W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

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AussieTimmeh
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W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by AussieTimmeh » Fri 20 Sep, 2013 1:09 pm

Hi all,

I'm new to the world of Mercedes and looking to buy a wagon of some sort. The W163 ML320 has come onto my radar due to the cheap get-in price.

I did some searching and reading on these forums before posting, and the opinions on them are really polarised. Some people say they are underrated, great value, and worth owning, while others believe it's a failure of a car and once you buy one, you've pretty much got it for life unless you're willing to give it away. I'd be looking at one around 130,000kms-ish. I don't care about it's off-road capability or anything.

Positives
They seem hard to sell so I could negotiate hard one price when I find the right one
They don't seem too unreliable.

Negatives
When something breaks with the auto, it's expensive, but seriously what cars are not these days?
You suddenly become an unwilling Mercedes owner for life, resale is terrible but hey, low entry price.

Am I making a bad decision if I buy an ML320?
Is there are a better Mercedes wagon I should be considering for my 10 grand price point?
Should I even be buying a Mercedes if I am in that price point?

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Greg in Oz
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Greg in Oz » Sat 21 Sep, 2013 12:42 am

Unless you have a particular liking for a higher seating position and all wheel drive, you should also look at the E-Class wagons (S123, S124, S210, S211). These wagons offer at least as much versatility and passenger and load space as the ML, and personally I prefer the way they drive (a little more "car like" being lower). Aspects of the E-Class wagons that impress me include a third row of seats that fold perfectly flat into the cargo floor, a perfectly flat cargo floor with the second and third row seats folded flat, a front passenger seat that will fully recline and run forward under the dashboard to extend the cargo area forward to the dashboard, and a tailgate opening that extends to the cargo floor. These are impressive and versatile wagons that with their self-levelling independent rear suspension drive every bit as well as an E-Class sedan. Considering they cost a motza new (considerably more than an ML), they represent great buying as a used car. Having owned an S123 300TD (for around 5 years) followed by an S124 300TE (for 15 years) which we still own, I can't imagine not owning a Merc wagon.
107023 - 350SLC: 1973, 3sp auto, icon gold, parchment MBtex (sold July 2012 after 29 years ownership)
107026 - 500SLC: 1981, 4sp auto, thistle green, green velour
124090 - 300TE: 1990, 4sp auto, arctic white, cream-beige MBtex
124090 - 300TE: 1992, 4sp auto, malachite (spruce green), black MBtex
201024 - 190E-2.0: 1985, 5sp manual, black, black MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 5sp manual, arctic white, blue leather
201028 - 190E-2.3: 1992, 4sp auto, blueblack, grey MBtex
201028 - 190E-2.3 Sportline: 1990, 4sp auto, signal red, black cloth (parts car)
201034 - 190E-2.3-16 Cosworth: 1985, 5sp manual, blueblack, black leather
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Ivanerrol
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Ivanerrol » Sat 21 Sep, 2013 12:54 am

The main issue with the W163 is that it was built in the U.S.
It was designed for the U.S. S.U.V. market and had the U.S. Market longevity in mind.

The ML 320 drive train is common to many other models. - i.e. M112 motor backed up with a 722.6 transmission.
As is with all the shared drive trains it's the maintenance that's the most important.

My neighbour has had three M.L.'s. They got better with the years. The interior on each was the biggest let down.
Even though the later models were made in Austria for the Australian market there was still a problem due to the high ambient temps vs the plastic product.

The ML was made to compete against many S.U.V.'s on the U.S. Market. Marketing and pricing was optimal.
These are not your archetypal Benz "Engineered Like No other Car" product.

The Transmission has it's foibles however these are shared by many other M.B. models.

As with all things Benz , when buying , get an independent Pre Purchase Inspection.

I.M.H.O. if you find a reasonable one they are good value for money.

The sedans of the period - particularly the W210 and W220's also have dramatically dropped in pricing. (both have a reputation as less than Benz quality)
W211 - E240
W204 - C280
W202 - C180
W210 - E240
Departed
W202 - C200
W202 - C180 - On consignment to nephew
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W124 - 300e, 260e (ex Japan)
W111 220s (Indonesia) 4 speed manual column shift
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W209 CLK 240
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tips
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by tips » Sat 21 Sep, 2013 7:12 am

Aussie certainly at that price appear value. We have had our 163 for about 5 years with limited issues. Agree with the comments around bias from the US market specs as the seating position is high and the steering feels light or floating in comparison to other cars of this weight or style. But, a great car IMHO compared to other SUV's of that era such as the BMW or Lexus primarily on general standard appointments. You are right there is a feeling of got this for life due to price erosion over time, but works in your favor.
I would only look at series 2 cars post 2002 (easy spot is indicators in wing mirrors) as many earlier bugs ironed out. See if you can stretch to a last model run around 2004/5 As always look for FSH, best options (7 seat, nav and towbar) and get a ppi. With the FSH make sure it's either MB or reputable mb specialist as there are so many aftermarket crap consumable parts on eBay for these cars like brakes they are often a false economy as you end up swapping them out early or creating further issues.
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
W163 ML350 - RIP
W166 ML350 - SOLD
Flirting with other Germans until the right coupe comes up

AussieTimmeh
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by AussieTimmeh » Sun 22 Sep, 2013 6:10 pm

Thanks for the replies, tips, and information; I really appreciate it.
tips wrote:Aussie certainly at that price appear value. We have had our 163 for about 5 years with limited issues. Agree with the comments around bias from the US market specs as the seating position is high and the steering feels light or floating in comparison to other cars of this weight or style. But, a great car IMHO compared to other SUV's of that era such as the BMW or Lexus primarily on general standard appointments. You are right there is a feeling of got this for life due to price erosion over time, but works in your favor.
I would only look at series 2 cars post 2002 (easy spot is indicators in wing mirrors) as many earlier bugs ironed out. See if you can stretch to a last model run around 2004/5 As always look for FSH, best options (7 seat, nav and towbar) and get a ppi. With the FSH make sure it's either MB or reputable mb specialist as there are so many aftermarket crap consumable parts on eBay for these cars like brakes they are often a false economy as you end up swapping them out early or creating further issues.
Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Sorry to ask but I am unfamiliar with a term, what is ppi? I googled FSH and found full service history, which makes sense, thanks for the good tips.

I'll start searching E-class wagons as well and I'll restrict myself to the series 2 MLs in my search - thanks!

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pastelgrey300D
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by pastelgrey300D » Mon 23 Sep, 2013 1:55 pm

PPI = Pre-Purchase Inspection. Whereabouts are you located? There would be a few of us on here who could recommend good local mechanics depending on where you are (if you log in and go to your 'user control panel' under the 'profile' tab there is a field you can fill in for your location).

The general consensus (from what I've read online) seems to be that the facelift 2002 onwards are better than the 2000/01 cars and if you're going to go earlier, dont' go for anything pre-2000.

The ML's dont exactly have a good reputation, but by '02 they seem to have sorted most of the issues and I know of one ML270CDI owner locally (also an ozbenz member) who is over the moon with his car.
David
1967 W111 230S - Horizonblau
1965 W110 190c - Mittelrot
1967 W110 200D - Weiss (work in progress)
+ other classics

AussieTimmeh
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by AussieTimmeh » Mon 23 Sep, 2013 10:12 pm

Thanks mate, makes sense. I should have been able to work that acronym out. :Doh:

I'm in the Hunter Valley, just west of Newcastle, out Maitland way. I must admit the idea of an SUV type vehicle and AWD is not important to me, but the wagon part is, so I am actively searching for E-class wagons now to see what is available in the price point. I am keeping an eye out for a bargain ML in case one pops up. Not as keen to buy interstate as converting to NSW registration is a royal pain in the neck, but if the right car came up, I probably would.

I'm really interested to find a reputable Benz mechanic in the Newcastle/Maitland region to get in touch with.

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Starman
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W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Starman » Mon 23 Sep, 2013 10:30 pm

I would say a used X5 would be a better choice. A decent diesel can be had for about $35k and quite reliable.
W212 E400 Avantgarde
W211 E500 Elegance sold
W202 C200 "the Tank" sold

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Hendrik
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Hendrik » Tue 24 Sep, 2013 8:48 am

Starman wrote:I would say a used X5 would be a better choice. A decent diesel can be had for about $35k and quite reliable.
The OP said he is looking to spend round about 10k, so 35k for a X5 might be stretching it.
Also http://www.carsurvey.org/reviews/bmw/x5 ... ngle-page/
I have read that generally the X5 is better than the ML, my guess is that they rushed the ML into production to catch up on the SUV market and fixed it up as problems came up and the suspension is set up for the American market rather than the European. In other words a bit soft and spongy, rather than firm and crisp.
The S210 are around 10k now http://www.carsguide.com.au/cars-for-sa ... stern.html if you need the space and 7 seats (some ML came with 7 seat option but I think that was the early ones)

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Starman
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W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Starman » Tue 24 Sep, 2013 9:13 am

Whoops. Just saying I never heard an X5 owner complain, ever.
W212 E400 Avantgarde
W211 E500 Elegance sold
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AussieTimmeh
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by AussieTimmeh » Tue 24 Sep, 2013 9:17 am

Thanks Hendrik. Yeah the S210 is what I had in mind to look for and the 7 seat ability could come in handy. They are a nice looking vehicle.

redlaser
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by redlaser » Mon 21 Sep, 2015 10:01 am

I'm looking to buy a 2003 ML320...any change of thoughts on the previous discussions on the ML320 ?..have they got worse or stayed static with the passage of time??..I have a w126 series 2 so I know how to live with a Merc!!..

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tips
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by tips » Mon 21 Sep, 2015 10:46 pm

Hi redlaser I still have our 163 and nothing's change with time other than values and the cost of parts as a ratio to value.
Ours whilst being well optioned and in great condition is worth <$18k now and needs new brakes (rotors and pads) which will be around $2k fitted or more than 10% of the car value!!!
Unless you have a specific vehicle in mind and want petrol I suggest you look at a 350 as this was the face lift model in 2003 that was the last change of that series. If the budget stretches it might be worth looking at. 164 from 2005 as the 164 was a step up in quality and refinement being less agricultural than the 163 for ride and noise quality.
Good luck in your search
Steven
W163 ML350 - RIP
W166 ML350 - SOLD
Flirting with other Germans until the right coupe comes up

redlaser
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by redlaser » Sun 20 Nov, 2016 11:49 am

Thanks Steve the W126 just keeps on going but wife wants a hi seating position easy to exit and enter so am looking at W164 ML350..any new thoughts?

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Ivanerrol
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by Ivanerrol » Sun 20 Nov, 2016 6:01 pm

redlaser wrote:Thanks Steve the W126 just keeps on going but wife wants a hi seating position easy to exit and enter so am looking at W164 ML350..any new thoughts?
If you really want to stick to a Benz, just get a PPI and pay particular attention to the whizzbangs - electronics. - Command.

If you just want a higher seating position then there are better options out there besides a MB.

F.W.I.W. mate and I went for a spin in his W219 CLS. he was complaining about the accuracy of his GPS. We found that the iPhone was much more accurate.
The Stealership wanted $2,400 for an upgrade.
W211 - E240
W204 - C280
W202 - C180
W210 - E240
Departed
W202 - C200
W202 - C180 - On consignment to nephew
W126 - 380SE , 380SE (Ex SA Import), 560SEL
W124 - 300e, 260e (ex Japan)
W111 220s (Indonesia) 4 speed manual column shift
W123 230
W116 450SEL
W140 420SEL
W210 E240
W209 CLK 240
W201 190e 2.6 (ex U.K.)

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tips
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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by tips » Sun 20 Nov, 2016 9:57 pm

Early 164's can be had cheap and agree with ivanerrol get a ppi. I just flicked my 166 350 petrol last week so dependant on your budget you can get into a 2012 for a tad over $50k and they are great cars and well optioned as a base. I just didn't need such a big SUV as a daily so still went a smaller SUV.
W163 ML350 - RIP
W166 ML350 - SOLD
Flirting with other Germans until the right coupe comes up

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Re: W163 ML320 - A bargain or a curse?

Post by rossie11 » Thu 29 Dec, 2016 10:44 am

tips wrote:Hi redlaser I still have our 163 and nothing's change with time other than values and the cost of parts as a ratio to value.
Ours whilst being well optioned and in great condition is worth <$18k now and needs new brakes (rotors and pads) which will be around $2k fitted or more than 10% of the car value!!!
Unless you have a specific vehicle in mind and want petrol I suggest you look at a 350 as this was the face lift model in 2003 that was the last change of that series. If the budget stretches it might be worth looking at. 164 from 2005 as the 164 was a step up in quality and refinement being less agricultural than the 163 for ride and noise quality.
Good luck in your search
Steven
If you cant do the brakes yourself, then you have a problem. I got mine from eBay and put them in myself, all for around $700.00 back and front. Where do you come up with 2K The brakes are one of the easiest i have ever seen to work on and believe me, i am no mechanic. The films on you tube show you how to do it.

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