While new cars tend to be a slight evolution from their predecessors, this was not the case for the Mercedes M-class. The approved used M-class is such a massive step forward from its G-Wagen predecessor, it is hardly believable. Indeed, in terms of both on road capabilities and interior ambience it's the difference between chalk and cheese.
The Mercedes-Benz ML320 was the first UK version. Launched in mid 1998 the ML320 was priced at a surprisingly low £34,445. The powerful ML430 that was driven by a V8 engine followed just four months later -- this version retailing for £42,465. While no manual gearbox versions were offered, the five-speed automatic transmission available was that of the S and E-class models -- a tried and trusted set up.
Although the used Mercedes ML range certainly fired Mercedes-Benz into the top of the range 4 x 4 bracket, the Mercedes significantly undercut the Range Rover equivalent in terms of pricing. In fact, the Mercedes was closer in price to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Bang for Your Buck
Basically this car is massive. Indeed, in reality the used Mercedes M-class looks far bigger in person than it does in any picture you may have seen. Whether it is due to the modern rounded styling so redolent of the Honda CR-V or the Land Rover Freelander is another question. What is certain is that the M-class literally dwarfs rivals such as the Discovery, the Toyota Land Cruiser and even a Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Nonetheless, the interior is unquestionably that of a Mercedes, while there is a slight twist, with something of the mid 80s Hyundai in certain aspects of the interior design. For example, many of the plastics feel somewhat thin to say the least while the low quality hinges on the glove box are not what you would expect from a Mercedes. The remainder of the interior however, just about makes up for these drawbacks.
What You'll Pay
A second hand Mercedes M-class is certainly worth looking for, while it is true to say they are quite rare. To secure an early second hand Mercedes ML320 for sale with around 50,000 miles on the clock you will need at least £12,000. The used Mercedes ML430 of the same year will be around the same price but for a better condition model because the larger model has suffered far more from price depreciation than its smaller stable mate. However, even the ML430 has held its second hand price better than say the S-class or the E-class models. .
What to Check
Fortunately there are not too many things that you should look for on a reasonable second-hand M-class, that is aside from many of the internal fittings, which are often structurally feeble. Indeed, you will find that the majority of these vehicles have led a relatively easy life compared to your average 4 x 4 with off-road use generally being something of a rarity. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side check both the undersides of rear and front valances and the underbody for damage as the modest ground clearance on the approved used M-class, which is around 213mm, is considerably lower than say the Range Rover.
Brake pads are expensive -- around £90 for a pair -- so you would be advised to tread carefully on the brakes. Radiators are also very expensive at about £310 so try and avoid any oversized boulders. Headlamps come in at around £120 for a new unit while a starter motor will set you back around £240 and a new alternator a little more at £300.
How it Drives
While it is certainly a 4 x 4, the road is where the majority of M-class cars spend their lifetime. Fortunately the handling of the Mercedes is nothing short of startling. While the higher body and taller tyres do tend to lead to some swaying at corners, the overall on the road performance, if not exactly that of a BMW X5, is just as good as say an average E-class Estate.
In fact, the compromise offered by the used Mercedes ML320 for sale between economy and performance is perhaps what makes this model so very popular. Going from 0-60 in under 10 seconds the M-class is not exactly a gas guzzler with average returns of 21.7mpg. In addition, the generous 2020 litres of boot space that the M-class provides makes it a far more practical option than rivals such as the Cherokee, the Ford Explorer or the Range Rover.