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



  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    The decision to buy a ML today hinges on your expectations and how willing you are to accept some reliability risks for an SUV with some great attributes.

    If you are really bothered by car problems, want Honda Accord levels of trouble-free-ness in your car, and don't have any special needs in your SUV, then I'd get a Honda Pilot, RX330, Toyota Highlander, etc. They're good vehicles, more reliable, very comfortable, good values, and because they're more car-based, are a little smoother, quieter, etc.

    OTOH, if you are willing to put up with an occasional problem, like German cars, like the ML, need the extra towing capacity, utility, and off-road capability, then the ML is a great choice. It's also a good value now - with the discounts and rebates, you can pretty much get into a ML for the same money as the Japanese SUVs and the warranty and free maintenance is a nice feature.

    Another thing to consider is what you'd buy if you didn't buy the ML. The ML's reliablility isn't great, but at this point in its development, I think it is better than a BMW X5, Volvo XC90, or VW Touareg. Buying one of these because of the ML's reliability issues would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

    Keep in mind that all vehicles have issues and lemons. The ML is not as good as something like a Honda Pilot, but if you start looking closely at their forums, you see problems too. No vehicle has an unblemished record.

    In the final analysis, the problems with the ML would be a factor in my decision, but not the deciding factor. If everything else is equal, I'd avoid the ML. But if you really like the vehicle, I'd be willing to look past the problems.

    - Mark
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    Have you read the 2002 Ward's Best Engine article that talks about the ML's 500 engine. It is a a unique point of view about value. I found it at . . .

    Before their pick of the 500, Wards had picked MB's 320 (as it was in the E-class) for a couple of years running. The 320 is the component part of MB's 430 engine and we really enjoy it in the C-class.

    The 350 is the component part of the 500, which I think is one of the great engines, so that would be of interest to me if I wanted a V6 (it seems like it would be even better than the 320, especially in a heavier ML that can be used for towing) but I do not have a personal experience with it--not even a test drive.

    I can recommend the ML500 though: the V8s come standard with bigger, better brakes, wider tires on all four corners, they're faster and stop quicker, and have navigation. You might think about the Xenon option too--I think it is worth the extra $600-700.
  • How much I paid:
    I paid $41.0K on Oct 31 2003 from a dealer in BayArea. MSRP was $46+ It was about $2.5 below the invoice. If you need more info, email me.

    Every available option but Sports (appearance package) and Parktronic.

    About Navigation:
    I spent $825(no tax) on the DVD-based factory navigation AND DVD-rom map disc. I bought this from the internet and installed it myself(free). Took me 15 mins. I also had to buy a pair of radio removal tools for $7. It was working right away!. However it had to be version coded from the dealer in order to activate the voice(no charge, the advisor thought it was factory installed since I had only 500 miles). Retail for nav is $1400(dvd unit) + $270(dvd map) + $200(install) + tax. The navigation works very well. I LOVE it.

    My favorite options:
    1. Navigation
    2. Xenon ( get this! )
    3. Power folding side mirrors ( it's standard in 2004)
    4. Leather third-row seats ( they are completely removable )
    5. Bose

    What I've added so far:
    1. Burwood shift-knob
    2. all weather floor mats
    3. Navigation

    What I want to get next:
    1. Chrome side bars
    2. Chrome brush guard

    What I don't like:
    1. Mileage
    2. CD Changer in the cargo area.
  • Anyone know how to replace a failed bulb in the instrument panel of a '98 ML320? There seem to be four bulbs for the two circular indicators. The second one from the left has failed but I can't figure out how to access the panel. I can pop off the panels to the left and right of the steering column but I don't know where to go from there. Any help out there?
  • Where did you purchase the dvd drive for the navigation on the net? was it an electronics company or E-bay... I have been looking for weeks
  • I haven't seen any mention of '03 or '04 ML-55. Has anyone heard if they are temp. or perm. discontinued?
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    I took my ML last week to the dealer to have a couple of things done (coming up on two years of ownership).

    -a dash light that covers the gas gauge and part of the speedometer went out. Mine is still under factory warranty so the dealer took care of it.
    -The arm rest between the front seats started to ripple--replaced under warranty.
    -I scratched the inside drivers side back door handle (inch long) and MB replaced/repaired under warranty (looks like new again)
    -The accelerator pedal was sticking a little; repaired/replaced under warranty.
    -driver's window would squeak once positioned from one inch to almost all of the way down; now fixed.

    The issues with my ML have been small and taken care of by my MB dealer. At this point, I would definitely buy another one if I wanted an SUV in this size range.

    Other warranty repairs:
    -replaced windshield washer fluid reservoir
    -replaced fuel pump in gas tank; it made a buzzing noise
    -squeak in dash at windshield---ML had to be taken to a body shop to weld something under the wiper area (bulletin sent out)
    -Recall for power steering hose clamp.

    I'm realizing that when I'm listing all of the things done to my ML, it seems like so much more than it felt like. Generally, I had most of these issues done when the ML needed servicing. I was never left stranded so it's easy to forget the small things.

    Mine listed for $52,000 (MSRP) with all of the options (bi-xenons w/headlamp washers, third seat w/electric pop-out side windows, 6-CD changer, navigation w/full set of CD's, sunroof, auto sensing wipers, heated seats and parktronic.

    The air conditioning system is phenomenal. Even on the hottest days, the air condition system can handle anything mother nature sends!

    Also, I agree with Allnation, the CD changer in the cargo area is not a preferred location. Since I have the third seat option, it takes extra effort to get the changer. If it was located maybe in the dash or under the front passenger seat, that would make it easier to get to. I don't change the cartridge often so it's not a major deal to me but I would like it better up front.

    Just my .02 worth. Mark156
    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
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    On a recent 2,200 journey which included the "FLAT" plains of Texas, I managed 25 mpg on one tank of gas (total highway driving). I always reset my "MPG" read-out to get my mpg on each tank.

    The land was flat, the wind nonexistent and my ML500 with the big V-8, 288 hp, was barely sipping the gas. On several other tank refills, I was getting 21-23 with no problem on the road. But, once the wind picked up or if the terrain was hilly, the mpg dropped like a lead balloon.

    I generally have no problem getting 16/17 in the city. If I make only short city trips, I have gotten only 13 mpg on a few tanks.

    The gas mileage really started to get better after 10,000/12,000 miles on the odometer.

    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
  • Why does the mileage improve after 10/12K miles?
    I only have 700 miles now. and I've been driving like a 90 yr old man. no rpm over 30K
  • kiiwiikiiwii Posts: 318
    Did you get the MPG from the trip computer or did you calculate by the actual mileage and gas? The trip computer always gives "much" better result than the actual number.
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Kiiwii, I just used the ML's read-out. I didn't calculate manually. I'll have to do that to get a true reading I guess. I'm hoping the computer is accurate.

    Allnation, I have no idea why the gas mileage improves but mine did. I've always heard that when the engine breaks in that it will get better mileage... but, who knows, maybe it's an urban legend.


    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
  • My mileage has improved as well. I've been logging actual mileage and gallons of gas and about 2K miles ago or so it started to creep up. I was running about 18MPG around 10K miles. I'm at 13K miles now and I'm running around 20MPG. I have not changed my driving any and my trips are probably about the same in terms of length and mix of city/highway. So I will assert the mileage is getting better. My best mileage was 21.9 MPG in Kansas this past summer (around 12K miles) with the family and luggage packed in, AC on, as the temp was 103F. AC worked well BTW - no troubles keeping us all comfortable.
  • I understand that ML350 is a lot heavier than 94 C280. But it seems like 2004 ML350 runs a lot hotter than the C280. The 94 C280 engine coolant gauge was at 1/3 from the bottom. But the ML350 is 1/2 or slightly higher. Does your ML do that too?
  • thor8thor8 Posts: 303
    I would not go by needle positions, instead by the temperature reading, normal for the ML will be between 80-90deg.
    New vehicles tend to run hotter because there is more friction and the thermostat is very tight (within specs) in older cars the thermostat tends to weaken and will open at less temp, maybe you need a new thermostat if the readings are too low ot it takes a long time to reach operating temp or does not keep operating temp in very cold weather.
  • cdiccdic Posts: 36
    My 2001 ML430 regularly gets just less than 250 miles / tank during the week for my short 9 mile commute to work. I always fill up shortly after the light comes on, which is usually just over 200 miles. On long trips, the trip computer will easily report 20+ MPG, but I have never been able to make it to the 398 or so miles the trip computer RANGE indicator tells me I should get. Driving on flat roads, like when at the Outer Bank of North Carolina, the RANGE will regularly go over 400 miles. I think the ML trip computer is an optimist.
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    The ML gauge is calibrated so that it will typically read from about 60% to 75% of full scale. It's just the presentation on the gauge and it not comparable to gauge positions on other vehicles.

    - Mark
  • Generally the temp guage indicates just a shade over 80 - on those hot x-country trips it will go a little higher - about a needle's width or two. As for MPGs, I'll usually get about 160-180 miles on a "half tank" and it appears linear as I've been nearly empty at 340 miles driven. I don't have a trip computer so I can't say anything about it. Seems my on-the-fly calculations are more accurate tho' : )
  • Hi All,

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. My 02 ML500 has about 15k miles with 18 mths in service. Had a couple issues fixed this week :

    1. BAS/ESP & ETS warning lamps came On - Dealer had to replace some Stop Light Switch. Hopefully its fixed and won't reappear. It seems this is also a known problem !!

    2. The Engine Coolant was always about 1/2 an inch below the Cold Level mark - asked the dealer to check it out. They found out that one hose was leaking - replaced the hose & clamp and pressure tested the system. The coolant cap wasn't holding the pressure - had to be replaced !!

    In the past 6 mths I have had the following things fixed :

    1. Faulty Fuel Gauge - replaced the Fuel Pump & the Fuel Sending Unit.

    2. Whistling Noise from left dash - It was the famous Aspirator Motor - replaced it.

    3. Rear Brakes squeak when reversing - dealer says its normal - can't do anything. Live with it.

    4. Rt Rear door lock makes noise when unlocking - replaced the lock and some retaining clip.

    5. Power Steering Hose Clamp recall - no issues so far.

    6. Replaced the Windshield WasherFluid Tank - had cracked.

    7. The radio was switching from Stereo to mono by itself - some software fix - working fine so far.

    8. The Rt side window trim had faded - replaced the Fr and Rear window trim.

    This is quite a bit of things failing on a 2002 MY $55K vehicle !! My wife jokes about this car - her 1999 RX300 has been trouble free for the last 4.5 years.

    Yesterday I noticed that there is no indicator lamp which come ON when you are in Cruise control - per my wife this is also one of the undocumented "features" of this special car just like No Door Open sign or Not wearing Seat belt sign !! Luckily all the issues so far have happened in town - haven't got stuck or stranded out of town so far.

    With our 2nd child on its way, I am wondering should I get rid of it and buy the LX470 ? I need peace of mind when I am travelling with my family. Don't need to be worried about what else is gonna break now !! Anybody else have this many issues with their vehicle ??

    Best regards,
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I'd say that your troubles are about par for the course. Yes, the ML isn't as trouble-free as a Toyota SUV. If the level of problems you're having is bothersome to you, I'd get the Toyota.

    - Mark
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    Ditto, get rid of it now. Can you be happy with it with all of these concerns, and when a '99 RX has more appeal? And, your wife mocks it. Here's something else that you might want to be concerned about: the ML is the only MB that will not tell you if a tail light is out.
  • cdiccdic Posts: 36
    The dashboard is telling me to take the car in again. This will be the 3rd time for my '01 430 Sport. Each time the car goes in, I have a list of really odd things for them to fix. Some ahave to be costly for MB. This time:
    1) The steering pipe clamp recall. I have seen
       puddles of an oil like substance under the
       front right corner.
    2) My air deflector failed to retract while
       closing the sunroof. It sent pieces flying
       all over. I had to literally rip off the
       remaining pieces to get the roof closed.
    3) The clear coat is peeling off the front
       wheels and the exposed aluminum is pitting
       and turning a dark color. Looks real ugly.
    4) My SPORT model fog lights are half full of
       water. (They have never fixed this one)
    5) The heated seats actually burn you in the
       left butt-cheek.
    6) The driver window switch is intermittent
       (I’m on my second).

    There is a serious, but intermittent rattle over the right rear passenger. I expect it is merely a loose wire clamp, but I am afraid to have them fix it. It would require partial disassembly of the headliner, and I fear they won't restore it properly or make it worse. The service guy has previously suggested I live with it, just like the really loud squeak the brakes make in reverse.

    This is not to say I am seriously disappointed with my ML. I actually enjoy the car immensely, it is MB I am disappointed in. I can't help but wonder if these repairs and the others I read about are taking a toll on the corporation. How long can you ride on a reputation before you must once again rebuild it.

    As I approach the 50K mark, I wonder if I should trade or ride it out. The hit this car has taken in depreciation is unprecedented for MB. Have any of you noticed what the used MLs are going for on eBay?
  • I keep going back and forth between the Acura MDX and the Mercedes ML 350 and 500. I would like to keep the car at $47,000 and below, so the ML500 is pretty much ruled out unless I can get a phenomenal deal on a 2003.

    The MDX loaded has pretty much everything I need and fully loaded with the NAV and DVD entertainment system it offers more options for about $3000 less than a comparably equipped ML350. But I drive a Acura now and while it is a competent car, it just isn't exciting, nor would I consider it luxurious. The ML's scare me with their reliability records, although I am not sure if the kinks are worked out in the 2004 models. Any advice would be appreciated!
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    The MDX is a fine car, but in my test drives, it really felt more like a tall car than a true SUV and the steering was very numb. I found the interior to be "Japanese luxury car" with nice fit/finish, but overly plasticky and flimsy.

    I think it really boils down to personal preference - I much prefer the more professional German feel to the ML. I also think the the ML has more utility in things like towing, off-road capability, and room inside.

    But in most other areas, you have to give the nod to the MDX. And if you're into the nav systems, there is absolutely no comparison - the Acura navs are about the best and the MB navs about the worst. All the electronics and controls of the ML are relatively poor compared to the Japanese - for example, the CD changer is a big clunky thing mounted in the cargo area that is difficult to get to unloaded and impossible to get to if you have stuff piled up back there. The Japanese got rid of trunk-mounted changers five years ago.

    I assume you are taking the heavy, heavy discounts of the ML's into account in your pricing. Many are going below invoice with dealer incentives.

    Yes, the ML is a bit scary on reliability. I think they've generally turned the corner to be an OK car on reliability, but the MDX is one of the very best, so there is no match here. If dealing with problems now and then bothers you, I'd go with the Acura. MB does have free service and a good warranty, so at least for 50K miles, there is no monetary hit to any ML problems you might have.

    So it boils down to whether you like the ML's "german nature" and utility enough to offset the better value and higher reliabliity of the Acura. If I had to buy one today, I'd probably get the Acura - actually I'd probably save some money and get the Pilot which is basically the same vehicle as the MDX but with less luxury and more utility for a lot less money.

    - Mark
  • What are you talking about?
    My friend, a 2003 MDX owner constantly complains how inaccurate his MDX Navigation is. My 2004 ML350 DVD Navigation has been ACCURATE, FAST and EASY to use. I just spent good 2 full days of driving in downtown LA, and I was NEVER lost. I was able to drive my destinations on time without getting lost even once. Note that I do not live in LA area. All of my passengers and myself were impressed about the DVD-Based ML's Navigation.

    Maybe you are talking about the old CD-based navigation that requires 10 CD-ROM's to cover US/Canada.

    MDX has a better gas mileage AND does NOT require 91 octane gas. BIG PLUS!
    ML's gas mileage sucks. Then we are talking about a 2.5 ton truck.

    I really like the rain-sensor windshield wiper. It's raining here in SF now.
    So far I've experienced no problem with 2004 ML350. I will let you people know when things break. =)
  • The 2004 ML500. I am pretty excited to actually get it now!
  • thor8thor8 Posts: 303
    Nds, You did OK, you will realize it drives like an MBZ, you may have a kink or two and I say may because is not guaranteed, but overall you will be satisfied.
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    You can analyze all you want, but in the end, you need to get the one that puts a bigger smile on your face.

    - Mark
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Mouseonline, but the looks of the Lexus GX just don't cut it. It' looks too top heavy; the rear lights are too high on the hip. Also, I've read on the GX site that they have a vibration problem in the drivetrain. It's usually good idea to avoid the new model on all makers. Can we say '98 ML? LOL!

    My navigation system is awesome on my ML. I have the 10 CD set up and it works perfectly. The setup is different than on my friends 2001 S500 sedan.

    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
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    I would go with the Landcruiser any day over the GX. They cost about the same with similar options.
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