Used 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1999

Mercedes expands its M-Class with the addition of the more powerful and luxurious ML430 and gives the 320 more standard equipment.

Vehicle overview

Despite increased sales during the last several years, the good people at Mercedes recognized a gaping hole that had existed in their lineup since 1993. That was the last year that Mercedes offered any sort of AWD vehicle, and, for the 1994 model year, the cancellation of their 4Matic sedans and wagons left them vulnerable to attacks from Audi, Subaru and Volvo. Recognizing this weakness, Mercedes introduced AWD availability to the E-Class of sedans and wagons, and in 1997 introduced the ML320 sport-utility vehicle. This year, Mercedes adds a more powerful, all-new sport-ute, the ML430, to the lineup.

The ML320 was designed from the ground up as a unique Mercedes, capable of taking people off road or through poor weather without sacrificing the luxury, safety or performance that Mercedes' shoppers have come to expect. This year, the 320 gets the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, BabySmart and the Homelink programmable garage door opener as standard equipment, with the MSRP raising only $1,000.

For an extra $10,000, the ML430 continues in this tradition, but gives occupants a more stately, refined interior and V8 performance. In addition to the standard equipment offered on the 320, the 430 includes standard leather-trimmed seating, burl walnut interior trim, heated eight-way power seats, an automatic dimming rearview mirror, lockable safety box, trip computer and privacy glass. The exterior of the new vehicle is a unique design with body-colored bumpers, rocker panels, rub strips, rearview mirror housings, and 275/55R17 tires mounted on seven-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels.

These trucks combine many technologies that have heretofore been exclusively car or exclusively truck. Using a frame boxed at both ends, M-Class has the sort of torsional rigidity that is necessary for serious off-road maneuvers. To this truck-tough frame, Mercedes has attached a four-wheel independent double-wishbone suspension. The result is a fantastic on-road ride that enables the vehicles to hustle through the slalom at the same impressive speed as the E320 sedan. Off-road capability is certainly adequate, but putting these trucks up against something like a Land Rover Discovery will teach them a lesson in humility.

Mercedes SUVs have all of the touches we expect of vehicles carrying the three-pointed star on their hoods. Interior materials, except for the plastic on the dashboard, are first rate. The seats are comfortable for all-day driving, there are multiple cupholders for front and rear passengers, the stereo sounds great, and the secondary controls are devoid of the confusing pictographs that have adorned many of M-B's previous efforts.

Compared to trucks like the GMC Yukon Denali and Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, the M-Class is easily the superior choice for all but the most demanding of off-road challenges. On-road, these American contenders can't touch Mercedes' Teutonic trailblazers. If your vehicle purchase is leading you to the four-wheel drive neck of the woods, ignoring the Mercedes-Benz M-Class is the biggest mistake you could make.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.