Premium midsize SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,200 – $13,900*


2000 Mercedes-Benz ML55


1999 Mercedes-Benz M-Class interior


2000 Mercedes-Benz ML320


2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class


2001 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

Pros:
  • Acceleration (ML430, ML55 AMG)
  • Build quality
  • Cargo room
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Fuel economy
  • Ride (ML430, ML55 AMG)

Mercedes leads the true-SUV pack for its blend of refinement, handling, overall competence, and carlike convenience. Strong resale values keep prices high. Over time, competitors SUVs have overtaken the M-Class in refinement and luxury, but only a Range Rover offers more off-road prowess with this level of on-road competence.

Overview

The new Mercedes-Benz M-Class (ML320) was actually the German luxury automaker’s first sport-utility vehicle. It was also the first Mercedes model built in America.

Designed from scratch, the four-wheel-drive midsize SUV used body-on-frame construction, but stood apart from the pack of truck-based models due to its fully independent suspension. Mercedes-Benz’s first V6 engine went under the hood: a 3.2-liter, making 215 horsepower and coupled to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The V6 drove all wheels via front, center, and rear differentials. Unlike couplings on locking differentials on most SUVs, Mercedes’ “4ETS” system used antilock braking and traction-control sensors to direct power to the wheels with the greatest amount of grip. Power normally divided 50/50 front/rear, but could be automatically directed to any combination of wheels–or just one wheel if need be–to maintain traction. Separate low-range gearing could be engaged using a dashboard button. Offered in just one well-equipped model, the ML320 had seating for five and door-mounted front side airbags. Options included a power moonroof, Class III 5000-pound trailer hitch, and an “M1” package with leather and wood interior trim.

Yearly Updates

1999 M-Class
For the second season of Mercedes’ SUV, an ML430 with V8 power joined the original ML320. The ML430 was distinguished by body-colored bumpers and side moldings, had 17-inch wheels instead of 16-inch, and featured standard wood interior trim. A new Skyview Top, optional on both models, was a louvered sunroof that provided a nearly 4-foot opening. Both models got Brake Assist, which automatically applied full braking force in emergency stops. Also new were the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) antiskid system and a BabySmart child-seat recognition feature.
2000 M-Class
Rear side airbags became standard for 2000, and a 2-place third-row seat could be installed for 7-passenger capacity. Revised interior appointments included new door panels, lower-dashboard padding, and a leather gearshift knob. Wood trim and a leather-covered steering wheel now were standard in the ML320 as well as the ML430. The ML320 also got the body-colored bumpers and mirrors from its V8 brother.
The automatic transmission gained Touch Shift with a separate gate for easier manual gear selection. A new 5-inch video display in the dashboard controlled the audio system and a new navigation system (standard in the ML430).
Also new this year was a high-performance limited-edition ML55 AMG model with a 342-horsepower, 5.4-liter V8 engine; low-profile tires on exclusive 18-inch wheels; and sport front bucket seats. AMG was the high-performance racing arm of Mercedes-Benz.
2001 M-Class
Hill Descent Control, a “downhill traction-control” system, was new this year. It automatically limited vehicle speed when descending steep grades.
Four lower-body side airbags were standard, and dashboard airbags now deployed with full or partial force, depending on impact severity. The standard TeleAid system expanded to provide vehicle diagnostics, door unlocking, and alarm-system monitoring, in addition to communications/emergency assistance.
2002 M-Class
Mercedes-Benz’ sport-utility vehicle gained freshened styling, side curtain airbags, and a more-powerful V8 engine for 2002. Replacing the ML430 is a new ML500 with a 288-horsepower 5.0-liter V8. Automatic climate control and a new center console graced interiors of all models.
2003 M-Class
The only change of note for ’03 was the addition of an optional DVD-based navigation system.
2004 M-Class
Bse engine is now a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 232 horsepower. Curiously, Mercedes calls the model the ML350. Dropped for ’04 is the high-performance ML55.
2005 M-Class
The addition of a special-equipment trim package helps bring down the curtain on the 1998-2005 design generation of this SUV. A redesigned M-Class is due for model year 2006. The new equipment option is called the Special Edition. Available on both models, it includes among its exclusive features unique wheels, a “power dome” hood, silver-painted grille, polished aluminum roof rails, darkened taillamps, sport seats, and special badging.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/4-wheel drive

In its first season, the M-Class came only with a 3.2-liter V6, which accounts for the ML320 name. A 4.3-liter V8 rated at 268 horsepower became available in 1999, for the new ML430. A high-performance ML55 AMG version joined for 2000, with a special 342-horsepower, 5.4-liter V8. in 2002 the 4.3-liter V8 was supplanted by a 5.0-liter V8 that made 288 horsepower. In 2004, the base V6 was enlarged to 3.7 liters and power upped to 232, a gain of 17 horsepower. All engines mated to a 5-speed automatic.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 215
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 233
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

16/20

13.9

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.7/227
Engine HP 232
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 254
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

15/18

14.0

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/260
Engine HP 268
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 288
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

15/19

15.7

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 288
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

14/17

14.6

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/332
Engine HP 342
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 376
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

14/18

12.9

Road Test

Seeking to create an SUV that drives like a car, Mercedes-Benz took a clear lead. A Lexus RX 300 or BMW X5 feels more carlike, but few true SUVs are more pleasant to drive than an M-Class. Though an ML320 isn’t that snappy moving from a stop, the smooth, responsive automatic transmission helps get the best out of its V6 engine. V8 models are noticeably quicker. An ML320 accelerated to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds and averaged 13.9 to 15 mpg. The ML430 doesn’t offer great off-the-line punch, but gathers speed quickly and has good passing power. Enlarged V6, added in 2004 could hit 60 mph in a tad under 9.0 seconds. An ML430 averaged 15.7 mpg. Improved 5.0-liter V8 for 2002 had a 0-60 mph time of just 6.6 seconds, but averaged just 14.6 mpg. The high-performance ML55 raced to 60 mph in just 6.2 seconds, but got only 12.9 mpg.

Wind and road noise are low for an SUV, if higher than those of the RX300. V8 engines emit a throaty roar under hard throttle, but the V6 sounds coarse when pushed.

Poised and stable in tight turns, the ML320 moves with far less body lean than most SUVs. Steering is precise and linear, though self-centering is weak. Braking is strong and stable. A smooth, supple, on-road ride is the rule in an ML320. Firmer suspensions and low-profile tires make other models stiff over bumps and broken pavement. Although the unique 4ETS system works transparently in light-duty, off-pavement driving, it’s not as effective as traditional 4WD setups in heavy snow or on demanding off-road trails. Four adults have ample room, and three can almost fit comfortably in back. The rear seat slides forward about 3 inches for extra cargo space, but rear leg room then becomes tight. Step-in height is much lower than the SUV norm. Unusually wide doors provide easy entry/exit.

Controls are easy to find and use, though some markings are not obvious. Optional navigation system is hard to operate and complicates audio controls. Outward vision is fine forward, but a bit cluttered by headrests directly astern. Load volume is ample and easy to use, with a low, flat floor. Sturdy construction is evident, despite occasional body shudder on rough surfaces.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Mercedes-Benz ML320

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 4
40%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 4
40%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 4
40%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 8
80%
Cargo Room - 8
80%

Other

Value - 8
80%

Total: 56

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.0 180.6 72.2 69.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
85.4 19.0 5-7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.8 39.7 40.3 38.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 M-Class 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 85
Injury 55
Theft 130

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Brake squeal, especially in cold and damp weather due to incompatibility between the brake pads and rotors, for which revised pads are now available. (1998-03)
Dashboard lights
Description: The “low range” warning light may glow in cold weather. Repair involves replacing the control module–part of a dealer service campaign. (1999-2000)
Engine knock
Description: A knocking noise from the accessory drive belt or water pump is caused by the idler pulley not providing even tension. A countermeasure pulley with a smaller diameter will correct the problem. (1998)
Engine misfire
Description: Engine roughness, miss, or stalling may be due to a damaged mass-airflow sensor (MAF). This dirt may be getting past the air cleaner due to a damaged gasket, loose cover or improperly installed air cleaner. (1998)
Fuel gauge
Description: The fuel gauge may not read full although the tank is full. The fuel-sending unit was being replaced under warranty. (1998)
Oil leak
Description: Engine oil may weep from the head gasket. Gaskets are being replaced under warranty. (1998)
Check-engine light
Description: The white plastic gas tank vent valve fails triggering the check engine light. (1998-01)

Recall History

1998-03
Description: The hose clamp used to secure the power steering fluid cooling hose to the power steering fluid cooler may be faulty. The loss of power steering fluid may result in diminished power steering and ultimately can damage the pump. An earlier recall repair performed on these vehicles may not be sufficient to prevent a future leakage. Since it is not possible through inspection to identify specific vehicles that may not have been properly repaired, all vehicles repaired prior to November 15, 2003, will be repaired again.
1998-99
Description: Latching mechanism on seatbelt assembly was not assembled correctly. If plastic cover is loose during engagement of buckle tongue, the buckle could unlatch.
2000
Description: Seatbelt anchor in rear-folding middle seating position may fail in a crash.
2000-2002 M-Class
Description: The cruise control system in the affected vehicles allows the driver to disengage the system in a number of ways, including tapping the brake pedal, using the cruise control stalk, or braking the vehicle enough to reach a certain rate of deceleration. Mercedes-Benz has determined that under certain circumstances use of the brake pedal may not automatically disengage cruise control as expected by the driver, although the other means of deactivating cruise control remain fully operative. Specifically, where the driver pumps the brakes rather than applying consistent pedal force, the level of force required may be unusually high. Difficulty or delay in disengaging cruise control can increase the risk of a crash.
2000-2004 M-Class AMG vehicles
Description: The cruise control system in the affected vehicles allows the driver to disengage the system in a number of ways, including tapping the brake pedal, using the cruise control stalk, or braking the vehicle enough to reach a certain rate of deceleration. Mercedes-Benz has determined that under certain circumstances use of the brake pedal may not automatically disengage cruise control as expected by the driver, although the other means of deactivating cruise control remain fully operative. Specifically, where the driver pumps the brakes rather than applying consistent pedal force, the level of force required may be unusually high. Difficulty or delay in disengaging cruise control can increase the risk of a crash.
2001
Description: Faulty AAM II units could cause failure of high-beam lights, instrument cluster, door locks, and wiper systems.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.