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Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005) Buying Guide

Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)
Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Mercedes M-Class (1998-2005)Pictures shown may not represent exact model specified

by Richard Dredge

This was Merc's first take on the luxury off-roader, and it didn't pull it off with this first-generation car; the M-Class has never had the cachet of the BMW X5 or the Range Rover. Build quality issues dogged the M-Class from new, making it a cheaper used buy than rivals. That makes it tempting, but the Merc can be highly problematic, so be very careful before handing over any cash.

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We LikeWe Don't Like
Cheaper than rivals
Decent performance
Image
On-road dynamics
Fragility
Costly to run
So-so off-road ability
Key Dates 
4/98ML350 launched.
10/98ML430 reaches showrooms.
10/99ML270CDi joins range; the only diesel to be offered.
6/00The barking mad ML55 AMG appears, with 354bhp.
8/01M-Class is facelifted, with fresh bumpers, lights plus interior trim and equipment upgrades. At the same time, the ML500 arrives.
9/02ML350 now on sale, along with Inspiration limited edition.
Checklist 
  • Build quality isn't what you'd expect of a Mercedes; on some cars there have been structural build quality problems because of missing spot welds.
  • If you buy a car with the optional rear-mounted spare wheel, check the rear visibility first.
  • Mercedes dealers are expensive and sometimes offer poor service; test your local dealership before buying.
  • The six-speed manual gearbox fitted to the ML270CDI has been known to fail - expensively.
  • The multi-section sliding steel sunroof frequently goes wrong; the motor on one side fails, leading to the whole thing seizing up.
  • Catalytic converters can split, with replacements being very costly.
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