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



  • Our A/C died at 75,000 miles. Not what one would hope for but not as bad as it seems since we live in the sunbelt where A/C is used for 10 months of the year. Our misfortune led us to have a 2004 ML350 "Sport" as a loaner for a week. Here are my impressions:

    Looks: Improved over the 2000 with nicer bumpers, fog lights, headlights, wheel well bump-outs, and tailgate formation. This one has nicer wheels but these are likely part of the Sport package. The interior strikes me as being much the same with the exception of the center console, which now has some reorganization of window and mirror

    Features: Improved over the 2000 with a good A/C
    vent to the rear through the center console, and
    (finally), a decent cup holder/miscellaneous
    compartment where the "old" window switches once were. The old cup holders are still there, they just added a 3rd choice in the front seat area. The storage area in the center console has changed to a 2-compartment/2-latch arrangement which provides 2 layers of storage, one on top for
    shallow and one underneath for deep. The side mirrors have been updated to provide the side marker turn signal lights, which formerly were on the front side fenders between the wheel wells and the front doors - looks better to me. I did miss the slightly larger mirror area provided on
    our 2000 ML.

    What's next: The CD magazine is still in the boot,
    rather than the dash. We all hopped into the ML loaner and our 11-year-old son handed me his Lord of the Rings soundtrack CD, (expecting some progress in this department).

    Performance: Engine noise and general highway noise seemed a couple-to-a-few decibels quieter. The 350 makes a small but noticeable difference in spunk over the 320 in normal driving. The handling and ride seems stiffer and more jittery around town and on the highway compared to our ML320, and here, we prefer our ML... probable difference due to Sport package. The A/C is much better in the ML350... this one has automatic climate control (which our s does not and it is missed) with ice cold air and very, very, nicely lighted control dials. The A/C on our 2000 ML320
    has always been "just adequate" in terms of temperature and airflow and back seat coverage. For comparison, we have a Lexus LS400 that has always put out cold air and lots of it... our ML320 doesn't come very close. Maybe we will get lucky and have super A/C when our ML is returned by the dealer, but I suspect it is a weaker system
    than the LS400 and the ML350.

    The ML350 has 10 airbags versus our ML350 which has six. So, a great safety oriented vehicle gets even greater with the ML350. All of us need to remember that Mercedes is the one car company that has never patented a safety innovation; they make all of their work in this area available to
    all automakers. Given this, I have a bias that helps me forgive Mercedes-Benz for the occasional service blip or quality issue. I just have to respect them for that. Finally, at least ONE of the other manufactures - Ford Explorer - has adopted car-height bumpers to help reduce repair costs and injury to other vehicles and occupants. This is a feature the M-B designed into the ML in 1998.

    In short, a great vehicle gets better.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Mercedes may license or give away their safety innovations, but they've been patenting safety stuff for over 50 years now.

    Five Decades of Safety Development at Mercedes-Benz (MBLink)

    Steve, Host
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    MB safety is 1st-rate, as good as and probably better than Volvo's (or, at least, somewhat different).

    But does the ML350 really have 10 airbags? I thought it's 8 (front driver, front passenger, side driver, side passenger, side left 2nd row, side right 2nd row, left side curtain, right side curtain.

    Unless the side curtains for the 1st and 2nd row are counted for each position.
  • Whenever I tow my pop-up for a week-end camping trip I need to put a Quart of oil in. I took it in to the dealer and they told me that since the ML requires 10 quarts and is serviced every 10K that it is customary to add a quart from time to time. How often is too much?
  • There are 10; the usual 6 as found in the 2000 ML320, plus 2 near the two front passenger
    head areas, and another 2 near the rear passenger
    head areas.
  • wmquanwmquan Posts: 1,817
    ... plus 2 near the two front passenger
    head areas, and another 2 near the rear passenger
    head areas.

    Technically it's just two airbags, they happen to be multi-chambered. One side curtain deploys on the left, the other on the right. Each side curtain protects both the first and second row occupants' heads on that side. Using this as a measure, competitors like the XC90 have only six airbags compared to the ML's eight.

    If one were to count it as 10 in the ML350, then Volvo and Acura could claim to have 10 airbags. This because their side curtains protect the heads of occupants in the first, second, and third rows (the MB protects the first and second). They do not have thoracic side airbags in their second row like MB's, however (else they'd have 12 using the ML350-has-10-math!).
  • tenet1tenet1 Posts: 354
    Hi all
    Whan is the new ML bodystyle expected in the US? Anyone have any links/photos of what it may look like?
  • mercaramercara Posts: 291
    I wish they would get some quality control from other manufacturers in exchange for the safetly features they license or give away :)
  • I was wondering if I could get some advice on whether or not to purchase a 2003 ML350. I am an outside sales rep and will be driving a good amount of miles on the car and want something reliable. Is the ML350 reliable? I will be driving about 400-500 a week.

    Also, they are asking 33,900 for the car and it has 22,000 miles, is this a decent price?
  • chumsaechumsae Posts: 61
    You're in luck! You have already found
    and on the first page of Edmunds you'll find a TMV
    pricing model; just enter the target car, mileage,
    color, options and your zip code and you'll see
    a fairly reliable valuation.

    Key elements include:
    - knowing the vehicle history.. at least through carfacts, and have a local dealer run a servide history on the VIN.
    - eyeballing the car for negatives.
    - estimating the value of the existing warranty.
    - knowing your options... Our 2000 ML320 had a $42,000 sticker, and our recent loaner 2004 ML350 Sport had a $48,000 sticker with a $37,000 base.
    Hence, in 2003, the ML350 sticker could be anywhere between $37,000 and $50,000; a big window
    of value.
  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    The service tech called today and sounded sick on the phone so I knew it was bad news; clearly she didn't want to talk to me. Last week it was a call for $1,560 to replace one catalytic converter and now they realize both need to be replaced. Her consolation was offering a 15% discount on the second. 84K miles so they said it passed the Starmark coverage. I told the service manager to have Mercedes call me. We'll see how long that takes, can be weeks for all I care.

    And this is yet another major expense not covered by Starmark. If Mercedes spent as much money on quality control as they did on advertising these cars would be worth it.

    My brother-in-law dumped his ML for a BMW X5 after his ML needed repair after repair. His wife said they just got to the point of ignoring the warning lights because something was always lighting up. I don't think he had his two years.

    As soon as the service situation is over, I'm trading this in on anything. Nothing could be as bad as this. I've never had a car that spent this much time in the shop.
  • From what I have heard, if you are the original owner and it goes out of warranty, they will replace the balancer if you tell them to do it after a failure. If the vehicle is bought used or if you don't know to ask, then you will get the shaft to go with the new balancer.
  • tc152tc152 Posts: 2
    Someone stole the Large Star emblem from the front grill of my 2002 ML320. Does anyone know where can I get a replacement?
  • tc152tc152 Posts: 2
    I am NOT referring to the one on the hook or the trunk.
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Tc, you can get a new emblem at the dealer and surprisingly, they are not expensive... I think less that $20. My friend had to replace one on his 500sl and it was $18 a few years ago. They are just plastic.

    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
  • Quality control isn't offered on ML class. It's not even an option.

    How valuable are airbags when the vehicle is in the shop all the time?

    MB acknowledged the 100s of defects, but refuses to make the recalls!
  • chumsaechumsae Posts: 61
    Here is our experience with 2000 ML320:

    Windshield washer tank replaced 37,000 warranty
    Front and rear wiper blades 37,000 warranty
    brakes f/r w/disks 37,000 $800
    front seat plastic aprons fixed 44,000 warranty
    battery failed 46,000 warranty
    brakes f/r 54,000 $750
    hood struts 74,000 $200
    A/C compressor 76,000 $1450

    I have occasionally seen the ESP light come on
    and stay on until restarted. I have twice had the
    radio jump to max volume. The rectangular spare
    tire access cover on the back bumper doesn't hold
    shut (couple of plastic hooks are broken). The CD
    changer failed on a very hot day, but gradually
    has returned to normal.

    Our Lexus LS400 has been more trouble free, but not perfect. We now have 185,000 and replaced the A/C twice. Have a couple of broken window/lock switches. The time/temp LCD display failed at 65,000, the remote entry failed at 80,000. Driver's door key slot no longer functional. Still has original exhaust, shocks, struts.

    We live in the sunbelt. I wonder if the catalytic
    converter failure is in a salt-belt state?
  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    I don't know if the catalytic converter problem is chronic in snow belt states, or just in ML's with mileage over 80K (mine has 84K). MBUSA's attitude is "tough luck we don't cover it". It should be about $3,500 to pick it up from the dealer tomorrow. I am sure they'll enjoy my presence in their showroom too.

    My repair list looks like yours; short version:
    new g-sensor (the car went back the third day I had for 10 days)
    two radios, one on warranty, one for $800;
    one CD changer on them;
    suspension struts, under warranty at 84K miles;
    front ball joints, under warranty (that was comforting to learn) about 76K miles;
    window switch (I am sure everyone has had that one done at least once);
    almost time for the brakes again (%$#& that);
    here's a good on, a few hundred dollars to rebuild the rear gate latch and lock;
    they rebuilt the folding mechanism on the right rear seat three times on warranty;
    SRS sensor on door on warranty.

    To anyone thinking of buying one of these, run, don't walk, out the showroom.

    They have had my car for 1 1/2 weeks. As a loaner they gave me a 2005 ML350 Special Edition with 800 miles (it will have 1,400 by the time they get it back). Thoughts on this one:
    More power, especially under hard acceleration (do they have break-in periods?) at higher rpms.
    Rougher ride, accents all the bumps, small and large.
    Same inconvenient radio location with no steering wheel controls but at least speakers on the doors at mirror level.
    Auto temp, single zone, works good sometimes (though not last night).
    Poor windshield wiper blades (800 miles and this car's blades streak!).
    Yeah, it would be a great car to crash in, but as C J Gordon, what good does that do you if its in the shop.

    One plus note, I got a new SLK320 loaner one time that was very nice; enjoyed that a lot; also pretty sure that didn't need a break-in period either. I think it had a bad g-sensor already. Secret was to tell the Service Tech that I wanted one without blinking or unclenching my teeth and then waiting in the showroom while he went to ask; I got the dealer manager's car. I think my fax to MBUSA the month after I got a Starmark'd car telling them how many problems it was delivered with didn't hurt either.

    So, if anyone here just bought a Starmark'd car and has problems, involve MBUSA early. If you buy a new car, it's the factory's fault; if you bought a Starmark'd car and have problems, it is the dealer's fault for deliverying that way and they get in trouble for doing that; at the very least they don't like being ratted out.
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Djdj, wow, I have had only minor adjustments on my 2002 ML500 which currently has 31,300 miles. I don't think your situation is the norm. Yes, there are a few adjustments that have to be made occaisionally, but I wouldn't tell someone to "run away" from the Merdedes dealer. Every manufacturer has their share of problem cars but Mercedes are generally good and trouble free. I have 5 Mercedes currently in my household and 1 Rolls.

    A good friend of mine who has a 2003 Honda Accord has had more problems on his than I've had on my ML. He has had radio problems, a trunk latch problem, a CV joint problem and has become disgusted since this is his third Honda Accord. The others were really good with only a minor problem here and there.

    Since we have had many Mercedes products the last few years, I was thinking of trying a different brand just have something different.

    You know these boards have a tendency to attract negative information, you have to weigh the problems for your own use.

    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
  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    Originally I felt the same way you did. The ML drove great and had fantastic seats. I wanted to love this car and keep for the 250,000km badge.

    The first bad experience occurred the third(!) day I had the Starmark'd car when the g-sensor went. Actually it had gone already but the dealer's mechanic didn't follow procedures and ignored the warning sign when they certified it. I couldn't believe they had a procedure for this kind of problem but the service manager told me that part on the ML goes out a lot so they have to be prepared and he apologized profusely. The first month I owned this car, the dealer had it as much as I did. I assumed it was a one time deal and everything would be great with Mercedes.

    Then more things started to go and I began to read and hear about an alarming number of repairs. If one reads back through this bulletin board you will see a lot of people who list all the problems they had over the entire life of the car. A neighbor in town (who for some reason owns about 9 cars himself), saw my ML, liked the skyview roof but said his friend had just spent $6,000 to repair the transmission on his.

    Then more things continued to break, some warrantied and some not. In the three years I have had the car, there is only one time when the car went in only for scheduled service without something being broken. Then I started to listen to the people bringing in their cars when my car was going in. I was surprised how many were ML's getting non-maintenance work, including new ones. When the power window switch broke (driver's window, in winter, down), the service tech told me I was lucky it was only one because usually it is more. Lucky?! None of this surprised the guys when I came in. Half the time they knew what had gone already and how long the repair would be!

    I agree with you about all cars having problems. The worse car I owned before this was an Accord. Then a used car dealer I know said that Honda's had (in the mid-90's, I don't know if it is better) weak transmissions that broke easily compared to Toyotas and Nissans. My mother-in-law's Acura TL needed a transmission at 2 years and so did her brother's. Everyone I know with a Lexus GX470 had to have the driveshaft replaced on a design flaw. Yes, they have some problems, but not as many as this ML.

    My resentment now is their cavalier attitude about something like a catalytic converting breaking apart. The service manager said "yes, both of them; when one goes the other does too. They crack apart and sometimes we can't reweld them." To me, for Mercedes to have a definite policy on this item to separate it from the Starmark warranty shows a lot of thought, and experience, with this problem with no intention for correction.

    Let me ask a question: Does anyone reading this bulletin board know of any other cars where the converters just crack apart?

    One contributor already said his went too but under warranty. My serivce manager wasn't surprised. Maybe I am naive and lots of brands converters just crack, but I have never heard of any, premium brand or not.

    I wanted to keep this car a long time and pass it down. My kids love the skyview roof. This is really bothering me to have to sell it now but I am not going to get stuck with more repair bills.

    Sorry this is repeating, but my brother-in-law had the same types of experiences with his 1999 ML320, which he also loved when he got, but finally got rid of his too because of the problems.

    So, no, I don't think I am an isolated case. I am very glad to hear yours is working well. I was half thinking about getting another a newer one but would feel like a fool the first time anything went. And the next generation! Have you seen that picture on Edmunds? Really sharp, but could I trust another early year of the model run?

    Speaking of which, it is time to call the dealer and see if it is done yet (in the shop since 9/28).
  • mark156mark156 Posts: 2,006
    Djdj, I certainly understand your frustration because I would feel the same way if mine was giving me trouble. The last two times I had the ML in the shop was just for scheduled maintenance with no other adjustments. I think it is well known that the '98 and '99 ML's had problems and I feel Mercedes made a very big mistake letting those out with continued known problems.

    I had have much better luck with my 2002 ML than I did with my 1996 Jeep GC and the 1999 Jeep GC. Both of my Jeeps left me stranded, twice on the '96 and once on the '99. The air conditioning on the '99 was worthless.

    What kind of car are you going to next?

    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
  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    I asked to see the catalytic converters. They are a two piece can where the upper side overlaps the the lower side. One had totally pulled apart and the other was starting to do the same thing. It seems to me that if were properly welded to begin with it couldn't come apart at all.

    I asked the mechanic if this was a common problems.
    He replied "Not very common, but we were doing another truck at the same time we were doing yours". (But two at time isn't unusual?)

    I asked the service rep if it were less likely to happen down south (this being Ohio and very salt-prone).
    She responded "It would be a lot less common down south". (A lot less?)

    An earlier post recommended having these boxes checked if any ML's were approaching 80K miles. I just read it recently, but after my experience I would recommend all readers to do just that the next time they go in.

    I talked to the dealer's general manager. His opinion was that the 1998 and 1999 were "a learning experience", the 2000 "better" and 2002 and on have been very good. Then he showed me two 2001's for sale. I kind of doubt his opinion. He offered $13,500 as a trade-in.

    He then showed me the 2005's (even though I drove one for 10 days). They aren't different enough from my 2000.

    Then I asked to see something that really blew out any chance of getting another ML. This is a Mercedes-Infiniti dealership. I sat in the FX45. Wow! No, there is no cargo space at all, but this is a luxury vehicle. Compared to the FX, the ML is just a truck. Didn't drive it but the leather seats wrap around you, tilt & telescope power wheel, reclining rear seats, all the stuff Mercedes should put in their vehicles. (the G35 coupe with stick was also really nice, but that's a definite no-go).

    FX is not really practical, but it showed me how dated the ML got. They may finally have the quality, but now it is old-fashioned compared to the competition.

    Don't know what I'll buy. I can't say that getting a Highlander excites me, but it would be nice to have a car with a reputation for lasting. My wife's opinion was that she doesn't care what she drives as long as it is reliable. I do not want to bother with this now but have to dump the ML before the warranty expires in December because I am afraid of what is next.

    We'll look at the Acura MDX, Highlander, Pilot. I really disliked the RX300 so will probably skip the RX330. My wife likes the looks of the Volvo but I don't consider them a standard for reliability either. Hertz rents their CrossCountry wagons; not too powerful, nice seats, doubt my wife wants a wagon.

    Oh, yeah, driving home tonight I had forgotten how much my ML rattles. So I guess the new ones are better but not different enough.
  • Hi,

    I am writing from Geneva. my ML320 (2001, 75,000km)had exactly the same problem. It one week that is blocked at the Mercedes Benz dealership and being checked all over (fuel injection, spark plugs/cabling, fuel tank, etc). But as usual they are unable to efficiently find out a solution.

    Please let me know asap what happened in your case. What was the problem and how was it solved? Did Mercedes Benz take care of repair costs?

  • Do any Mercedes Dealers or their service techs follow this thread? I'd be embarrassed to be associated with such a product.

    Trust me when I tell you that I make quite a scene each time I have to push, pull or drag my ML to the dealership.

    I spend my hours in the "waiting room" exchanging horror stories with other owners. When I see folks looking at them in the showroom, I make it a point to show them mine.

    Mercedes doesn't care.
  • kej1kej1 Posts: 1
    To All,

    We are nearing the end of our warranty and we are reluctant to own the car without a warranty. We have been happy with our ML 320, but the drive is rough and the potential maintenance off-warranty is concerning. We are considering extending the warranty in anticipation of the 2006 model which we understand is on a unibody frame and will drive more like a car. However, we have reservations about buying the first generation of the 2006 ML, and losing value due to the model change. We are also considering buying either a 2004 GX 470 or a used 2002/2003 GX 470. We know Lexus is a good car, but we have no experience with owning one and what the maintenance/problems may be. Any feedback is much appreciated.

  • djdjdjdj Posts: 111
    I know two people with GX's. Both had to have their drive shafts replaced.

    As the car slows down, right before it comes to a stop, the car feels like it is being rear-ended. Not hard, just like a light tap. One owner thought that was how Lexus's rode. The other put up with it up the time the car 'triple tapped' to a stop. Then he read on a Lexus owners' website that most of them need to have needed to have their drive shafts replaced. He told the other driver. Both got the drive shaft replaced with no question by the dealer. New shaft is supposedly a new design.

    Other than that they both love the cars. Beige interior is so light it seems to attract dirt. Gets detailed a lot. Drive shaft seemed to be the only problem they had.

    One owner got the third seat and never used it because there is no footwell and her rather small 7 year old couldn't even fit there.

    We drove the Acura MDX and really liked. Might buy one next week.
  • Have 'em flash the ME control unit memory. Also, check the EGR valve for sticking open/partially open. The MY '01 was too early to flash.
  • The ML is built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. ROLL TIDE!!!
  • NO catalytic converter is covered by anything past the 8yr/80K mi Federal - 10yr/100K mi ( California) emission warranty. The early MLs WERE bad. How did Motor Trend come up with the Import of the Year anyhow???
  • The dealers' parts department. It's a grille badge.
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