I have owned a '99 ML320 since new and it now has 105,000 miles on it. I love the ride and utility of the vehicle and to be fair it has never failed to start nor has it ever stranded me except when the battery failed (and then a nice MB tech arrived to replace it at cost of battery). That said, the quality stinks. The car has been in the shop about 20 times for various bits and pieces failing or falling off. Everything from rusting lug nuts (within 90 days of new) to a failed steering sensor (requires replacement of entire steering column). This car is expensive and annoying to keep on the road. Final insult is that now the driver's door has penetrating rust. Buy a Honda Pilot instead.
Quality of components. I have replaced instrument panel, fuel tank, various engine sensors, radio/CD, power window switch (same one twice), fuel gauge, cupholders, multiple trim pieces and other electronic gremlins. No excuse for such lousy unMB-like components.
My wife's car. Wonderful for her - sits high with great visability & comfort. The AWD is supurb here in Denver - great in snow and it doesn't eat up tires as I feared it would (we get 40K miles per set). Gets only 20 MPG on highway at 75. (I don't even try to determine our mileage in the city!) Reliability has been better than some other owners reported: Replaced air mass sensor (expensive!) at 55K miles (it caused transmission to shift late or not at all). Replaced front brakes at 40K and 73K; rear brakes at 73K. Brakes/rotors are expensive, but very, very easy for a do-it-yourself project. (Brake parts for four wheels cost me about $350.) Transmission can't be serviced by non-MB shop.
Great low-range gearing for negotiating steep, rocky trailheads in the mountains! Excellent ground clearance and short wheelbase make back-country driving easy.
Better warranty. There are too many expensive repair situations where owners are greatly exposed to unexpected budget busters!
Got the "Light Truck" 9 months ago. It came with dealer-installed running boards,full grille gaurds with PIAA foglights. Driving is always a pleasure in wintertime. Although quality is literally plastic moldings for the dash, they suit well enough for the price. Not the quality instituted in German-built facilities. Many speak of cars falling apart on them. If you don't follow the maintainence that Mercedes asks for the vehicle of course it'll fall apart. Service the vehicle every six months and it will go the distance in mileage. The cargo space with folded down seats and extra two 6th and 7th seats is roomy enough to say the ML's are willing to get a little dirty but still its a luxury SUV.
Highly manueverable vehicle. Surdy engine. Ride height. Depreciation value makes it easy to obtain one at a low price for a reasonable quality vehicle. Handles amazingly well in the snow and ice.
For the love of god, those cup holders. They get hit easily from both myself and my dad with our knees. Cheaply made dash but still "ok". Stiff suspension, but its why Benz calls it a "Light Truck". Fix the computer for the transmission, really hesitant in changing gears, makes engine work harder.
I purchased this vehicle 1 year ago used with 70,000 miles. Since then I had to replace driver side window switch ($482.00), cad converter($2000) oxygen sensors($1000),rear brakes & roters($1000), the interior squeaks, front squeaks, etc.. many more repairs to come and it did not hold its value I might as well just burn it!
It drives fast & smooth and is great in snow & ice.
More comfortable seats & room up front. The front end looks stylish while from the rear like a mini-van.