2000 Mercedes-Benz M-Class

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2000 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Available in 3 styles:  ML-Class shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

14–16 city / 17–20 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 5
2000 Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4.1 21
$ 1,345-8,537
March 19, 2000

When you're talking sport utilities, some are more sport than utility.

Take the Mercedes-Benz ML430. (And who wouldn't take one?)

This lovely rounded block, built in Alabama, is Mercedes-Benz' first step in entering the sport utility-crazed U.S. market.

Entering its third year of production, the M-Class sees several revisions. The most important one being power. Up to this point, the only way one could have an M-Class was with a 3.2-liter 215-horsepower V-6. While sufficient for the task at hand, more power is never a bad thing.

Enter a 4.3-liter 268-horsepower V-8, enough to make anyone wonder why more sport utility vehicles don't have this kind of power. (We won't even mention the ML 55, with its brutal 5.5-liter 342 horsepower V-8, that's for another day.)

It's more sport than utility.

It's easy to tell, just look at the tires. V-8 models get lower profile tires. This helps with handling, even though it detracts by stiffening up the ride, especially over potholes. But that's really nit-picking.

This SUV is the most car-like SUV one can take off-road. Its closest competitor (and near look-alike) — the Lexus RX300 — is merely a bad-weather tool, not meant for serious off-road use. The Benz has a dash-mounted low-range button for excursions off the blacktop.

The M-Class's four-wheel-drive system uses front, center and rear differentials that require no intervention from the driver. Rather than lock axles to regain traction, the M-Class applies brakes to the slipping wheel, transferring more power to the other wheels. This gives the M-Class added traction in dry conditions as well.

Electronic Stability Control is standard across the board as well. If you're about to fishtail off into a snowbank, braking is applied to help restore control.

The 111-inch wheelbase SUV occasionally rocked back and forth across small, quick highway undulations, but was otherwise well-controlled.

The suspension is fully independent, again unusual for the class. But this is what lends this truck some its car-like handling. Body lean is reasonable through the corners; ride is typically Germanic: firm. It's so car-like, its easy to forget you're driving a truck.

This is alleviated somewhat by road and wind noise. Although higher than your typical passenger car, it's low for an SUV.

Braking is short, straight and uneventful. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes make sure of that. The pedal feel was excellent with progression. Steering was quick and accurate, but there was little self-centering action.

The interior is classic, modern Mercedes-Benz. The gauges are large and easy to read. The center of the dash houses a standard Global Positioning System. The screen is easy enough to read, but to use the controls will require a thorough study of the owner's manual, which seems only slightly thicker than the federal tax code.

The controls, scattered around the edge of the screen, also control the excellent Bo se audio system and the optional cell phone. The GPS is standard in 8-cylinder models, optional on the 6-cylinder.

All the gadgetry is surrounded by bits of wood that warm the expanses of cool-gray plastic. A somewhat distracting trip computer sits just above the auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

Other amenities included heated front seats, cupholders and leather seats. Surprisingly, one must activate headlamps and climate control manually.

When it comes to utility, the ML430 isn't as convincing as its sport. While there is quite a bit of cargo capacity, most of it is vertical. Tie down points are festooned around the cabin and a cargo cover keeps your packages from prying eyes.

Seating is firm and upright. The seats adjust adequately to suit all physiques. Front seat heaters help warm the coldest heart.

The only real down side to this vehicle was the factory-installed rattles. But being a press-fleet vehicle, it has seen some hard times, I'm sure.

Of course no ma tterhow sporty or how utilitarian, some reverse snobs will just look at this vehicle as one for those enamored of making a point — that they have arrived. Fair enough, few Mercedes-Benz products have a larger emblem than the one that graces the M-Class's proboscis. But these same critics haven't driven one either.

Few sport utes can keep up with this one. Since few SUVs have that kind of motivation, hold the utility and just pass the sport.

>> 2000 Mercedes-Benz ML430

Vehicle type: Mid-size 4-door sport utility vehicle
Engines: 4.3-liter DOHC V-8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with manual control
Wheelbase: 111 inches
Length: 180.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,510-4,653 pounds
Cargo volume (cubic feet): 44.7 seats up, 85.4 seats down
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Base price, test model: $43,7500
EPA rating: 15 mpg city, 18 mpg highway
Fuel type: Premium

    Expert Reviews 3 of 5

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