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By Car & Driving
Mercedes' third generation M-Class demonstrated that big SUVs could still be a responsible choice - and a lot more besides. Beautifully made, quietly capable and state of the art in every conceivable way, it redefined the way we looked at the luxury 4x4.
It wouldn't stride across hostile terrain quite like a Range Rover or power around a track quite like a BMW X5, but that wasn't a problem. Mercedes intentionally set out to offer more of a middle ground between those two extremes and, to a large extent, succeeded. Specified for off-road use, it would deliver the mud-plugging prowess to suit any right-minded user. Yet, with AirMATIC suspension, it would ride like a Roller.
5dr SUV (2.1 4cyl / 3.0 V6 CDI - diesel / 5.5-litre 63 AMG V8 - petrol)
Think of all the reasons not to like a large, luxury SUV 4x4. Thirst. Poor performance. Huge tax liabilities. Wobbly handling. Yet middle class motorists still love them, patiently sure perhaps that one day, the brands involved would bring us something better. Something like this - the third generation Mercedes M-Class.
This has long been the world's most popular luxury 4x4, paving a path that other plush SUVs - BMW's X5, Volvo's XC90 and Audi's Q7 - would quickly follow. And improve upon. Initially, that wasn't difficult, given that the first generation version of this car was a bit of an embarrassment. Still, Mercedes quickly sorted things out with a second generation 2005 model much closer in quality to what we expect from the Three-Pointed Star. You still couldn't have called it a class leader though, the car being neither sharp enough on-road or capable enough off it for that.
It's successor though, the MK3 W166 model we look at here, can be specified to satisfy buyers of either preference, all the while delivering running cost returns impressive enough to leave rivals questioning their Vorsprung Durch Teknic or wondering on the Efficiency of their Dynamics. It was launched early in 2012. With this car, Mercedes claimed it'd finally established what an M-Class should be. But does that mean you should buy a used one? With the car now replaced by the brand's GLE-Class model since the Spring of 2015, now might be the right time to check out a previously-owned third generation M model.
What You Get
The third-generation M-Class is longer, wider and lower than its predecessors, with a more strident and powerful look replacing the gentle curves of the older MK2 model. The front is dominated by a three-bar radiator grille, below which LED daytime running lights are set into chrome inserts integrated into the bumpers. At the rear, there's a three-piece spoiler fitted to the powered tailgate which raises to reveal a spacious 690-litre boot.
For the driver, there's a leather-stitched four-spoke multifunction steering wheel that has no fewer than 12 control buttons for the trip computer, the radio and the telephone. Dominating the centre of the stitched leather dash is a large colour screen for the infotainment system linked to a metal controller on the centre console.
All versions of this car come with smart AMG alloy wheels of at least 19-inch in size, a tyre pressure warning system, metallic paint, aluminium roof rails, auto headlamps and wipers, an 'Active Park Assist' system that measures spaces and steers you into them, an AMG bodykit, rear privacy glass, a powered tailgate, sports seats trimmed in artificial 'Artico' leather with power adjustment, the 7G-TRONIC plus 7-speed automatic gearbox, a high quality 'Audio 20' stereo system, automatic climate control and Hill Start Assist to stop you drifting backwards on uphill junctions.
What You Pay
Please contact us for an exact up-to-date valuation.
What to Look For
Many third-generation M-Class models will have had a relatively comfortable life. However, because of the low ground clearance (by SUV standards), it's worth checking the underside of the rear and front valances and the underbody for damage. Also check for any off-road scuffs or dents. It's unlikely that an 'M' will have led a tough life in the wilderness, but many will have been subjected to heavy towing and other arduous family duties.
Inside, check for leather stains and scuffs. Kerbed alloy wheels will be common too, especially with the huge rims you get on the top AMG version.
(approx. based on ML250 model) A pair of brake pads will set you back more than £90. Off road damage to the radiator will be expensive too, as one of those is over £300. Expect to pay more than £250 for a new headlamp unit - and about the same for a starter motor. An alternator will ease more than £300 from your wallet. Prices for the ML63 AMG model will be higher still.
On the Road
The forgettable performance of this car's predecessor meant that the third-generation M-Class was introduced two years earlier than planned. But with this vehicle, the engineering might of Mercedes was directed at creating something remarkable. Hence the segment's first four cylinder diesel, developed with or without hybrid technology. And improvements in engine efficiency so astonishing they allowed the AMG range-topping 525bhp petrol V8 to approach the running cost returns of the previous generation model's 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
The 204bhp ML250 BlueTEC diesel propped up the range which was topped by the fearsome 5.5-litre ML63 AMG V8 petrol flagship. Between them came the best buy, the ML350 BlueTEC with an updated version of its predecessor's 3.0-litre V6 CDI unit, which had been powered up to 258bhp - enough to spirit you from rest to 62mph in 7.4 seconds, a second and a half quicker than the entry-level variant, on the way to a top speed of 139mph. The V8 dashed to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds and was 'restricted' to 155mph.
Through the turns, the electric steering system lacks a bit of feel but does make the M-Class feel very manoeuvrable. It is also astonishingly quiet. Mercedes went to huge lengths to achieve this with innovations like its large, magnesium sound-deadening bulkhead, its triple-sealed windows and doors and its pioneering aerosol-based spray-on NVH insulation. The result is a relaxing ambience complemented in mainstream models by the lovely 7G-TRONIC Plus auto gearbox that slurs elegantly through its seven ratios - or can be taken in hand and pummelled through the gears using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
What comes as more of a surprise is how effective this third-generation model is when it comes to deploying the more than adequate reserves of power it has on offer. Much of this is down to the Adaptive Damping system that was fitted as standard. If you're driving gently or traversing poor surfaces, the ride is soft and absorbent. At higher speeds or with sharper changes of direction though, the set-up stiffens to provide tauter body control and more responsive handling.
If you want a boulevard cruiser, then you'll want to look for a model fitted with AirMATIC four-wheel suspension with its magic carpet-like suppleness and variable ride height. If, on the other hand you want a luxury SUV that can fly through the twisty stuff, then you need one fitted with Merc's 'ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM', an active roll stabilisation set-up which enables the M-Class to remain eerily immune to violent bodyroll and scrabbling understeer. Should you want a proper mud-plugger, then you need a model specified with the optional ON&OFFROAD system. It's an intelligent 4MATIC 4WD set-up featuring a 45/55% torque split between front and rear axles and a limited slip differential. As conditions change, a clever diff lock is able to push more or less power towards front or rear as needed. The package is great for farm tracks and slippery roads, but for more gnarly stuff, you're hampered by a relatively low 202mm ride height. Models featuring the AirMATIC suspension rise to 255mm, but with the ON&OFFROAD package the car will rise to 285mm, enough to ford water up to 600mm deep.
Let's summarise what this car won't do: stride across the Gobi desert quite like a Range Rover Sport. Or power round Brands Hatch quite like a BMW X5. But that's not a problem: this third generation M-Class, after all, intentionally set out to offer more of a middle ground between these two extremes and it's a place in which this model feels far more comfortable. Find a used example specified for off road use and it'll deliver mud-plugging prowess expert enough to suit any right-minded user. Get one specified with AirMATIC suspension and it'll ride like a Rolls Royce. Or find an example specified with the clever Active Curve System and you'll get a luxury SUV able to corner like a grown-up hot hatch.
All these things are possible from a car that shows just how far the modern luxury SUV has come - not least in its eco-friendliness. Mercedes set the standard when it came to running cost efficiency with this MK3 model and it was one that caused plenty of head-scratching amongst the brand's closest rivals. There are sportier, more dynamic-looking models of this kind you could buy. But we're struggling to think of a better all-round package. Refined, practical and luxurious, this model at last became a benchmark among its peers. And that makes it a very strong used car buy.
J.D. Power provided the Mercedes ML350 with an above-average reliability rating of 81/100.Is Mercedes M-Class 4 wheel drive? ›
Cons. The Mercedes M-Class is a prestigious 4x4 that's very well built, has a great range of engines and a beautifully designed interior.Are used Mercedes ML reliable? ›
Reported problems are remarkably few and owners seem happy with the long-term reliability of their M-Classes. Most concerns centre on gearbox issues and non-engine electrics. The engines are fairly bulletproof and the interior is well made.How many miles does a Mercedes M-Class last? ›
Most Mercedes last between 150,000-200,000 miles, or 10 – 13 years (assuming an annual mileage of 15,000 miles). The Mercedes E-Class is known to have better longevity, and may last 200,000-250,000 miles, or up to 17 years. The Mercedes C-Class is reported to have the shortest lifespan.Why did Mercedes stop making M-Class? ›
Access to the third-row was deemed problematic and the seats were not suitable for large adults. As the result, the seven seater ML-Class was discontinued after the 2005 model year and replaced by the larger GL-Class.Are Mercedes ML350 expensive to maintain? ›
The annual maintenance cost of a Mercedes-Benz ML350 is $1,020.Is it expensive to maintain Mercedes? ›
Mercedes-Benz maintenance costs are pretty expensive compared to other brands. In one study by YourMechanic.com, it came in second place just behind BMW's maintenance costs. Drivers pay about $908 on average per year to maintain and repair their Mercedes vehicles, according to RepairPal.com.Is 4Matic the same as 4 wheel drive? ›
Yes, 4MATIC® is an advanced all-wheel-drive system. Vehicles with 4MATIC® will have one of two variants: 4MATIC® Variable All-Wheel Drive or 4MATIC® Permanent All-Wheel Drive. Permanent works more like a typical AWD system and constantly splits power between the two.What do 4Matic mean? ›
What does 4Matic mean? Mercedes 4Matic is a four-wheel-drive system that sends the engine's power to all four wheels rather than just the front or rear two. This gives it increased grip and traction, improving handling, acceleration and stability.What is high mileage for a Mercedes? ›
When shopping for a Mercedes-Benz pre-owned vehicle, you'll have to consider numerous factors, including what is good mileage on a used car. While 100,000 miles used to be regarded as high mileage, hitting six-digits no longer means your vehicle is at the end of its life.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz M-Class has a reliability rating of three out of five from J.D. Power, which is slightly below average for the class but about average for the industry.Is the 2013 ML350 reliable? ›
2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Ratings Overview
The average rating is a 3.5 out of 5 stars. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Reliability Rating is 3.0 out of 5. It ranks 27th out of 32 for all car brands. Learn more about 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Reliability Ratings.
The Mercedes-Benz ML350 Reliability Rating is 3.0 out of 5. It ranks 27th out of 32 for all car brands.How long do Mercedes BlueTEC engines last? ›
Experts say the diesel engine could last 300,000 miles, and in some cases 500,000 miles. And the mild California climate means the body won't rust. But there is one thing that that will keep this car trouble-free for thirty years. Older models like Oehler's are much simpler.When was the M-Class discontinued? ›
Mercedes-Benz M-Class has been discontinued in 2018.Does Mercedes still make M-Class? ›
All-new for 2020, and continuing into 2021, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 (The "L" is for luxury) has been reimagined. Originally introduced as the M-Class in 2011, the new model is renamed to reflect the new Mercedes-Benz naming convention.What does ml in Benz mean? ›
#4 · May 1, 2004. ML = Mercedes Lemon.May 1, 2004.Is Mercedes-Benz ML350 reliable? ›
Frequency. Mercedes-Benz ML350 owners have to bring their vehicles into a repair shop for unscheduled repairs an average of 0.6 times per year, compared to an average of 0.6 times for luxury midsize SUVs and 0.4 times for all vehicle models.What is the most common problem with Mercedes-Benz? ›
Engine misfires are one of the most common problems we see in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. This scenario often happens to cars that haven't undergone any routine maintenance, particularly the replacement of wear parts such as spark plugs.Which Mercedes SUV is most reliable? ›
The GLC is the most reliable Mercedes-Benz SUV. It is the best-selling model globally for Mercedes due to its high durability. The GLC was introduced in 2015 and has sustained high ratings ever since. This SUV is a top-selling luxury vehicle, and it has continued to impress throughout the years.
In general, you'll schedule Mercedes-Benz Service A or Service B once every 10,000 miles, or roughly once per year; this is your Mercedes-Benz oil service interval.Are Mercedes oil Changes expensive? ›
An oil change for a Mercedes Benz will cost you anywhere between $180 and $450, but the exact cost will vary depending on your model, year, and the other services you need done to your vehicle when you take it to the dealership. No matter what you drive, all cars have something in common—they need oil.What car brand is most reliable? ›
Toyota earns the top spot as the best automaker for dependability. Toyota vehicles are known for their longevity, and they are proven to last longer than any other brand. Toyotas are built so well they have below-average maintenance and repair costs, which helps contribute to why they remain on the road for so long.Which is better 4WD or AWD? ›
AWD and 4WD provide better handling, but you'd want AWD if you ride on rough roads during harsh weather, while 4WD is better for those who have heavy hauls on the jobsite.Is 4MATIC better than AMG? ›
Better performance – For those looking for the most power possible in a vehicle, you will want to look into 4MATIC® all-wheel-drive. The additional traction gives 4MATIC® Mercedes-Benz vehicles faster acceleration times and more power on the road, especially on the Mercedes-AMG® 4MATIC® equipped vehicles.Is 4MATIC better than rear wheel drive? ›
Is 4Matic better than RWD? A Mercedes fitted with 4Matic four-wheel drive has more grip than a rear-wheel-drive model. The 4Matic system is worth considering if you drive off-road, tow or just want a little more grip on slippery roads.Does 4MATIC use more gas? ›
Fuel consumption, for instance, is a mere between 0.2 and 0.6 litres more per hundred kilometres than on a comparable model with conventional drive. The latest-generation 4MATIC only adds 50 to 70 kilograms of extra weight (depending on model) and boasts a compact design that now takes up less space.What does AMG mean in English? ›
Sep 14, 2021. The AMG®designation on certain Mercedes Benz vehicles stands for “Aufrecht Melcher Großaspach.” The first two words are the last names of Mercedes' founders, Hans- Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher.What does AMG mean in Mercedes? ›
The letters "AMG" stand for Aufrecht, Melcher and Großaspach. Aufrecht and Melcher were the original founders of AMG and Großaspach was Aufrecht's birth place. Mercedes-Benz engineers Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, began AMG as a racing engine forge in Germany in 1967.Does Mercedes still make M-class? ›
All-new for 2020, and continuing into 2021, the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 (The "L" is for luxury) has been reimagined. Originally introduced as the M-Class in 2011, the new model is renamed to reflect the new Mercedes-Benz naming convention.
The Mercedes Benz GLE engine should last 200,000 to 250,000 miles on average with proper maintenance. All Mercedes Benz engines use timing chains that typically last the entire life of the vehicle vs. timing belts that need to be replaced every 60,000 miles.Is it expensive to maintain Mercedes? ›
Mercedes-Benz maintenance costs are pretty expensive compared to other brands. In one study by YourMechanic.com, it came in second place just behind BMW's maintenance costs. Drivers pay about $908 on average per year to maintain and repair their Mercedes vehicles, according to RepairPal.com.What was the last year Mercedes made the ML? ›
2015 marks the final year of the M-Class' production; it was replaced by the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE. The M-Class saw few major changes after it was redesigned for 2012, and you can probably save some money with an older model.What do 4MATIC mean? ›
What does 4Matic mean? Mercedes 4Matic is a four-wheel-drive system that sends the engine's power to all four wheels rather than just the front or rear two. This gives it increased grip and traction, improving handling, acceleration and stability.Does Mercedes M-Class have 3rd row? ›
Reviewers find the M-Class' front seats comfortable and spacious, though the rear seats are a bit cramped. The SUV is no longer offered with a third-row seat and leather upholstery isn't standard, which is surprising considering the M-Class is a luxury SUV with a high price tag.Is 4MATIC always on? ›
4MATIC Permanent All-Wheel Drive
Unlike its variable counterpart, permanent all-wheel drive is always in action with a fixed torque split, so power is always applied to all four wheels. This creates a noticeable improvement in the vehicle's handling, safety and overall ride comfort.
In most Mercedes-Benz models, a typical problem is ignition failure before hitting 100,000 miles. After 75,000 miles, most models of Mercedes-Benz develop an inflammatory fault.What is the most common problem with Mercedes-Benz? ›
Engine misfires are one of the most common problems we see in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. This scenario often happens to cars that haven't undergone any routine maintenance, particularly the replacement of wear parts such as spark plugs.At what mileage do Mercedes start having problems? ›
At what mileage do Mercedes start having problems Certain Mercedes-Benz cars start as early as 50,000 miles, while others wait until 100,000 miles before having minor problems. Therefore, when it comes to reliability and performance over a long time, the Mercedes-Benz car model you chose is crucial.How often do Mercedes need oil changes? ›
In general, you'll schedule Mercedes-Benz Service A or Service B once every 10,000 miles, or roughly once per year; this is your Mercedes-Benz oil service interval.
An oil change for a Mercedes Benz will cost you anywhere between $180 and $450, but the exact cost will vary depending on your model, year, and the other services you need done to your vehicle when you take it to the dealership. No matter what you drive, all cars have something in common—they need oil.