1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Review

Pros & Cons

  • Capable sport-utes with Mercedes-Benz levels of refinement, powerful engines.
  • ML320 looks like the Mercury Villager minivan from the rear. These sport-utes are better on-road than off.
List Price Estimate
$1,233 - $2,159

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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.

1999 Highlights

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

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Twelve year experience with ML320
I have just traded in my 1999 ML320. We had a rocky relationship but it did last 12 years so it was not all bad. Frankly I loved the basic design, drive and utility of the vehicle. Maintenance was very very expensive and reliability reminded me more of GM than Mercedes. However, it never failed to start except when the battery died every four or five years so it did serve as reliable transport. So many little and bigger things required maintenance however that it was simply not economical to own and would have been cheaper to walk away from four or five years ago than to keep on the road. I finally threw in the town when the transfer case started acting up and repair was over 5 grand
Mercedes boss!!
Tristan McCarty,08/17/2015
ML430 4dr SUV AWD
I purchased my Mercedes when I was 17 with 53,000 miles on it , I treated it like gold. Servicing it regularly never drove it hard or off road it handles so well and is so comfortable with so much room to haul things. Then I moved to North Carolina I thought about buying a jeep or a truck for the snow and the gravel roads, I thought wrong this Mercedes would climb a tree. as of now living in north Carolina I have driven in over two feet of snow up mountains and never spin out or slide, I now own an ml500 and baby that one, I have been putting my old Benz to the test! I go out every time it snows and drive off road and it never fails, same when I go through hunting trails and mudding even through creeks. I drove it through my local mud sling and made it! I put slightly bigger tires on my baby and I'm up to drive anywhere. I love this car it is truly a Boss with 289256 miles on her!!!
I'd buy another
I love this truck. I have put 100,000 miles on over the last 5 years with minimal maintenance. Typically get 21-23 mpg hwy/ 15-16 in town. Not bad for a 6,000lb truck. Down side is brakes! Mercedes recommends changing pads and rotors, very pricey and they wear very fast. I would buy another in a heartbeat, but this one may not wear out.
ML is magic on dry or wet roads
The ML is designed from the ground up to be a superior performing light truck in all weather conditions. My experience to date with the vehicle has been superb. Performance is strong, handling is tight, and traction is amazing on dry or wet surfaces. All Wheel Drive is a *must* in my book. It is part of what makes this vehicle a superior performer. So is the Independant suspension. It seems to get better when you go off road or load the vehicle with passengers or cargo. I drive this car 120 miles day to and from work. I average 80mph on the freeway. This vehicle rocks! It has some design flaws on the interior mostly but these things have been corrected in the 2000-2002 models.

Features & Specs

See all Used 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
More About This Model

When we pitted the 1998 Mercedes-Benz ML320 against the 1998 Land Rover Discovery on an off-road mission last spring, we found that on smooth stretches, the poor sloth driving the Discovery couldn't keep up with the big, bad V6 engine humming lazily under the hood of the sparkly-green Mercedes. Give us a boulder-strewn stream to cross and we'll choose the Land Rover every time, but when you gotta have power, the M-Class is at the top of the list.

It seems Mercedes engineers weren't content with their bad boy's engine prowess, though. Reverting to the "bigger is better" philosophy this year, they came out with an engine that has such brute strength, the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee and many other top-notch sport-utes can't surpass it. Placing a twin-spark, 4.3-liter V8 engine with three-valve design inside the 1999 ML430's engine bay was a blatant challenge to automakers who dare to call their lesser SUVs "powerful."

It might be appropriate this year to call Mercedes-Benz "power-hungry," but no one who has driven the new premium Benz sport-utility vehicle is complaining. With its new-generation, 268-horsepower V8 engine mated to a driver-adaptive five-speed automatic transmission, the ML430 roars from zero-to-60 in eight seconds flat, shaving one second off of the ML320's record. For a 4,552-pound hunk of steel, that's impressive.

What is also impressive is the fact that Mercedes' new engine emits 40 percent lower exhaust emissions, boasts 13 percent better fuel economy, is 25 percent lighter in weight, and has a broader torque range than its previous engines. So, let's talk torque. The ML430 offers exceptional grunt at low and mid-range engine speeds. The torque peak of 288 foot-pounds is actually spread over a range from 3,000 to 4,500 rpm. A dual-resonance intake system also helps deliver a quick response to depression of the accelerator pedal. To reduce road noise and bumps, the ML430's chassis includes suspension sub-frames and 10 rubber body mounts. Its independent front and rear suspension is unusual in the SUV segment, providing a smooth, comfortable ride for all passengers. While the ML320 is no slouch in this category, either, those two extra cylinders and 53 horsepower certainly make a difference. Stepping on the 430's gas pedal from a complete stop, you will feel your body pushed back into the plush leather driver's seat with authority. And at 60 mph on a two-laner, you won't have to hesitate when passing slower-moving vehicles—the 430's engine can take on just about anything out there.

Jeep (now part of the global company known as DaimlerChrysler, which also builds the ML430) also beefed up its new Grand Cherokee this year with a 4.7-liter V8 Power-Tech engine, which produces 235 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm and makes 295 foot-pounds of torque @3,200 rpm. When compared to the ML430's 268-horsepower V8 and wide-ranging torque curve, the Jeep is not much of a threat. The Land Rover Range Rover's 4.6-liter V8 makes only 225 horsepower and the Lexus RX300 is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 with variable valve timing—not much in the way of competition if you're looking at the size of a truck's powerplant. Life lessons have taught most of us that bigger is not always better, though, and that's something to consider.

Certainly the engine is impressive—and good for the environment, to boot. But what about the rest of the vehicle? It's not perfect, but perfection is what people expect from Mercedes. And if power is the most important ingredient in the formula for a big, bad truck, then why did the M-Class come in dead last out of five luxury sport-utility vehicles in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey last spring? A faulty key fob on 10,000 trucks is one reason; cheap-feeling plastic on the interior is another. Still, customers lined up last year to buy the ML320 and the current wait for M-Class vehicles is three to six months. Mercedes has reported sales of 837 ML430s in its second month of delivery and is sure the numbers will continue to rise.

One reason they're so sure is that premium sport-utility sales have risen 120 percent over the past five years. Another reason is their target market. Mercedes executives revealed that they are aiming at the top of the luxury segment with the 1999 ML430, placing the truck in direct competition with the Lincoln Navigator, Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Range Rover. In this segment, trucks are used primarily for carting kids to hockey practice or ferrying friends to Christmas parties. Luxurious, safe on-road travel is what these buyers are looking for, and with the ML430, that's exactly what they'll get.

The ML430 is equipped with every goodie you'd find standard on the 320, as well as leather and power seats, body-colored bumpers, rocker panels and side moldings, and 17-inch alloy wheels with large 275/55R-17 M+S rated tires. Both M-Class vehicles are outfitted with Mercedes' Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist and the BabySmart child seat recognition system. A new, four-foot-by-three-foot optional sliding roof will provide open-air fun for both front and backseat passengers at an additional cost of $2,395. Another nifty Mercedes safety feature involves protecting other drivers on the road. The M-Class has lowered bumpers so that it won't cause as much damage to smaller vehicles if in an accident.

Driving the ML430 along the picturesque, winding roads of New England certainly heightened our appreciation of the powerful truck, and it helped us to understand the appeal of a $43,000 utility vehicle whose utility will probably never be tested. At least, not on anything more challenging than the muddy, rutted road that we lumbered down for ten minutes in Vermont's Green Mountains. But who would want to risk their new Benz on such shenanigans, anyway? The ML430 was designed and built with one thing in mind—power—and this newest M-Class arrival provides it in spades.

With power fresh in the minds of Benz engineers, they are preparing to launch the new 2000 ML55 AMG, the fastest sport-utility vehicle ever. It is said to go 150 mph and will cost approximately $80,000. The sport-ute will compete with BMW's soon-to-be-launched Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) … but of course, in the M-Class tradition, the Benz will be more powerful.

Used 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Overview

The Used 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is offered in the following submodels: M-Class SUV. Available styles include ML320 4dr SUV AWD, and ML430 4dr SUV AWD.

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Should I lease or buy a 1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz M-Class lease specials