Most Mercedes-Benz M-Class are used as station wagons rather than as serious 4WDs. However, some are used in genuine off-road territory so there’s a package for those who want to get really serious.
They were sold in Australia from September 1998 they are slightly smaller, and significantly less stylish than later ones. They are also getting on in years and may be past their use-by date so we won’t cover them here. Thanks to the tall station wagon body there’s plenty of interior space in these big Mercs and the boot is a good size, well-shaped and easy to load.
The high centre of gravity when compared to a car reduces the cornering ability of an M-Class. However, electronic stability aids make them hold the road remarkably well. Indeed, the M-class corners safely at speeds well in excess of those likely to be attempted by the average owner.
A second-generation model replaced the original in April 2006, it received a facelift and upgraded mechanical components in January 2008. The gen-three arrived in Australia in April 2012. Each version increased the stylishness of the vehicle, but put ever more emphasis on on-road performance.
Mercedes-Benz offered the M-Class with four- six- and eight-cylinder engines with naturally-aspirated petrol, turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel.
The turbo-diesels are generally the favourites, but those who like driving hard the petrol V8s are often their weapon of choice. Note that the use of ‘weapon’ here and be aware their previous owners may have thrashed them.
At the top of the performance tree are the Mercedes-AMG variants of the M-Class. These rocketships are much loved in Australia and ours is one of the world’s biggest markets globally.
Seven-speed automatic transmissions are fitted to all M-Class vehicles from 2006. One with a manual gearbox is likely to have been imported from Europe and could prove a real hassle at resale time.
If do want to get seriously down and dirty the Mercedes Off-Road Pro packages work well. The package adds adjustable ride height and a two-speed transfer case as well as many other items.
As part of its revision of model titles by Mercedes, the M-Class was renamed the Mercedes GLE in 2015.
The Mercedes-Benz dealer network has been well established in Australia for many decades. As is the norm, most are in metro areas, but there’s a decent number out of town as well, the latter thanks to the popularity of diesel Mercs, cars and SUVs, in the bush as well.
Spare parts aren’t overly expensive for what the vehicle is. But if you’re upgrading from a less prestigious vehicle it might be an idea to do so price comparisons before falling in love with a Mercedes.
Insurance charges are reasonable for an imported German luxury vehicle.
Few vehicles are more popular on the Australian used-car market than Mercedes-Benzes with full service records. You will almost certainly be asked to pay more, but smart buyers say they are worth the additional outlay.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Build quality was poor in the early days, those from the early 2000 updates are noticeably better.
Do preliminary inspections to the best of your ability then have a professional check it thoroughly. A Mercedes-Benz trained mechanic is the best.
Make sure the engine starts easily, modern turbo-diesels only take a second or two on the glow plugs. Any longer could indicate a problem – possibly a very expensive one…
Make sure the engine pulls strongly without any initial hesitation. Turbo units will have a little lag if it’s too much it might be best to find another M-Class.
The automatic transmission should work almost imperceptibly, even when worked hard by your right foot.
Clues to off-road use are light scratches to the body sides, scars on bumper corners, scrapes on the underbody protection plates.
Ferrying boisterous kids around the suburbs isn’t all that easy on a 4WD, either. So have a good look over the interior, particularly at the seat bases and in the vicinity of the door controls. And don’t forget the luggage area.
Expect to pay from $10,000 to $15,000 for a 2008 Mercedes-Benz ML320 CDI; $13,000 to $19,000 for a 2009 ML350 Luxury; $15,000 to $22,000 for a 2010 ML350 CDI Luxury; $18,000 to $25,000 for 2012 ML30 Sports Luxury; $20,000 to $28,000 for a 2014 ML250 Bluetec; $23,000 to $31,000 for a 2011 ML 63 AMG; $26,000 to $35,000 for a 2013 ML500; $35,000 to $46,000 for a 2015 ML350 Bluetec; and $43,000 to $57,000 for a 2015 ML500.
CAR BUYING TIP
Have a friend with you when you’re shopping around – they can keep the sales person busy while you look over the car in detail.