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



  • joeindenverjoeindenver Posts: 31
    I guess I don't have the same experience with snow that Rough Rider does : ) The first winter I had the ML350 the Dunlops did just fine in nearly everything winter threw at them. But then there was less than 1000 miles on the ML when "winter" started and about 5000 miles when winter ended. This past winter with about 15000 miles on the tires the performance was not nearly so good. In fact, turns in even small amounts of snow at nearly any speed would cause the front tires to simply slide. That is, I'd be turning the wheel but the truck would still be going straight. Even ran over a small curb once - but I got the wheels square to the curb before hitting so no damage to front end : ) and I was only going about 5 mph at the time.

    So later this summer (or perhaps fall) I'll be trying out the XTs. Although I too do like the dry handling of the 5000's - they seem to hold the road well and are responsive. But they do sing a bit at speed and when one is driving sometimes 1000 miles a day that gets annoying...
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    That's a disappointing review, especially considering the write-up at Tirerack, e.g.,

    "Large shoulder blocks separated by open shoulder grooves and independent intermediate tread blocks are used to balance dry cornering and handling with wet traction and hydroplaning resistance. Full-face, cross-cut sipes are engineered into the tread patterns of all sizes to provide more biting edges for slush and snow traction, and an exclusive high performance all-season tread compound (patent pending) is used to blend traction, treadwear, and rolling resistance to meet a wide range of driving and weather conditions," and,

    "On the road, the SP Sport 5000 was praised for its ride and noise comfort where it was rated the best of the tires tested."

    With all of this, there is a trade-off, as you'd expect, according to the reviewer, and in the above test, it was the fact that the SP5000 was the fastest wearing tire.

    It is interesting to read owners' reviews: one said they wore so badly on his E320 that they needed replacement in 10,000 miles whereas a ML500 owner says wear is normal (he's at 37K) but gripes about noise. Another ML500 owner whose rig was stretched into a 10-passenger limo says they are great in the snow.

    Many others approve of the snow handling whereas an owner of a Ford Victoria said,"Below average wet traction and intolerable snow traction."

    Then, there was the Porsche driver who said, "Tire noise, comfort and wet traction are the worst. Snow traction for performance tires are great."

    I'd say this tire must have a split personality--maybe dependent on the amount of inflation. The recommended inflation for the ML500 is pretty high. Also, I'm at about 18K and the tires look as though they easily will go to 40K or more, just like the original Dunlop tires that came on our '00 ML430.
  • tiger2dolltiger2doll Posts: 39
    Hey guys,

    Anybody have any info on the "Radio fluctuation from Stereo to Mono at random" problem ? Am I the only one who is having this problem ? Please post your thoughts & experiences on the same. I am sick of this premium Bose radio having these issues. When it works - its great. Can I take it to an Authorized Bose Service Center - will they refer me back to the dealer. Anybody tried this ?

  • joeindenverjoeindenver Posts: 31
    Mac320 - I'm pretty good about keeping them inflated as per spec - perhaps that is the problem as you suggest. I did not try to vary the pressure in the tires this past winter. Too bad I didn't think of that sooner, but then, it has snowed here in June before so I might still get the chance <g>

    As far as treadwear I'm probably about half way on the tires - which is in line with the 320 rating. This too could be contributing to the seemingly poorer performance this past winter. The side blocks might be a bit more rounded these days.

    Although I had to laugh at what the Porsche driver said - and that drive may be accurate. I've had "performance" tires (not the Dunlops) on my other cars and not been able to drive at all on the snow - might as well had put toboggens on all four corners - that might have been safer, actually... So that driver's "great" might be my "ok" if you get my meaning.

    But tires are really one of the most important aspects of any vehicle we drive. They define how the car responds to the road as they are the only parts of the vehicle that is actual contact with the road. So it is important to find the tire that works for one's particular needs as I'm sure the OEM tire is chosen to appeal to the widest possible market. My market at 6000+ feet and sometime lots of powder snow is a bit different than the person driving the same tires in say, LA or even Ohio where snow tends to be wetter and heavier.

    Now it's back to work so I can make some money to pay for my new set of tires : )
  • joeindenverjoeindenver Posts: 31
    I've recently had the radio do that surge thing others have described - but it did it only once but it did scare the heck out of me. Nothing like driving late at night with the radio playing some nice tunes softly in the background only to instantly go to concert level. Perhaps MB installed something that thought I was going to sleep and this is actually a feature?

    BTW, how can you tell it's going from Stereo to Mono at random? Is there anyway to test for signal strength? Perhaps with a portable radio of some kind sitting on the dash? Maybe this is not such a random issue. Just a thought...
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    I have had terrible experiences with my MB dealer in Manhattan. I was looking through and saw this survery of dealers. MB Dealers are crap.

    Check this JD Power Survey. amp;tf=/advice/bestworst/csi/dsi_table.tmpl
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    and it was a rating on what dealers thought of the manufacturer, not what owners thought of their dealer.

    But, I take it you're dissatisfied with your dealer. We are lucky in our area: free washes, free detail once per year, free MB loaners with A and B services.

    As for JD Power ratings, I don't believe they capture a true picture of the driving experience. What you're getting there is what a Lexus owner, for instance, thinks of his Lexus (usually over a very short period), not what the same Lexus owner would think of your MB, and vice versa.

    What would a JD Power ranking say about this site? And what if it were comparatively low . . . it still wouldn't make sense for me to start reading a VW site just because it got a higher ranking from JD Power.

    Here's a real power test: take 10 new car buyers that are willing to spend $50-60K on a luxury automobile. With their money, you purchase 5 Lexus 430s and 5 E500s. Each driver spends the same amount of time driving each car. Then they pick the car they want. If 5 choose one while 5 choose the other, it's even. If more than 5 want one of the cars, you start lowering the price of the least favored and raising the price of the most favored until it's 5-and-5. My guess is that you end up with the E-500 having a higher price than the Lexus 430, just like it is right now without an elaborate testing method, and the 5 Lexus 430 owners would have fewer gripes about their cars, because all of them either liked it better outright, or they were motivated to buy it because they thought it was a better car for the money.
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291

    So your agreement is that if you pay a higher price, you should have more reason to be dissatisfied..

    Point taken.
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    I'm guessing there's also something else going on, e.g., having made the decision, the person views his satisfaction with the thing he has chosen through a different lens that supports the choice that was made.

    For instance, what if someone considers whether to go to Europe on a two week vacation, to places he's never been before, or pack the family off to Lake Big Tree park?

    Even if you assume money is no object, if he decides to go to the park, he will probably think how nice it was this time of year and not just because he saved tens of thousands, whereas, if he did go on that European vacation, he'd probably have lots to gripe about, e.g., tiny hotels and showers, food, airports . . . he wouldn't even think about how long the drive to the park would have been, or the fact there were no showers or hotels there at all.

    Plus, there's something not quite right with the rating methodology to begin with. You'd do better drawing condlusions only from perfectly satisfied owners than the way they do it now.

    What if owners reported 1.4 "problems" per 100 for one item and 2.8 "problems" per hundred for another?

    In the first example, the 1.4 "problems" could be 14 people out of 1,000 with a single problem each.

    The second example could be 28 in 1,000 with one problem, or it could be 14 with two problems each, or it could be 7 people with 4 problems each, all of which were handled in a single visit to the dealer.

    So, not only is there no analysis as to what actually constitutes a "problem" with these different owners, you also cannot determine the relative inconvenience to the owner of such problems, or if that would even matter because there is no analysis at all of the 972 to 986 owners that did not report a problem at all.

    For example, assuming you are offered two meals, e.g, sushi or steak, and neither has a "problem," might you not be a lot more satisfied with one meal over the other even if both are the same price?

    Might you not prefer one meal over the other even if there was a difference in the price?

    Might you not gripe about how well the steak was cooked, for instance, even if you'd take it, as it was delivered, over the sushi?

    This "testing" is the ultimate power trip and to the extent that decisions are made based only on test results, then such tests are the ultimate example of the tail wagging the dog. It's like the guy who loves his new telescope, which CR rates as best because it is cheaper and easier to use, but the other guy who picked a lower rated telescope is the only one who can actually see Uranus.
  • babalulubabalulu Posts: 8
    We have a 99 ML320 and I have read in the manual that the ESP will work up to speeds of 35 mph or so. Our lease expires soon and I am wondering if the newer ML 350's have an improved version of the ESP, specifically does it work at all speeds like PSM (Porsche) or X-Drive (BMW)?
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    Are you sure you're reading the manual correctly? I've never heard of a stability control/ESP system that doesn't work above a certain speed.

    The specific scenario they are designed to prevent is a spin after a quick lane change manuever at highways speeds. Many of these systems have lower speed cutoffs where they are disabled BELOW a certain speed, but I've never heard of a cutoff above a certain speed. You may be looking at a different system such as the electronic traction control system or break assist system.

    I have a 2000 and don't recall anything about this. Of course, I didn't read the manual cover-to-cover.

    And I think X-Drive is BMW's AWD system, not a stability system. PSM IS a skid-control/stability system.

    - Mark
  • smazzy4smazzy4 Posts: 16
    Thanks for your insightful comments!
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    You're talking about the 4-ETS system that assists traction in off-road conditions up to 35 mph.

    ESP is on all of the time, even at low speeds when 4-ETS is on, but especially at high speed. I have read that when you disable ESP (using the switch, you never are really completely disabling the system.

    My guess is that all of German car makers are using the same system, but with their own trade name on it. And, chances are, the system was developed jointly between Bosch and MB and MB makes a few bucks on every system sold.
  • babalulubabalulu Posts: 8
    Thanks for the info on the ESP. I would like also to know of anyones subjective opinion on the differences between these models in terms of ride quality, feel, build, etc. We like our 99 ML 320 and its lease is up soon and we are considering a new ML350. We can't wait for the new ML to be released in January '05. We need the car sooner than that. Still, 5 years of constant improvements must be obvious on the latest ML. But there are so many other new players in town. What is your opinion?
  • kiiwiikiiwii Posts: 318
    ESP works up to speed of 55 MPH. You will still have about 15% of ESP capability if you switch it off.
  • tiger2dolltiger2doll Posts: 39
    Hi All,

    I feel the SP5000 tires do have a rough ride compared to Michelin XTs. Over the weekend I was riding in my friends ML320 with Michelins and the ride was a world apart. I will switch to Mich XT's soon. I live in the SF Bayarea and the roads here are OK - with all the construction on all the freeways its a rough ride.

    I observed an interesting thing on the FM radio issue - I was not getting the fluctuation on CD. While fiddling with the system I noticed that the Sound setting for CD was set to "Standard" vs "Ambience" for Radio !! I changed the Radio Sound setting to "Standard" and viola No FM fluctuation. I have had this on for about a week and have kept my fingres crossed. The MCS Quick Tips booklet does not show this feature - looks like its a Bose feature not available on the standard MBZ radio. You get to this setting by pressing the "Adj" button.

  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    Where did you get that information--55 MPH? If the system didn't react at freeway speeds to sudden swerves do to obstacles in the road or dangerous situations caused by other drivers, it wouldn't be of much use. It is designed to act faster than a race car drive can react.

    It has been pointed out that ESP comes from the aerospace industry--a yaw velocity sensor resembling those on aircraft and space vehicles, i.e., "the vehicle is brought under control in a fraction of a second . . . The main ESP control device is comprised of two computers with 56 KB of memory apiece. By comparison, ABS requires only a quarter of that. ESP uses this computer capacity to constantly monitor individual system components. For instance, the crucial sensor that reads wheel speeds is itself checked at 20-millisecond intervals . . ."
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    I've never heard that ESP doesn't function at higher speeds.

    There is a lot of confusion about ABS, ESP, EBD, ETS, etc. We're talking about the yaw/skid control system here which monitors speed, steering wheel position, and how quickly the car is turning. By doing so it can detect understeer and oversteer. It cuts engine power and brakes individual wheels to prevent a skid.

    - Mark
  • absoluticabsolutic Posts: 29
    I've had grand cherokees for the past 6 years. my lease for 2001 Grand Cherokee lmtd is almost over and I am probably getting the 2004 ML350.
    Questions: Motortrend rated ML350 skidpad at 0.75. I am not sure what the skidpad rating is on my Grand Cherokee, but those of you that owned or driven both, is ML350 more stable at corners?

    Also I keep reading about the terrible mileage on ML350, but my Grand Cherokee (mostly street driving) shows 12.4 mpg so it is pretty bad. Would I realistically get better mileage than 12.4 on the ML? After all, a 6-cylinder engine should eat less gas than my present 8-cylinders.
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    0.75 skidpad is about average for SUVs, maybe a little higher than average - some get into the 0.7 range. I doubt a ML350 would skidpad much better than a Grand Cherokee as the vehicle type and the tires generally set the upper limits here, which are essentially the same for these two vehicles.

    Skidpad numbers are only one small aspect of handling, and most folks would think the overall handling of ML would be better than a GC, but I doubt it will feel like night/day. The ML has a more sophisticated suspension, better dampers, a more sophisticated driveline, and probably a little more tighter structure. But a mid-sized body-on-frame SUV is only going to handle so well. If you really want better SUV handling, you've got to go with something like an X5, MDX, or other more car-oriented SUV.

    I have a ML320 and get 16 or so around town, and 20 on the road. Not too bad. I would think the ML would do a bit better than the GC, but again, not night/day.

    I assume you're aware that we're about a year or so away from a new ML being released which will be bigger and more car-like. While the ML is a nice SUV, it is getting very long-in-the-tooth and it wouldn't be my first choice for a new SUV bought today. I'd get a Pilot/MDX for a unibody SUV or a 4Runner/GX470 for a body-on-frame SUV. If you wanted a Euro SUV, I'd look at both the VW Toureg or Volvo XC90 ahead of the ML.

    - Mark
  • absoluticabsolutic Posts: 29
    Mark thank you very much for your reply.
    I am aware that MB is introducing a 2006 ML early in 2005 with a different type of a body. My choices were limited by budget constraint, as one of my friends is a mb dealer and he would give me a rock-bottom lease deal in the same range that I was paying for my GC, plus I would get free maintanance with 2004 ML.. I don't think I would be able to get the same kind of a deal on the other SUVs you'd mentioned in your post; and the 2005 GC is months away. I also was not extremely impressed with 2006 ML spy photos; but I guess, as with any new MB shape, one needs time to get used to. Free maintanance is important as my understanding is that mb breaks and oil changes can be expensive.
  • mac320mac320 Posts: 147
    Both are SUVs and that is saying something--even though Jeeps have had unibody construction since, what? 1986? they invented the class.

    With the solid axles and sticking with a short wheelbase, despite the opportunity to sacrifice some off-road utility for better highway comfort, Jeep stuck with the formula. And, the relatively light weight of the Jeep, together with the solid axles, sure gave us long-lasting tires on our first Jeep Cherokee.

    Our '99 JGC Lmtd had stalling problems; despite that, I like JGCs and everyone I know that has owned them does too.

    All that said, the ML is worth every penny extra. My take on it is that the V8 jeep goes for about what the ML V6 goes for.

    But, if you want superior braking, you want the ML500--it has larger brakes but it is the 275s on all four corners that provide the edge, despite the extra weight, especially on wet surfaces.

    If you go on the MSN website and read owners reviews of ML350s though, they get great reviews and a lot of 10s. MLs do take premium gas and if you're not keeping it, you probably do not care that the insides will look like new long after the Jeep is starting to show its age.

    MLs are pretty convenient with long intervals between the oil changes--they come standard with synthetic. And, the mileage I get in the ML500 is better than I ever got with the '99 JGC's 4.7L engine.

    Whatever someone thinks is best is all that counts but I wouldn't compare MLs to offerings like the MDX or Pilot and the ML is a great value. Crossover vehicles just cannot deliver what Jeep and the ML were born with: both were designed from the drawing board to the last wheelnut to be SUVs according to the traditional formula, e.g., they may not be the best at any single thing, but they do everything very well: from towing, driving offroad, or hauling cargo and people to daily commuting.

    Some could care less but I think a Jeep owner will appreciate the ML more than most. I'd look into the ML500 though if you want a shorter stopping distance
  • absoluticabsolutic Posts: 29
    I took a test drive of ML350 and I was a little disappointed after 6 years of driving GC. It is just different, the ride is a little more stiff and I hear vibrations coming from the steering wheel. This is very strange, because I took a drive of my friends' C240 immediately after and noticed no vibrations whatsoever, after all, mb thrives itself on having solid feel. Well I felt these little vibrations in ML. The ML is beautifully appointed inside definately better looking that my 2001 Lmtd GC. Unlike my GC, ML does not have volume/change stations/cds control on the steering wheel. Thus I decided to think a couple of days before deciding whether to go with ML350..
  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    What has always impressed me about the ML has been the "solid feel" and the drivetrain. It sure sounds to me like you're driving an example that has a tire, wheel, or alignment issue. I'd try and drive another before deciding.

    Yes, I think the new ML will be moving towards a more car-like vehicle. The thing that has always impressed me about the ML has been its ability to straddle the ruggedness and utility of an traditional SUV with decent road manners and comfort. I don't know if the new vehicle will do as well with serving both needs. And in any event, I would NEVER buy the first year of a major redesign of the ML, not with the checkered history of the 98s and 99s produced in Alabama.

    I'd still encourage you to drive a 4Runner or GX470 just as a point of reference, which is a much newer design of a body-on-frame traditional SUV. Even with MB discounts, you may find the 4Runner to be in the ballpark on cost. The MB free maintenance is nice, but so is the rock-solid reliability of the Toyota vs. the sketchy reliability of the ML.

    As to upgrading from the ML350 to the ML500 for bigger brakes, those are darn expensive brakes, not to mention the sizeable fuel penalty. My bet is that the bigger brakes on the V8 are just about compensated for by the higher weight needed to stop. And several reviews of the ML have said that the V6 cars handle better with less weight in the nose. If you need the V8 for hauling, towing, or just like more effortless torque, then go for it, but not for the slightly bigger brakes.

    - Mark
  • chumsaechumsae Posts: 61
    I agree on the vibration - try another ML. Also, some have
    said that the smaller-engined ML320/350 has a little nicer
    handling balance than the quicker and more plush ML430/500 machines.

    Three years ago we tried the 4-Runner but thought it was
    less refined and more truckish than the ML; Maybe now the
    Toyota is improved.

    My ML is used in my business and I took advantage of the
    accellerated depreciation allowed for Gross Loaded Vehicle
    Weight of over 6,000lbs. Back then, 2000, the 4-Runner didn't
    qualify.... this is only useful if you use the truck for

    Also, back in 2000, the ML was the absolute safest SUV being
    offered, and still may be.

    I always got 18-22MPG on premium fuel - not bad for this kind of truck.

    In my opinion, if the ML form-factor works for you then it
    remains one of the best values in the $40,000 arena, in spite
    of all the newbies flooding in.

    Our other car is a Lexus LS400, and my eyes tear up when I think how
    good this car has been to us for 188,000 miles. My eyes also
    tear up when I realize how BORING this car is to drive!

    To me the GC isn't very close to the ML.
  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    I have 2000 ML320 with about 77K miles on it. About 10K miles ago I finally needed new tires. I loved the Dunlops it came off but they were backed ordered 3 months so I told the tire dealer (Conrad's) that I wanted something that was very quiet and smooth. He recommended the Goodyear Fortera and it is indeed a nice riding tire. It was fine through the winter and very quiet.

    I still have a love/hate relationship with the ML. Love to drive it, hate the amount of time it spends in the shop and the effort it takes to get the work done right. Two days and $400 to fix the tailgate lock and it jammed permanently shut within two days. I "vented" on the service writers and the next morning had a M-B loaner and their full attention (finally).

    The number of loaners I have had (previous ones were a Sentra and a Focus) has become something of joke at work (compared to the people with BMW and Lexus) and I can't say I'd ever by another Mercedes. After the radio died last year ($850) I replaced another of our cars with an Audi A4 without even considering the C class. I got a C class loaner this week which reinforced my decision about the Audi, much nicer.

    The Starmark warranty (which covers a very limited number of things) ends at 100K and I don't want to own this after that. No clue what to replace it with.
  • bfeng7bfeng7 Posts: 47
    Hi Folks,
    I was a participant way back when there were less than 700 msgs in this forum! Our ML has been pretty reliable, hence the absence.

    It's time to do brake rotors and pads on all 4 corners. Please let me know who you recommend for brake rotors, and what pads you all like best
    (currently on a set of Pagid - great, but dusty).

  • tiger2dolltiger2doll Posts: 39
    Hi All,

    Its the famous Coolant Leak again !!!! This is the 4th time in 12 mths that they are trying to fix the leak !! In the past the dealer has already replaced the Cap, Hoses and Clamps, etc - don't know what they are going to do - I am very upset with the whole issue. The damn thing is very unreliable. Its always something or the other every couple months.

    A friend of mine had a very horrible experience with the Spare Tire last weekend. His ML500 was packed with 2 adults, 2 kids and lots of luggage on a trip to Tahoe. On the way up they had a flat tire - AAA came to the rescue and replaced the tire. The BIG issue was how to carry the flat tire ?? The spare tire area cannot hold the regular full size tire and the boot was packed to the hilt with all the luggage !! Poor guy had to pay the tow truck guy $75.00 bucks to take the "Flat Tire" to the repair shop. They were stuck as they couldn't keep driving with the tiny spare - I fail to understand why does this rugged SUV not have a Full Size Spare Tire !!!! How much money must MB have saved - its such an inconvenience for the consumer. God forbid if you are ever in this situation - you become the laughing stock for people driving past. I will get rid of this piece of crap by end of this year when the new Sequoia comes out.

  • markjennmarkjenn Posts: 1,142
    The coolant leak sounds aggravating.

    The space-saver spare design is the same on most SUVs these days, and I'd certainly check the situation on the new Sequoia you're considering - it may be the same.

    Yes, they could give us a full-size spare, but then it would permanently consume extra space all the time, and the family never would have gotten their stuff into the vehicle to begin with.

    Almost all the time, you can change the flat and find someplace to carry the spare. I suspect some improvisation and re-packing could have done it in this case, but when someone calls AAA to change a flat, it sounds like they're not the sort who is very good at improvising.

    - Mark
  • tiger2dolltiger2doll Posts: 39
    Well the dealer had to keep the vehicle for 2 nights to fix the leak - it was some other hose this time. They seem to have tightened the clamps or something like it. Keeping my fingres crossed that its fixed for good !! I have a 99 RX300 and have never had a coolant leak, nor was it ever there on my 98 Mazda MPV with 70k miles. I fail to understand whats wrong with MBZ - how can they mess up such simple stuff as the coolant hoses and clamps !! What are the factory workers in Alabama smoking before they come in to assemble these ML's ?? Anyway, I am reaching my point of no return with this vehicle - I'll give it till end of this year and then get rid of this POS vehicle, a disgrace for Mercedes by any standards. I guess there's a sucker born every second so there will be someone who will be salivating for these ML's when I decide to get rid of it.
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