Instead, get them to lean towards the centre armrest instead. Personally, I have not found this to be an issue; hink of it like making sure that your passengers are properly buckled up.

    Side curtain head protection airbags are not a problem since they deploy downwards from the headliner not so much outwards. They also extend down only about the window/door sill height.

    As for the BMW X5, rear side impact airbags are optional. If you do order them, they come from the factory de-activated and you have to sign a document saying that you understand the risks involved with BMW's side airbags and that you cannot sue the company in the event of an injury. You do not have to pay $750 to activate the airbags, but you do (obviously) have to pay for the option.

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  • gustavmgustavm Posts: 43
    "Accidental" deployment of the passenger-side airbag is a much more common occurrence, given the preponderance of non-lethal frontal collisions at low speeds. On the other hand, a lateral collision is by definition a more serious accident.

    The distance between the door/glass and the child in a lateral collision is not going to decrease as much as in a frontal collision. Also, the frame of the child seat is going to provide great protection for the child, protection that a front passenger lacks.

    Therefore, unless it is found otherwise, I think it is safer to leave your child IN a car seat with the side airbags activated. It is more likely that she'll be protected rather than hurt by them.

    My two cents...

    -- Gustav
  • gustavmgustavm Posts: 43
    "MB's position is that if the rear occupants children or adults alike, are properly restrained, that the side impact airbags are far more beneficial than the risks involved, and as such they refuse to de-activate any side airbags."

    Drew, I think that MB's position also proves that they so trust the safety of their devices that, unlike BMW, they are willing to assume legal responsibility in case there is injury.

    -- Gustav
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